Visiting Kirkby Lonsdale this summer? Want some recommendations for things to do? Kirstie Pelling asked the Visitor Information Centre volunteers and town guides to share some of their favourite activities, walks and views….
A town bustling with life
Kirkby Lonsdale is famous for many things. The high street is unique and packed with eclectic shops, its cuisine is imaginative, locally sourced and varied, and the views are amongst the best in the land. And that’s not just us bragging; Turner and Ruskin thought so!
Kirkby is compact – you can leave your car and walk around, and if you are only staying an hour then you’ll find lots of free spaces around the town. There are coffee shops every few metres if you need a rest. (At the moment, coffee bars are closed due to government restrictions but several are offering takeout coffee, Number 44 is running a pavement cake bar, and you can pick up a sandwich from the deli.)
The town’s Visitor Information Centre has loads of ideas for maps and walks, staffed by volunteers who know the town like the back of their hands and have answered just about every query under the Cumbrian sun. When I ask them to share some of their favourite things to do, they are as willing as ever to help…
Walk by the riverside
Local town guide Sheila Truelove’s top recommendation is the riverside walk from Devils Bridge and up into the centre of Kirkby Lonsdale.
“It’s a beautiful walk in all seasons, with the sparkling or roaring river, depending on its mood! The view downriver is stunning, with bridges modern and ancient straddling the view.”
She often does the walk with family who find lots of diversions. “Our grandchildren enjoy skimming stones or squealing as the tiny fish dart between their toes. As we approach the bottom of Mill Brow there is the debate of whether to climb the hill and experience the ancient industrial centre or to carry on along the gentle riverside path and to then tackle the challenge of the Radical Steps.”
It’s not all about the hiking though.
“Once up into town we often finish with refreshment at one of many places on offer. In good weather we often choose the outside areas provided by Plato’s or Avanti. However, if the grandchildren are with us, the end of our walk will involve the traditional sweet shop in the Market Square or a special ice cream treat at The Milking Parlour. Kirkby Lonsdale provides scope for making many happy memories to savour within our family.”
Stroll the Town Centre
Town and Tourism Manager Janet Nuttall also enjoys a Riverside walk with her family, especially meandering up and down Main Street.
“I miss my daughter and she misses the dog! So when she comes home to visit we love parking at Devils Bridge and strolling into town. First stop is the book lounge, where we scan the shelves for books we have read or books we have loved that we can recommend to each other. After that we glance into the Med barbers and marvel how things have changed in mens’ hairdressing and how we to would rather enjoy having our heads wrapped up in a warm towel.
Then the whole reason for the trip; an ice cream from The Milking Parlour – always with liquid milk chocolate lining the inside of the cone.
After this we slowly make our way to the Radical Steps wandering in and out of the shops and back to the car.”
Browse at the Charter Market
Town Guide Deb Hawkins says the Charter Market is a vibrant introduction to the town.
“Every Thursday, the cars are shooed out of the Market Square while the stallholders of the Charter Market take over and set up their stalls around the Monument.
It’s a lovely little market with a great selection of merchandise. Plants for the garden, fish for tea, wine for those long summer evenings, cleaning products for that spring clean, gift ideas of jewellery and handcrafts, fruit and veg, clothing with the latest fashions, socks, gloves and hats for those chillier days.
Come at lunchtime for sourdough toasties, hog roasts and Italian street food.
There is so much variety and the stallholders are such a friendly bunch, ready for a chat and a laugh. On a lovely sunny day, with the backdrop of the stone buildings and the Barbon fells beyond, it is quite a pretty scene, with people bustling around, perusing and purchasing. Come and visit us, but make sure it’s a Thursday!”
Play a round at the Golf Club
“The things I like most about Kirkby Lonsdale are the many varied community sports clubs.” says volunteer Briony Hacking. “I play badminton and netball in the winter, but in the summer golf is my favourite sport. Kirkby Lonsdale Golf Club is a fantastic facility welcoming locals & visitors for a round. Even when I’m not playing well the views from the course are amazing and cheer me up.”
Walk the Underley footpaths
Rose Hirons, who volunteers in the Kirkby Lonsdale Visitor Information shop, loves a walk on the local footpaths.
“I go up the hill past the Orange Tree and on to the footpath at Underley Estate. There’s a sign that says Kirkby Lonsdale is a mile and a half, but it feels like a heck of a lot more than a mile,” she laughs. “Yesterday I got involved in sheep shearing. I sat and watched it on the gate. They use electronic shearers and do it very fast. Then I go across a field into Lily Wood and it brings you out on the footpath to Ruskin’s View. I sit down there and get my breath back. I’m usually pooped by then!”
Relax at Ruskin’s View
Rose recommends taking time out to enjoy Ruskin’s View, whatever time of the day or night.
“I go up there to meditate and do some deep yoga breathing. You can look across the river and the birds are singing. If I go at night there’s nobody else there.”
Wander the sheepfolds
Volunteer Shena Minnitt enjoys Andy Goldsworthy’s Sheepfolds project and has put together these instructions for anyone who might like to follow in her footsteps.
Store up memories on the High Street
Volunteer Susan Head doesn’t need to go further than Main Street to feel nostalgic about a Kirkby Lonsdale in the past.
Buy a souvenir
Few people go home from a trip to Kirkby Lonsdale without a souvenir. Deb Hawkins says you may be spoilt for choice.
“It has everything you need. Butchers, bakers, candlestick maker – not quite, but you can get all sorts of candles in Kirkby! There’s the Post Office to send postcards home, a bookshop, antique shops, gift shops, a card shop, a shoe shop, hardware shop and a store that sells, well practically everything – there’s not much he doesn’t sell. I could go on with the list!
The Tourist Information Centre and Gift Shop, manned by local volunteers can help you with walks, places to see and visit, local information and ideas for those little gifts for home.
And you won’t go hungry in Kirkby with a wide variety of cafes, restaurants and pubs, welcoming you and your four legged friends. I love the old buildings, all in different styles, lining the Main Street, making it cosy and welcoming. Look up beyond the shop fronts and see the history of Kirkby. The town can be easily transported back to the 19th Century and has been in the past, for the adaptions and films of Jamaica Inn and Dr Doolittle respectively. Come here for your Christmas shopping and it’s just purely a magical wonderland.”