Whereas Kendal is the Auld Grey Town, Penrith is the ‘old red town’, thanks to the dominance of red sandstone in many of its older buildings. There’s a marked traditional feel to the place, with small, independent shops much in evidence.

The oldest one, in fact one of the oldest in the country, is the clothes shop of N Arnison & Sons, established in 1742 and located at The Narrows on Devonshire Street. This is the point where the A6 squeezes between a number of buildings, a well known bottleneck in the days before the M6 was built.

A house on the site where Arnison’s now stands was once home to William and Ann Cookson, the grandparents of William Wordsworth. The poet’s mother, Ann, is buried in an unmarked grave in St Andrew’s churchyard, close to the former Dame Birkett’s School which William and his sister, Dorothy, used to attend. His future wife, Mary Hutchinson, was a pupil here too.

The quiet enclave around St Andrew’s is just behind King Street where William stayed (at the Robin Hood Inn) during 1794-5 as he nursed his friend Raisley Calvert. William’s cousin, Captain John Wordsworth, also lived in one of two Adam-style houses which now make up the attractive looking town hall. Penrith Museum is not far away in Middlegate.

The centre of Penrith is Market Square where the distinctive Musgrave Monument was erected in 1861 as a tribute to Sir George and Lady Musgrave of nearby Eden Hall, in memory of their eldest son Philip who died at the age of 26.

If you follow the one way system up Castlegate from Market Square, then head out towards the motorway, you’ll pass the ruins of Penrith Castle on the left and the railway station to the right.


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