Moving outside the Lake District to the Eden Valley a good tourist base is Appleby. An attractive towh with a railway station, and situated on the Cumbria Cycle Way, the Westmoreland Way, the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast walk. It is probably most famous for its Horse Fair which started in 1685 and continues to attract a huge gipsy gathering. It runs for a week ending on the 2nd Wednesday in June. The impressive Appleby Castle is not currently open to the public.
Close to Appleby is Rutter Force, an impressive waterfall. The old corn mill near the waterfall and ford still has it's waterwheel, but is not open for visitors, although it is offered as self catering accommodation.
Lowther Castle was abandoned in 1938 and was requisitioned by the army during the second world war, but was left in a poor state. Work is continuing to stablise the castle, but the gardens and over 140 acres of parkland was reopened to the public in 2011. Work is continuing to reveal the 17th century gardens and to restore them them against the backdrop of the imposing castle buildings. The massive stable block has now been renovated to provide refreshment facilities. Situated in the parkland is the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre with falcons, hawks, eagles, buzzards and owls. Weather permitting the birds are flown three times each day. Askham is a very attractive village near to Lowther with two outdoor heated swimming pools. It is home to Askham Hall whose gardens are open to the public.
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Penrith and Eastern Lake District
Penrith lies just outside the Lake District National Park but is a good tourist base for visiting the area, and you will also have the opportunities to explore the beautiful Eden Valley.
Penrith was the capital of Cumbria in the 9th and 10th centuries and developed as a military centre as it is situated on a direct route to and from Scotland. The oldest streets in the town date from the 12th century and there are the imposing ruins of Penrith Castle which was built between 1300 and 1470 as a defense against raids from Scotland. The castle is now maintained by English Heritage and entrance to the ruins is free. It is a historic market town and a shopping, business and social centre with much to offer visitors.
There are a number of things to do in and around Penrith - on a wet afternoon you can try your hand at pottery making at Crafty Monkeys which is suitable for all ages.
Just outside Penrith are Lacy's Caves which are to be found by the side of the River Eden.
The walk starts at Little Salkeld and is about a mile long. The caves were carved out of the sandstone cliffs by Colonel Lacy of Salkeld Hall in the 18th centuryto entertain guests. There are five chambers in all which link together. Not far away is Long Meg and her daughters. Dating from 4000 - 6000 years ago this is an impressive stone circle (the third largest in Britain) comprising of one large standing stone 3.6 metres high, and 50 smaller stones of which 27 remain upright.
Children might enjoy the story that they were once a coven of witches who were turned to stone. It is also said that the stones can't be counted, or that if you count them and come to the same total twice then the spell will be broken.
From Penrith you can walk up to Penrith Beacon - a distance of about 3 miles. The beacon is 937 feet high (286 metres) and from the summit it is possible to see views of Eden Valley, Cross Fell in the Pennine, numerous peaks in the Lake District and the mountains of Scotland across the Solway Firth. The first beacons on this spot (from 1296)were made of wood and branches, but the current sandstone monument dates from 1719.
Ullswater, the second largest lake in the Lake District is close to Penrith. It is a ribbon lake, being nine miles long and three quarters of a mile wide. Tourist accommodation is available in the picturesque villages around the lake. One of the main attractions are the Ullswater Steamers which take a 7 mile trip along the lake. The steamers make stops at Pooley Bridge, Glenridding and Howtown. The lake is also a popular sailing location. Midway along the lake is Aira Force, one of the most visited waterfalls in the Lake District. There are good car parking facilities, disabled access and viewing platforms so all should be able to get a good view.
Standing high above Ullswater is Maiden Castle, a circular hill fort from around 100 BC.
Near the foot of the Kirkstone Pass, at the southern end of Ullswater sits Glenridding. It's history is steeped in lead mining, and the Youth Hostel and mountain huts now sit in the remaining mine buildings. Mining ceased here in 1962.
Glenridding is a popular base for walkers wanting to climb Helvellyn or undertake one of a range of walks that can be easy or demanding to suit the ability of the hiker. It is a popular tourist base having accommodation from campsites to hotels and bed and breakfasts and restaurants. There is a sailing centre here for people who want to get on the water.
If you are looking for a holiday where rainy days won't matter as there will be loads to do whatever the weather, Centre Parcs at Whinfell might be what you are looking for.
As in all the other areas of the Lake District - and much of the UK - joining the National Trust not only gives you buildings to visit on rainy days, but also free parking at many scenic sites and the starting point for walks. You could save a lot of money if you join the National Trust before you go on holiday.