Bus and train timetables

Settle to Carlisle Railway
Trains to and from Leeds to Carlisle, where there are connections to London and to Scotland.

Westmorland and Furness Bus Timetables
For services to and from Kirkby Stephen look under the tab for Towns in North East. Occasional buses to Kendal, Penrith and Barnard Castle.

Cumbria Classic Coaches
Includes ‘Heritage Wednesday’ route using a vintage bus in the summer.

Western Dales Buses
Two 16-seat minibuses on timetabled services in the western Yorkshire Dales linking Kendal, Sedbergh, Kirkby Stephen, Brough, Penrith, Dent and Hawes.

Westmorland Dales Festival 2023

Westmorland Dales Festival takes place over the weekend of 29th and 30th July. On Sunday 30th there are stalls in the church and churchyard and events at venues around the town. On Saturday 29th Walkers are Welcome guide a series of local walks.

Places are limited. Please book at Upper Eden Visitor Centre, Market Street, Kirkby Stephen
visit@uecp.org.uk 017683 71199

Fox Tower and Mount Ida, Brough
Spectacular views of the Eden Valley and Westmorland Dales. Paper copy also available to self-guide.
4miles/6.5k Ascent 1049ft/320m 2.5 hours
Meet at Helgill Quarry car park. 09:30am. NY800157 What3Words: stuffy.escalated.sparrows

Smardale Gill Viaduct and Smardale Fell circular
With added information from a member of Northern Viaduct Trust about the viaduct. More info at http://www.edenviaducts.org.uk and http://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/nature-reserves/smardale
4.7miles/7.5km, Ascent 500ft/150m, 2 hours plus.
Meet at the new Smardale Nature Reserve Car Park. 10am. NY743083

Northern Viaduct Round restored disused railway
Suitable for disabled buggies, wheelchairs and children with Debbie North of Access the Dales. Continue into Kirkby Stephen or use as a linear route. Wheelchair hubs available locally http://www.access-the-dales.com. Additional information to self-guide from the Upper Eden Visitor Centre and http://www.edenviaducts.org.uk
Meet NVT car park just over Stenkrith Bridge, Nateby Road. 10 am.

A Walk on the Clouds – Stenneskeugh and Fell End Clouds, Ravenstonedale
3.7 miles/6km 575ft/175m ascent, 2 hours
Meet The Old Quarry, Fell End. 2pm. NY734005 What3Words: princely.enjoys.roost. A685 towards Tebay, A683 to Sedbergh, after Fat Lamb Inn pass road for The Street, take next left. Park on left in old quarry after crossing cattle grid.

Old Ale Trail, Kirkby Stephen
Step back in time with pubs, inns and breweries of the 18th to 21st century within Kirkby Stephen Conservation Area. Booklet guide is available from Upper Eden Visitor Centre £3 to self-guide or for additional information. May be made adaptable for wheelchairs, please ask.
1 mile and 1.5 hours including stops.
Meet The Cloisters, Market Square. 2.30pm

Walk on the Dark Side
Bit of horrible histories tour of Kirkby Stephen Conservation Area. May be adaptable for wheelchairs, please ask.
1 mile and 1.5 hours including stops.
Meet at The Cloisters, Market Square. 6pm


Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity using a GPS or a GPS enabled phone or tablet which is very like a real-world Treasure Hunt. It’s perfect for encouraging children and young people to explore the countryside and will take you to many new and often secretive destinations to explore.

The hiding place is often registered on www.geocaching.com. Using GPS coordinates you navigate to the approximate place and then search for the hidden ‘cache’.  A typical ‘cache’ is a small waterproof container which holds a log book and pencil for you to log your find. There may be small items to exchange or to move to new positions.

There are also ‘virtual caches’. These sometimes have a question to answer or require a photograph to log the find. A boxless Adventure Lab geocache has been created for Kirkby Stephen.

There are six cache sites along the Kirkby Stephen Poetry Path. Search on the ‘Hide and Seek a Cache’ page on Geocaching.com, entering Kirkby Stephen. If you extend your search to 10 miles of Kirkby Stephen, you will find hundreds of caches. For instance there are 17 geocaches in a circuit from Kirkby Stephen via Great Musgrave, Brough and Church Brough, Barras and Winton and back to Kirkby Stephen.

A further nine Geocache sites have been installed on the Northern Viaduct Trust walk, along the disused Stainmore railway and in the Frank’s Bridge area of Kirkby Stephen.

New in 2021 are ten new EarthCaches in Kirkby Stephen and the surrounding Westmorland Dales developed by Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership.

We are grateful to ‘MacGrumpy’ of Kirkby Stephen for hiding local caches and the landowners for hosting them. Sadly ‘MacGrumpy’ (Peter Goddard) died in May 2021 but his caches live on in his memory.

Outdoor sculptures

There are many outdoor sculptures to be visited in the area around Kirkby Stephen, set in evocative landscapes.  Eden Benchmarks is a series of ten contemporary stone sculptures set along the length of the River Eden, with the first near the source in the Mallerstang valley. To find out more about this and other sculpture projects visit www.edenbenchmarks.org.uk.  

Renowned landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy lived and worked near Brough at the start of his career and a number of his sheepfold and enclosure projects can be found nearby. To find out more visit www.sheepfoldscumbria.co.uk.

The Poetry Path takes you on a short walk through the landscape surrounding Kirkby Stephen. A circular route of public paths either side of the river Eden is taken, including a short section of the disused Stainmore railway managed as a nature reserve by the Northern Viaduct Trust.

Twelve short poems written by Meg Peacocke have been carved by lettering artist Pip Hall on blocks of stone. You will find them installed at intervals along the way. They tell of a Cumbrian hill farmer’s year, month by month. 

As well as the poems, carved decorative motifs depict some of the activities associated with each month of the hill farmer’s year. Rubbings can be taken from these using paper and a crayon.

A leaflet with a walk guide and simple map is available from the Tourist Information Centre, Local Links Centre and Halls newsagents, priced £2.


Kirkby Stephen is ‘where screeching, scarlet macaws enjoy celebrity status’, wrote Phill Gates in The Guardian County Diary column. “As we crossed the road, a pair peered down at us from the parapet, technicolor adornments on a grey day”.

Visitors are often amazed to see these colourful birds flying around the area. They are regularly startled by them screeching their way down the High Street or squawking as they rest in nearby trees. Rather unsurprisingly the birds are regularly reported as lost. To residents they are the ‘Kirkby Stephen Jays’ or ‘Eden Jays’ – if you ask a local that’s what you’ll be told they are – and a quirky part of this quirky northern town.

A number of scarlet and blue-and-yellow macaws live and breed at Eden Place, just outside Kirkby Stephen. John Strutt (1935-2010) trained these remarkable birds and other parrots to fly freely around the district, returning home to be fed and take shelter. In the final year of his life, John set up The John Strutt Centre for Parrot Conservation so the birds would be protected and his work with breeding and the reintroduction of parrots to the wild would continue.

This is not his only legacy. The John Strutt Conservation Foundation was established in 1994. The main aim of the charity is the conservation of all kinds of wildlife, including plants, insects, birds and mammals and their natural habitats. The Foundation owns substantial lands including areas near Kirkby Stephen in Hartley, including wetlands and woodland.

John Strutt also established a charity in 1987 that makes modest grants to local people and projects. The football pitch in Hartley Road was donated by John Strutt to the junior football club and named Parrots Park in honour of the free-flying macaws. The Cricket Club pitch at Hillsbottom and the site for the Jubilee Cairn on Kirkby Hill were all donated by him.

John’s work continues after his death through these various charities and their trustees and the beautiful macaws are a constant reminder of his commitment to nature.  

Red Squirrels

If you keep your eyes peeled you may well see one of our red squirrels. They are quite often seen on the Viaduct Walk which circuits Kirkby Stephen to the south east and on the footpath from Kirkby Stephen to Nateby. You are most likely to spy a red squirrel in the wooded areas near to the rivers and streams.

Red squirrels in the UK are under threat from the introduced grey squirrel and this area of Cumbria is no exception, although the situation is improving. So you may well also see a grey. Numbers of red squirrels in the UK have fallen from a onetime high thought to be around 3.5 million, to a current estimated population of around 120,000. The population in England is thought to be as low as 15,000. The most significant threat associated with grey squirrels is the spread and transmission to the reds of a disease called squirrelpox virus.

Red Squirrels Northern England aims to increase red squirrel populations through a program of tightly monitored and targeted grey squirrel control. The organisation carries out biannual monitoring of red and grey squirrel distribution throughout the north of England. To find out more about their work or log a sighting, please visit www.rsne.org.uk.

Food and drink

Kirkby Stephen has a wide variety of pubs, restaurants and cafes, including Indian and Chinese restaurants and fish and chip shops, as well as places offering traditional Cumbrian fare. There are also plenty of other places to eat and drink in the surrounding villages.

Do note that the tea shops can close quite early. If you are in a group and want tea and cakes after 4pm it’s worth ringing to check they’ll stay open for you. Fish and chip shop opening times can also take visitors by surprise; they all close between 7pm and 8pm.

All those below welcome walkers and most allow dogs.

Tea, Coffee and Snacks
The Church Gallery in Market Street has a coffee lounge and quiet patio with self-service hot and cold drink and cakes. The White Hare Cafe is a traditional family run café in the town centre. The Mulberry Bush is a popular cafe in the centre of town, offering full meals as well as tea and coffee (no dogs except outside seating).

Berry, Grape & Grain is a licensed cafe, wine and spirits shop and delicatessen in the centre of town. During the summer there is outside seating.

Coast to Coast Fish and Chips, as patronised by Alfred Wainwright, is at the northern end of Kirkby Stephen on the road towards Brough. Archway Fish and Chips is in the town centre, offering take-away and a dining room.

The Pennine Hotel, in the Market Square, provides a good range of meals, from bar snacks to a three course dinner.  The Black Bull also provides meals. The Taggy Man in North Road has excellent pie and mash meals in the evening.

Owen’s Farm Shop is a short walk out of town at Sandwath Farm. As well as having locally sourced produce for sale there is a substantial menu of meals, teas and snacks.

Good pubs outside Kirkby Stephen which offer quality food include The Inn at Brough in Brough, the Bay Horse in Winton, The Black Bull at Nateby Inn in Nateby and the Black Swan and King’s Head, both in Ravenstonedale.

The L’al Nook and The Old Forge are Kirkby Stephen’s two micro-pubs, situated at either end of the town. They offer a wide range of craft ales and other drinks. It is possible to eat at The Old Forge (booking advised) and it also serves barista coffee and speciality teas.

Accessible routes

There are various walks in and around Kirkby Stephen suitable for wheelchairs, pushchairs and those who require a reasonably flat, firm surface to walk on.

The Northern Viaduct Trust walk along the old railway line to the east of the town is designated a ‘Miles without Stiles’ route. There is free leaflet to download (PDF) describing the walk.

Jubilee Park, at the southern end of the town, has a disabled cark park at the side to allow level access to the summerhouse with views over Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang Edge. There is a good pavement surface and ramps all the way to and from the town.

Many will find the walk along the old railway track at Smardale suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. There is a fairly steep ramp at the start of the route from the car parking area, but after that it is flat.

There’s a special buggy walk around Brough with a map to follow and features to look out for. The leaflet is available from the Visitor Centre.

Access the Dales

‘Access the Dales’ is dedicated to promoting accessible walks in the Yorkshire Dales and providing free hire use of all-terrain mobility vehicles from hubs in the Dales. It is run by Debbie North, who used to live near Kirkby Stephen. On the website you can find lots of routes, advice, listings of accessible accommodation and more.

Railway walks

The area around Kirkby Stephen offers some fine walks along old railway lines, with some truly impressive viaducts to cross, reflecting the fact that the town was something of a transport hub in the Victorian era. Kirkby Stephen sat at the centre of an ambitious line that crossed the Pennines, connecting the coal fields of Durham with industry on the west coast. Many holiday makers also passed through on their way to and from the Lancashire seaside resorts.

The disused trackbed of the Stainmore Railway that skirts Kirkby Stephen and has two magnificent stone viaducts at Merrygill and Podgill, has been transformed into a walking and cycle path by the Northern Viaduct Trust. You can join the route from Stenkrith, where there is a car park and the new Millennium footbridge over the River Eden swirling below, or at the village of Hartley, itself easily reached by footpath from Kirkby Stephen. The path is accessible by wheelchair.

Along the pathway two of the platelayers huts have been restored, with photographs and information panels telling the fascinating story of the line, which once went over the highest pass on an English railway.

You can find out more about the history of the line and look at old locomotives and rolling stock at the old Kirkby Stephen East station, at the southern tip of the town, which houses a heritage centre, buffet and shop (open Saturdays and Sundays, admission free). At Podgill Viaduct a short path takes you down to a viewing area, allowing you to see the viaduct from below (you can see how it was doubled in width to take an extra track).

It is possible to walk another section of this line on a permitted path through land managed by the John Strutt Foundation. This walk is the subject of a booklet published by Kirkby Stephen & District Walkers are Welcome, available from the Visitor Centre and elsewhere.

One of the lines branching out from Kirkby Stephen East went towards the west coast. Three miles west of Kirkby Stephen this track runs over another great viaduct at Smardale Gill, also rescued by the Northern Viaduct Trust. A footpath follows the old trackbed through a stunning nature reserve managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. Just beyond the viaduct you can see a limestone quarry and two huge lime kilns. The valley has been settled from prehistoric times. There is a free car park in Beck Lane (NY741082).

Railway enthusiasts may want to make a special visit to the site of the famous Belah crossing (NY840105). After the summit at Stainmore the railway passed high above the River Belah on a lattice iron bridge very similar to those seen in American Westerns. The structure was one of the Victorian railway engineer Thomas Bouch’s greatest achievements. Bouch, rather unfortunately, is better known today for his Tay Bridge at Dundee, which collapsed in a winter storm in 1879 with the loss of 75 lives. His reputation never recovered and, to make matters worse, the event is retold in typically appalling verse by the Scottish writer of doggerel, William McGonagall. The Belah viaduct, on the other hand, stood for over 100 years, until it was dismantled in the 1960s and sold for scrap. The massive stone abutments at either end can be visited on footpaths from the village of Barras.

Don’t forget that you can arrive at Kirkby Stephen on the renowned Settle to Carlisle line. This railway has a station further out of the town than Kirkby Stephen East; there is a footpath which brings you the mile or so into the town. There are regular guided walks taking place from stations all along the line, organised by the Friends of Settle to Carlisle Railway.

Long distance paths

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 WalkYorkshire Dale Centurion WalkYoredale 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.