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Lake District Towns and Villages

Penrith in the Lake District National Park

Penrith is an attractive, historic, Cumbrian market town, situated in the Eden Valley close to the M6 motorway in an ideal position for exploring the northern lakes. It has long been known as the 'old red town' because of the rust coloured sandstone that features so heavily in the construction of its buildings.

Once the capital of the Kingdom of Cumbria, Penrith was incorporated into England in 1070. The ruins of Penrith Castle, built in the early 15th century, stands as a testament to the many skirmishes with northern raiders. The site is now part of the town park. At Beacon Hill, a beacon use to be lit to warn the inhabitants of any impending trouble. Today it makes for a fine view point of the area.

The town has some fine buildings many of which date back to the 17 and 18th centuries. There are delightful narrow alleyways that run between and behind Penrith's main streets, with a wide variety of shops and services which include pubs, craft and antique shops, tearooms, bookshops, galleries as well as more specialised shops selling cumberland sausage, local toffee and fudge.

The church of St Andrews, established in the 13th century but considerably rebuilt in the 18th century and surrounded by attractive Georgian houses, contains in it's graveyard a group of stones known as the Giant's Grave and the Giant's Thumb, which are believed to have been the burial place of one of the Kings of Cumbria. Penrith has many such interesting, historical features. Another, in Bridge Lane is the 'Plague Stone' where in the 17th century, people washed their money in vinegar as a precaution against the plague. Two thousand people died of the plague in this area. The two 16th century inns, the Two Lions and the Gloucester Arms are thought to be connected in some way with Richard of Gloucester, later Richard 111, who is reputed to have stayed at the Gloucester Inn when it was known as Dockray Hall.

The town had been given a market charter in 1223 and a clock tower now stands on the site of the original market cross in Market Place. It was erected in 1861 to commemorate Philip Musgrave of Edenhall.

The town has connections with William Wordsworth as both he and Dorothy attended school in the town. The school-building can still be found next to St Andrews churchyard, and is now a craft gallery.

There are plenty of attractions in the town. Penrith Steam Museum has extensive displays of steam engines and engineering equipment. Penrith museum has some interesting displays on offer, whilst ullswater and it's steamers are only 5 miles away. At nearby Brougham, there are the impressive remains of a early13th century castle, built on the site of a Roman fort. The historic houses and gardens of Dalemain and Hutton-in-the-Forest are also nearby. A new attraction is the Rheged Upland Kingdom Discovery Centre. For information please vist their website at Rheged

The tourist information centre is situated in Middlegate.

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