Kirkby Lonsdale, South Cumbria

Kirkby Lonsdale Town Square

Kirkby Lonsdale is a historic market town between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. It is a very ancient settlement – Romans Saxons, Normans and Danes all carved an impression, and the town was included in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The centre is a pleasing mix of elegant 18th-century buildings and stone cottages huddled around cobbled courtyards and narrow alleyways with evocative names such as Salt Pie Lane and Jingling Lane.

 Salt Pie Lane – formerly known as ‘Cattle Market Yard’. Cattle used to be sold in the adjoining Horse Market, and an enterprising lady living in the yard made hot salted mutton pies for sale to the traders. After consumption of the pies it was necessary to adjourn to the nearby ‘Green Dragon’ to slake their thirst – the landlord of which just happened to be a relation.

Although the Green Dragon isn’t there anymore, it’s now the Snooty Fox Tavern, there are also many other fine pubs in Kirkby Lonsdale like The Royal, The Royal Barn, which brews a beer called “Green Dragon”, The Orange Tree and The Red Dragon further up Main Street. The Church of St Mary the Virgin is Norman, probably built between 1093 and 1130, although there was an Old Saxon Church on the site previousely.

Church of St Mary the Virgin

The oldest parts of this Norman church are three columns in the nave, of which two are carved with unusual diamond motif patterns. The plain-looking font was rescued from a neighbouring farm where it had fulfilled a secular function as a cattle trough. Outside in the churchyard is a memorial to five maids who were ‘hurried into eternity’ after a disastrous fire at the Rose and Crown Hotel (now the Royal Hotel) in 1820.


Spanning the River Lune is a three arched bridge, called Devil’s Bridge, which is probably 12th or 13th Century, and is now a scheduled ancient monument. A popular haunt for motorcycle enthusiasts who congregate at weekends in the adjoining parking area to discuss all things mechanical over a mug of hot tea and a bacon butty, Devil’s Bridge was once the only bridge over the Lune for miles and formed part of the busy west-bound route into the town.

Motor Bikers congregate at Devil’s Bridge

At the apex of the bridge, there’s a deep impression in the stone – often referred to as the devil’s handprint. The folk tale surrounding the handprint tells of an old woman who lived on the banks of the Lune with a few animals. One night her cow strayed across the river and would not be tempted back, no matter how much she coaxed and implored. The devil appeared to her, offering to build a bridge in exchange for the soul of the first body to cross it. The devil constructed the bridge with his own hands, leaving a print in the wet stone. The next day the woman met the devil at the bridge and agreed to fulfil her part of the bargain. She took a bun from her bag and threw it across the bridge, whereupon her small dog raced across to retrieve it. The devil, in a fit of rage at being outwitted, howled in anger and vanished in a cloud of brimstone.

Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale

You can’t mention Kirkby Lonsdale without mentioning Ruskin’s View, Turner (1775 – 1851) painted the River Lune, now called “Ruskin’s View”. John Ruskin (1819 – 1900), a lover of Turner’s work, influential English critic, social theorist, painter and poet, was so impressed by the picture that he was inspired to write “I do not know in all my country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine”.  Ruskin’s View is on Church Brow, a promenade on the north side of St Mary’s churchyard, which opens up to a splendid vista over the Lune Valley. A flight of steps descend to the Lune and a pleasant riverside walk to Devil’s Bridge.

Ruskin’s View of the Lune Valley

Our View

This was our first time to Kirkby Lonsdale “October 2017” and what a top place, very charming and peaceful, loads of pubs, places to eat and some very individual shops for such a small place of about 2000 residents. The people are very friendly and the areas has got everything we need to de-stress and enjoy what we like doing, walking, enjoying time in some of the best countryside in the world. Most importantly the good old British pub and Kirkby Lonsdale has definitely got many of those to choose from, it is very difficult to set them apart as they all had good points and I can’t say we went in a bad one and we visited them all. I have to say my two favorites where The Royal and The Royal Barn, but saying that the Red Dragon and The Orange Tree where also just as good for different reasons, what did stand out in the places we visited was the excellent service. Whilst having our evening meal at the  Red Dragon we asked for mint sauce and they’d ran out, but instead of leaving it at that and saying sorry, one of the staff went out to a local shop and bought some, excellent service as well as food.

Where we stopped

When we are away we generally stay in our motorhome and during our stay at Kirkby Lonsdale we stopped at Woodclose Park. The park is located within the valley of the River Lune in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and just  a short distance to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Lake District National Park. Woodclose Park is a quiet and serene place, set within nine acres providing a unique holiday base to explore the National Parks in an area of outstanding natural beauty with many walking and cycling routes on the doorstep. Just a short walk distance from the Park entrance is the spectacular River Lune and the three ribbed medieval arches of Devil’s Bridge. The picturesque market town of Kirkby Lonsdale is within a pleasant half a mile walk away. Woodclose Park offers a selection of dog friendly self catering Glamping Pods. Woodclose Park season dates : 1st March – 31st October (Touring & Glamping), Self Catering Treetops Flat & Holiday Home owners until 1st January. 

Pubs and Where to eat

The Royal – 26 Main St, Kirkby Lonsdale

The Royal Barn – New Road, Kirkby Lonsdale

The Orange Tree – 9 Fairbank, Kirkby Lonsdale

The Red Dragon – 59-61 Main St, Kirkby Lonsdale

Snooty Fox Tavern – 33 Main St, Kirkby Lonsdale

The Kings Arms – 7 Market St, Kirkby Lonsdale

The Sun Inn – 6 Market St, Kirkby Lonsdale

Plato’s Bar – 2 Mill Brow, Kirkby Lonsdale

Avanti – 57 Main Street, Kirkby Lonsdale


To be added on our next visit


Woodclose Park – Caravan Site, Glamping Pods, Self Catering Treetops Flat and holiday homes. Chaplehouse Lane, LA6 2SE

The Kings Arms – 7 Market St, Kirkby Lonsdale

Plato’s Bar – 2 Mill Brow, Kirkby Lonsdale

The Orange Tree – 9 Fairbank, Kirkby Lonsdale

Useful Links

Visit Cumbria – Kirkby Lonsdale

Go Lakes – Kirkby Lonsdale

Explore South Lakeland

Kirkby Lonsdale