Travel guide to… Kirkby Stephen

17 May 2024 by Rachel Wilson

Travel guide to… Kirkby Stephen

Kirkby Stephen is a usually unknown and unexplored traditional market town in Cumbria and it is really not one to be missed. It’s located in the beautiful Upper Eden Valley surrounded by luscious countryside with lots to explore from the town centre.

Where to eat and drink

You can not beat a good chippy and Coast to Coast Fish and Chips serves some of the best around. The portion sizes are huge, perfect after a long day exploring. If you’re craving a curry, then The Mango Tree is your best bet for contemporary Indian cuisine, booking is advised due to the popularity of this place. For drinks, The La’L Nook is a superb micro pub with a warm and friendly atmosphere. It has rotating weekly ales and a wide selection of gins to choose from.

Where to stay

Kirkby Stephen Hostel is located smack bang in the middle of the town and offers basic but comfortable accommodation for those looking for a great budget bed for the night. It’s ideally located for those walking the Coast-to-Coast where you can meet fellow walkers and travellers. The Old Croft Guest House is perfect for those wanting privacy along with a bit of style. The owners are extremely friendly with their extensive local knowledge and as well as serving delicious breakfasts.

Where to shop

There are more and more independent shops popping up in Kirkby Stephen. Buttercup is a wonderful gift shop (as well as tea room) selling homeware and cute gift items. Church Gallery is another gift shop on the main street, almost like a little emporium of arty, crafty and artisan stuff. If you are in need of any outdoor gear, Mad About Mountains will have you covered, their walking boot range is extensive with great advice given by the local employees.

What to do

Right from the town centre, you can walk to Stenkrith Park which is a very tranquil place with easy walking paths. It is where the River Eden drops into Coopkarnel Hole which is a gorge that can be crossed by the spectacular Millennium Bridge. A visit to Stainmore Railway is a must for steam train fans. It’s a volunteer run, non profit organisation that allows you to get up close to some remarkable pieces of history whilst also enjoying the displays and exhibits. Three miles west of Kirkby Stephen is the spectacular Smardale Gill Nature Reserve, where you’ll find an all-accessible track that runs along the old railway line all the way to Smardale viaduct. A wonderful walk with excellent views, wildlife and nature.

Coast to Coast Walk

Nine Standards near Kirkby Stephen © Maria Burton

Kirkby Stephen is on the route of the Coast to Coast walk, Britain's most popular long distance trail. Devised by Alfred Wainwright in 1973 it winds its way across Northern England for approximately 190 miles, from St Bees to Robin Hood's Bay. On the way it passes through three National Parks: The Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. You'll likely see many intrepid hikers passing through the town on their way towards the Nine Standards Rigg on Hartley Fell (680m), four miles to the west of Kirkby Stephen. It's not known for certain why or who built these nine drystone cairns, but the views are certainly worth the effort, if you feel like an invigorating walk.

Are you planning a visit to Kirkby Stephen? Let us know what you get up to.

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