Many walkers find Kirkby Stephen and the Upper Eden Valley for the first time on a Long Distance Trail and return once they have discovered this peaceful countryside with so much to offer the walker.
Our most popular trail is the Coast to Coast. Devised by Alfred Wainwright, this is around 200 miles long, usually in a minimum of 12 stages from St. Bees, on the west coast Irish Sea, to Robin Hood’s Bay, on the eastern North Sea. The Coast to Coast passes through three National Parks, uses permissive paths and rights of way and is mainly unmarked. It has just become a National Trail and is due for a number of enhancements.
Probably the next most popular is The Lady Anne’s Way. This 100 mile walk is named after Lady Anne Clifford, a 17th century woman of some character and standing who repeatedly travelled between her castles of Skipton, Pendragon, Brough and Brougham which she renovated. The route is devised for six days and Kirkby Stephen is the finish point on day four. There are alternative 9 day stages. Amusingly, Lady Anne usually travelled with her bed and a window for her bedroom. www.ladyannesway.co.uk
A more recent routes is A Pennine Journey, devised by David and Heather Pitt based on Alfred Wainwright’s 1938 Pennine Journey. A guide book, with detailed route descriptions, large scale route maps and illustrations, was published by Frances Lincoln in 2010 following work by members of the Wainwright Society. The walk is a circular one from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall and back with its 247 miles being divided into 18 stages. Kirkby Stephen is on day 14 of the return journey going south. www.penninejourney.org.uk
Also by David & Heather Pitt, is a new 76-mile long-distance walk from Kirkby Stephen to Settle, the Howgills and Limestone Trail. The pictorial guide follows a route through a picturesque and in parts demanding area of Cumbria and North Yorkshire – with a short diversion into Lancashire. It can be used in conjunction with Wainwright’s Walks in Limestone Country and Walks in the Howgill Fells. The route has strong associations with railways. It passes over the spectacular Smardale Gill viaduct, and close to the Stainmore Railway, the disused Ingleton and Tebay Railway, and the Settle–Carlisle railway.
The Castles of Eden Walk was published by Mark Richards in May 2017. This fabulous 42 mile heritage trail through the Eden, Lyvennet and Lowther valleys links these historic sites from Kirkby Stephen to Penrith. Available from local bookshops.
There are four other Long Distance Trails that pass through Kirkby Stephen, the Westmorland Heritage Walk, Yorkshire Dale Centurion Walk, Yoredale Way and The Eden Way.
Many of these trails are suitable for breaking down into smaller sections to suit the time available or for a weekend challenge. This is especially true of the Settle to Carlisle Way which follows the famous railway, and can be done on a day by day basis,
Skyware publishes a number of guidebooks on long distance routes in the north of England, including the Coast to Coast, Lady Anne’s Way, A Dales High Way and The Six Peaks Way. Information and videos from the routes are on the Skyware website.
Baggage transfer services are available for many of these trails, particularly the more popular ones. Coast to Coast Packhorse is based in Kirkby Stephen and has plenty of options.