Kirkby Stephen

Kirkby Stephen

Kirkby Stephen is a small market town lying at the head of the Eden Valley. The river Eden, the source of which is in the Mallerstang Valley to the south east, passes through the town. Kirkby Stephen was granted a market charter in 1352/3, and a lively market is still held on Mondays.

Kirkby Stephen, looking through the Cloisters to the Market Square

image of Kirkby Stephen, looking through the Cloisters to the Market Square

Kirkby Stephen is close to the southern boundary of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and just north of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

On the southern edge of the town is the site of Croglam Castle, an example of pre-historic earthworks.
Pendragon Castle, famed for its connection with King Arthur, is at Mallerstang.

The Market Square is surrounded by an ancient collar of cobble-stones, and has a number of buildings of historical and architectural significance. The Cloisters were built in 1810 between the Square and the Parish Church, with the intention of providing shelter for churchgoers and market people.

Immediately through the Cloisters is the Trupp Stone, where tithes were paid until 1836. From the Market Square, many narrow winding passageways lead off. Some lead down to Frank’s Bridge and the River Eden, where there is a pleasant picnic area.

Frank’s Bridge crossing the River Eden at Kirkby Stephen
image of Frank's Bridge over the river Eden at Kirkby Stephen

The Parish Church, known locally as the Cathedral of the Dales, was built on the site of an old Anglo-Saxon church, and contains many interesting relics, including the ‘Loki Stone’. This is one of only two such stones in Europe.

About a mile and a half out of town is Kirkby Stephen Station on the Carlisle Settle Railway.

There used to be another line through the town, The Stainmore Railway, from Tebay to Darlington, but this closed in 1962. The East Station has been restored as a railway heritage centre, with several steam and diesel trains, and a short stretch of track for train rides. It is hoped to eventually connect with the Eden Valley Railway to make a railway all the way to Appleby.

Kirkby Stephen station, a railway heritage centre

image of a pile of leather suitcases and a railway engine at Kirkby Stephen station, a railway heritage centre

The Coast to Coast Walk, devised by Alfred Wainwright, passes through the town, which has many facilities to offer the visitor, including a large number of places to eat and stay.

The Northern Viaducts Round follows just over a mile of the former Stainmore Railway. Near Kirkby Stephen the Merrygill and Podgill Viaducts have been restored by the The Northern Viaduct Trust, forming the railway part of the walk, along with the award winning Stenkrith Millennium Bridge, which crosses the River Eden, providing access to the route from Kirkby Stephen.

Kirkby Stephen has a Kirkby Stephen Poetry Path – on the theme of ‘A year in the life of a fellside farmer’. The Path was first suggested by Dick Capel of East Cumbria Countryside Project as a way of celebrating the landscape of the Eden Valley, after the Foot & Mouth epidemic highlighted the relationship between traditional farming with the familiar landscape and its wildlife.

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