Squeezed between the well-known Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks, the peaceful Eden Valley has a lot to offer those looking to get ‘off-the-beaten track’, as well as being a great base for exploring its more famous neighbours.
Here is our guide to the best spots in the area.
Our favourite village: Ravenstonedale
At the base of the inviting Howgill Fells, pretty Ravenstonedale is a collection of traditional stone cottages, drystone walls and an impressive church.
Unusually for a village of this size, it is home to two excellent and popular pubs – The Black Swan and the King's Head. Both serve a selection of local ales and great food. If you can drag yourself away from the pubs, an enterprising local farmer has turned a field on the edge of the village into a small nine-hole golf course. To play, you just pay a small fee into the honesty box and clubs can be hired from the King’s Head.
Ravenstonedale is also perfectly situated for walking – walks up into the Howgill Fells can be taken straight from the village and less strenuous options, like the gentle walk to the impressive Smardale Gill Viaduct, are also available.
Our favourite pub: The Stag Inn, Dufton
Other than the two wonderful pubs in Ravenstonedale, mentioned above, the Stag Inn in Dufton has to be one the best.
The pretty red sandstone village of Dufton sits at the base of the North Pennines and is the starting point for the popular walk up to stunning High Cup Nick (probably the most well-known and certainly one of the most spectacular walks in the area). The Pennine Way also passes straight through the village.
This means the pub is regularly a hive of activity with locals, walkers and visitors filling the bar. The pub itself is a traditional village inn, with open fires and wooden beams and serves a good choice of food and drink, including several local ales.
Our favourite walk: Wild Boar Fell
The Eden Valley is a fantastic area for walking, with miles and miles of footpaths across open moorland, gentle hills, limestone pavement and patchwork farmland.
Among the many options, one of our favourites is the ascent of Wild Boar Fell, the highest hill in the area.
Looming over the Mallerstang Valley near the source of the River Eden, Wild Boar Fell dominates this end of the valley. Its jagged outline can make it look a daunting prospect but, although undoubtedly not a stroll in the park, it is easily achievable for the fairly fit walker and there are no scrambles or technical sections.
Starting at Cotegill Bridge, the walk crosses the fell-side underneath the ridge. The fell is broken by pretty streams (with some good picnic spots) and scattered with limestone boulders. There is then a steep climb up onto the ridge followed by a beautiful walk along it to the viewpoint of The Nab and on to the summit. The reward for your efforts is stunning views up and down the Mallerstang Valley, over the adjacent Howgill Fells and, on a clear day, across to the high summits of the Lake District.
The hardest part over, you continue on to the impressive line of cairns along the edge of the ridge before dropping down to Swarth Fell and back to your starting point. Even on a bright summer’s day, you are unlikely to encounter more than a handful of other people on this hidden gem of a walk.
A detailed walk description is provided by Walking World.
Our favourite place to visit: Brougham Castle
The Eden Valley is scattered with castle ruins; some are significant structures currently undergoing extensive restoration, such as the impressive ruins and gardens of Lowther Castle, while others are no more than a few walls and foundations in isolated spots, which you can stumble upon unexpectedly while out for a walk.
If you only have time for one, the ruin of Brougham Castle, only a couple of miles east of Penrith, is a good choice. It combines a lovely settling, on a bend of the River Eamont providing beautiful views over the Eden Valley, with a fascinating history, both as a powerful fortress in border wars against the Scots as early as the fourteenth century and as one of the castles in the custody of the formidable Lady Anne Clifford in the seventeenth century.
Our favourite cafe: Little Salkeld Watermill
The tiny village of Little Salkeld is most well-known for being the home of ‘Long Meg and her Daughters’, an ancient stone circle that sits in a quiet field above the village.
However, it also has an excellent little cafe in the renovated and fully up-and-running watermill in the village. Bread and cakes made with flour milled on the premises are complimented by a variety of other organic, vegetarian options. While there you can purchase your own flour and other ingredients in the small shop or take a tour of the mill.
Bread baking courses are available in 2014 for those who are inspired to make their own.
Our favourite viewpoint: Hartside Top
From the village of Melmerby on the valley floor, a steep, winding road snakes its way up into the North Pennines. As you climb, the view across the valley improves and from Hartside Top, at 577 metres, the view stretches across the Eden Valley to the Lake District mountains and even across the Solway Firth to Scotland.
Conveniently, Hartside Cafe is perched right on the highest point so you can have a cup of tea while you enjoy the view!
Further information about what to see and do in the Eden Valley is available from Nurture Eden.