Penrith

Mobile mechanic

Dan Richards, Mobile Cytech 3 Mechanic around the Penrith area. Emergency Repairs & Servicing. www.askcycledr.co.uk. Door 2 Door service, plus available outside of normal shop hours. 07917 608566

 

Cycle Shops

Arragons, Brunswick Road. 01768 890 344 www.arragonscycles.com

Harpers Cycles, 1-2 Middlegate 01768 864 475

About the Town

A handsome red sandstone market town, Penrith was the capital of the Kingdom of Cumbria in the 9th and 10th centuries, a time when the area was al ied to Scotland as a semi-independent part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Since it was on the main north-south road it also witnessed more than its fair share of bloody action during border conflicts; the Scots put the town to torch three times during the 14th century alone.

Its early growth was restricted because the town had no water supply, but in 1385 Bishop Strickland diverted Thacka Beck from the river Peterill, an eco- sensitive agreement that al owed the townspeople to draw only as much water daily from the Peteril as would flow through the eye of a millstone (still on view outside the Tourist Information Centre). By the 18th century it was an important cattle market. The oldest streets in the town, Burrowgate and Sandgate, are narrow, unspoilt and 800 years old. Two traditional shops have also survived, as if preserved in aspic: Graham’s, Penrith’s answer to Fortnum & Mason; and Arnisons, the drapers, established in 1740 in the building that was once the home of Wordsworth’s grandparents. The poet and his sister Dorothy attended the Dame Anne Birkett School, now the Tudor Coffee Room, overlooking St Andrew’s Churchyard and final resting place of Owen Caesarius, a legendary giant and King of All Cumbria.

They are far from the only famous figures from history associated with the town. As “Guardian of the West March towards Scotland”, the Duke of Gloucester plotted his way towards being crowned Richard III from behind the sandstone ramparts of the magnificent Penrith Castle.

It was not all skulduggery though: he also stayed at one of the pubs in town and is even said to have had a private underground passage to it so that he could go back and forth unseen. The link is commemorated in the pub’s name, the Gloucester Arms, and some of the original stonework is stil there – which is scarcely true of the castle which was a ruin by the mid 16th century, donating much of its stonework to the town’s buildings.

The Two Lions pub is equally historic while the George Hotel provided lodgings for Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, during his il -fated foray south in search of the crown.

Others linked to Penrith include Mary Queen of Scots, Oliver Cromwell and the writer, Anthony Trollope. The first must have spent most of her life on horseback to get to al the places she is alleged to have visited, though in the case of Penrith the connection is justified. Cromwell occupied the town in 1654 and though the pen is mightier than the sword, Trollope is not thought to have caused as much bloodshed. More recently, the area was immortalised in Bruce Robinson’s classic film comedy of 1987, ‘Withnail and I’, in which the area is again traumatised – this time by a pair of drunken wannabe actors.

Above Penrith is Beacon Hil , past which you wil shortly be cycling. Beacons have been lit there through the ages to warn of threat of invasion. Its views are stunning.

Things to see

Penrith Museum and Tourist Information Centre Housed in the former Robinson’s School, an Elizabethan building altered in 1670 and a school until the early 1970s. The museum covers the history, geology and archaeology of the Penrith area. Free entry. 01768 867466

St Andrew’s Church The Giant’s Grave in the Churchyard is that of Owen Caesarius, the legendary slayer of monsters from Inglewood Forest. The tower is 12th century, the rest dates from 1720, being rebuilt after a fire. The stained-glass windows added in 1870.

Bluebell Bookshop, Angel Square 01768 866660.

The town’s architecture . Take a walk around. Well worth a stopover.

Penrith Castle Started in 1399, once home to Richard III but abandoned after his death. Free entry.

Wordsworth Bookshop & Coffee House, 8 St Andrews Churchyard, Penrith, CA11 7YE.  In the heart of Penrith, serving homemade soups & breads with delicious cakes & treats. Fresh food, fairtrade coffee & tea, cosy log fires & a warm welcome, in the delightful setting of St Andrews Churchyard. Lots of travel books, maps & guides to stop you getting lost!
01768 210604.
E: info@wordsworthbookshop.co.uk.
W: www.wordsworthbookshop.co.uk.
Open Monday-Saturday 9.30-4.30pm (closed Wednesdays).