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Britain > Lake District > Penrith

A town for travellers on the backbone of Britain


Penrith Castle
Mayburgh Henge
Beacon Hill
The M6 is the longest motorway in Britain. It forms a key part of the London to Glasgow route, and is often referred to as the "backbone of Britain". Along the way it skirts the edge of Cumbria, and this is where it encounters the town of Penrith.
The motorway's first section was opened in 1958, but this has been a busy thoroughfare for a lot longer than that. Travellers have been wearing themselves out on its many miles since Roman times. This turned Penrith into an important place, full of profitable inns and taverns. The merchants and traders would gratefully relax with a glass of ale, before setting off again in the morning.
Even today, thousands of years later, the town isn't that different. It's still a haven for weary travellers, and there are nearly as many pubs as there are people. The local shopkeepers do good business too. The Toffee Shop sells fudge that's supposedly tasty enough to make grown men cry. J&J Graham, meanwhile, has been supplying fine foods since 1793.

Giannis Restaurant

Authentic Italian food in the heart of Penrith. Friendly, family restaurant serving the finest, freshest Italian food in Lakeland. Market Square, Penrith, CA11 7BY.
In the past, wealthy businessmen had to be very careful. Raids from the nearby Scottish border were a constant threat. Penrith has been burned completely to the ground on more than one occasion! To aid the defence, a stout castle was built here in the 15th century. It's a good thing that the raids don't happen any more, because the remaining, ramshackle walls wouldn't offer too much protection! The ruins are now under the care of English Heritage, who give the public free access.
Another refuge from the marauding Scottish was inside St. Andrew's Church. Its walls were built to the same thickness as a castle, so they could offer similarly good protection. Apparently though, raiders weren't the only problem. Hidden in the shadows of the nearby hills was a colony of giants. One of them is supposedly buried in St. Andrews' graveyard, although it's unclear how the creature perished.

Penrith St. Andrews Church
Photo cbbaxter@btinternet.com
At the Penrith Museum you'll find a little less myth and a few more facts. Appropriately enough, it's housed within an old schoolhouse. The exhibits cover every moment of local history. It's surprising to see just how far back this goes - humans have been living here since prehistoric times. To see the evidence for yourself, you can travel just a little way out of town to the ancient stone monuments of Mayburgh Henge and King Arthur's Round Table. Despite being built thousands of years ago, the purpose of their strange circular shapes remains a mystery.
Nearby is Beacon Hill, the area's best vantage point. Once upon a time, lookouts would be posted here 24 hours a day. The moment they spotted enemy raiders, they'd light a signal fire to let everybody know. Today, the only things to look out for are the superb views over Penrith, and the Lakeland just beyond.

Gate Inn, Yanwith

Photo Chris Oakden
This delightful 17th century Inn is located 2 minutes drive from Penrith. It is a relaxed and informal country pub with dining rooms. Winner of the Good Beer Guide Cumbrian Dining Pub of the year for the last 4 years the food is excellent. A selection of Cumbrian Ales are available along with continental lagers and a selection of wines. Yanwith, near Penrith, CA10 2LF.
Visitor Information
Penrith Tourist Information Centre, Penrith Museum, Middlegate, Penrith, CA11 7PT. Tel: 01768 867 466
Penrith Museum open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm (reduced hours on Sundays). Entry is FREE. Robinson’s School, Middlegate, Penrith, CA11 7PT. Tel: 01768 865 105
Penrith Castle is open daily from 7:30am to 4:30pm (opening hours change in April 2011). Entry is FREE. Ullswater Road, Penrith, CA11 7. Tel: 01912 691 200 20

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