CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Lunesdale and Kirkby Lonsdale.


This is my latest route from Mark Sutcliffe’s guide to walks in the Red Rose county, although this one starts in Cumbria. Kirkby Lonsdale is a bustling market town in south Cumbria, My journey here had been slowed by several convoys of horse-drawn travellers probably heading to Appleby Horse Fair to be held next month. I park near the Devil’s Bridge where I know the parking is free, his suggestion of central parking is probably unwise.

The medieval Devil’s Bridge has three graceful, ribbed arches and is closed to traffic. I was in no hurry and in fact on arrival cross the bridge on foot to buy a coffee from the mobile stall, a favourite with motor cyclists, when at weekends up to a hundred may congregate here. It has also been the scene of youngsters ‘tombstoning’ into the river below, not to be advised. Chatting to a cyclist, of the bicycle genre, it transpires he has ridden from Preston in a time not that much more than double my car journey. The bridge has a legend relating to the devil, I liked this version…(ignore the plugs towards the end)

So it’s getting late when I start my walk downstream alongside the Lune. For two miles along this stretch all is peace and quiet, only a few dog walkers. The air is however full of rapidly flying Sand Martins, I’m almost mesmerised by their acrobatics. I suspect that this year’s juveniles are boosting the numbers. On the opposite side is a long low sandbank with obvious nesting holes visible. Ahead in the distance are the Bowland Hills, just visible in the rather cloudy sky. Behind are the Barbondale group of lower fells and there across to the east is the distinctive Ingleborough. Once he has attracted your attention you are hooked and spend the rest of the day taking more and more duplicate photographs. I make an effort today to avoid that trap, unsuccessful as you will see later.

Before long I’m heading away from the river on a flooded track up into the village of Whittington. Mark’s route takes a path parallel to the village road, but I am curious to see the old houses so take a slight diversion up the main street. Iโ€™m glad I did as there are some interesting properties many from the C17th, most of them listed.

Barn at Low Hall, late C18th…

…with pigeonholes and an owl opening.

Malt Kiln House.

The pub is closed.

The Old School. 1875.

Manor House.

The grand Whittingham Hall from 1831 is hidden down a private drive.

Eventually up the hill I reach the parish church of St. Michael with its early C16th tower. The rest having been largely rebuilt in 1875 by Paley and Austin, well known for their church architecture in Lancashire. Internally there is an elaborately carved chancel screen. The church is built on the motte of an earlier castle, where I sat in the sunshine enjoying a sandwich, The path I should have approached the church by was clear to see ahead of me. Whilst admiring the view I witnessed something I’d never seen before – an angry blackbird was chasing at low level a squirrel across the field. Presumably the squirrel had been attacking the bird’s nest.

Rest over I tackled the very steep lane heading north, it appeared to be a ‘green’ lane but was in fact a highway though I doubt few motorists would tackle it from the bottom. All was in fact very green and shady.

Once at the top I took diverted paths around Sellet Hall with views across to Barbondale and of course Ingleborough.

Sellet Hall. C17th much modified.

Down a meadow full of contented cows to Sellet Mill, a former water powered corn mill where the iron mill wheel has been preserved.

Sellet Mill. C19th much modified.

The continuing bridleway back up the hill was rather strange, behind the mill was the original millpond (now a leisure pond) and coming down into it a rocky stream. The bridle way took me straight up this stream, in parts the old cobbles were visible, but most will have been washed away. After heavy rain this way would be impossible.

At the top I came out into meadows above Kirkby Lonsdale with excellent views over the valleys and to, yes you’ve guessed it, Ingleborough. Again strangely the RofW went straight across the middle of a rugby pitch, what are your rights when there is game on?

Then it was through the middle of the Queen Elizabeth high school, I felt I was trespassing.

I found Kirkby over touristy. There are lots of interesting buildings and alleyways, but the town suffers from a traffic problem with cars everywhere, even though my photos seem to show an absence of them!. I was glad I’d parked out of town – be warned. The flags are out for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee later this week, in case you are from another planet.

I made my way towards St. Mary’s Church. The oldest parts of the church are Norman, doors and pillars, but the structure has had numerous alterations over the centuries. Inside there are three Isles and the nave, so the church appears grand. Some of the Norman pillars have incised decoration similar to Durham Cathedral. I missed a ‘green man’ carved on one of the C12th columns. There is a C13th piscina in another.

The graveyard is extensive with some impressive memorials and at one corner is an unusual octagonal stone gazebo from the late 18th century which was formerly in the vicarage garden.

I’d come over here to visit Ruskin’s View, a celebrated view of the Lune as it curves gracefully in the wide valley with the hills beyond. Turner had painted this scene in 1822 and Ruskin, art critic, painter and poet had this to say about it – “I do not know in all my country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine.” Kirkby Lonsdale’s tourist jewel was set forever. Unfortunately there has been a land slip below the path which has therefore been closed for safety reasons. There was no way round it, so I give you this picture from the tourist board.

Disappointed I descended the steep Radical Steps to the river. The steps were built in 1820 for Dr Francis Pearson, a political radical, to divert the existing public footpath from his garden – a radical step. A level walk along the riverside, popular with locals and tourists, lead back to the Devil’s Bridge.

In its six miles an excellent walk, one of the best I have done from the book so far


21 thoughts on “CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Lunesdale and Kirkby Lonsdale.


    Plenty crammed into this one. What about those cows in a circle? I reckon they are members of some bovine cult having mistaken the date for midsummer’s day. I have walked quite a bit of this one before so following our recent conversation I hope to walk the more northerly one from KL as and when.

      1. Eunice

        That’s if you’re lucky enough to get a space anywhere round there. I went to KL two years ago in mid September, it was midweek and term time but the place was heaving and not a parking space anywhere – I ended up going to Booth’s supermarket and paying ยฃ3.50 for all day.

        1. bowlandclimber Post author

          I must admit it is a busy place.
          Didn’t know there was a Booths, they seem to be everywhere nowadays. We even have one in Longridge, it seems half empty most of the time – don’t know how it keeps going.

  2. Eunice

    I like the pics of St. Mary’s interior, the place was closed when I went two years ago. I can never understand why Ruskin’s View is so named – surely it should be Turner’s View as he was the one who painted the scene, Ruskin only looked at the painting. I like the sweet shop pic, so colourful and reminds me of my childhood days when shops like that still existed. The heron looks decidedly grumpy, I wonder what upset him ๐Ÿ™‚

    I had a lovely ‘accidental’ walk from the corner of a small parking area down a short lane off the A683 across from the Devil’s Bridge snack bar – I just followed a lane and kept on walking as it was so nice ๐Ÿ™‚ The blog post was written on November 2nd 2020 if you want to take a look.

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      Just looked at your post which I remember. Quite a few of our photos are almost identical.
      I was amused by the yellow sign on the bridge -“No Person Shall Jump. Without reasonable excuse”
      I wonder what would constitute a reasonable excuse?

  3. Michael Graeme

    Once spent a night at the Sun Inn, and very pleasant it was too. Never walked from there, though. This was a terrific ramble, and such a lot to see.

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      Very popular place with lots of interest. I think you would like that sweetshop.
      See Eunice’s post Nov2020 for an ‘amusing’ sign on the bridge.

    2. Ashley

      Jumping off the bridge because it’s so busy? ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿคฃ I’ve missed your posts, will follow again now that I’ve found you here!

  4. Martin Banfield

    Well done BC, a very comprehensive report. Iโ€™ve also caught up with your Glasson entry โ€“ well done on finding the correct route to the canal โ€“ and Iโ€™ve admired your Glasgow trip. We always think we should make more effort to pause in Glasgow on our way to the Highlands.

  5. ms6282

    Did that walk the other way round a few years ago in December. I well remember walking along the alleged โ€œpathโ€ that was really a stream!


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