North West England

Places to visit and things of interest in North West England.  To many visitors, North West England means the Lake District; to others it is the home of the Beatles.  Including the counties of Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside, North West England is a hugely diverse region of Britain.  It has lively urban areas like Liverpool and Manchester, shaped by Georgian and Victorian trade and industry; attractive market towns; large country estates; ruined castles; a heritage influenced by Roman, Norse and Norman invaders (as well as border warfare); countryside ranging from lush farmland to fells, lakes and mountains and a varied, often unexpectedly beautiful, coastline that includes both brash resorts and barely visited backwaters.

The castle at Penrith

Penrith Castle

Penrith Castle doesn’t encourage the casual visitor, unless arriving by train.  The railway station is conveniently opposite the castle (probably built on the top of its medieval outbuildings), but anyone driving into town who isn’t a committed castle collector could be excused for not bothering over much.  A busy road runs into downtown Penrith alongside …

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Touching the lost past of Ninekirks

Ninekirks, St Ninian's, near Penrith

It’s hard to beat soaking up the atmosphere of an elegant historic house, or imagining life being restored to the grim ruins of a once-mighty castle. But there’s also a special kind of magic getting off the well-beaten tourist track to explore some less obvious aspect of our past, an attraction that isn’t widely advertised, …

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What does Gawthorpe Hall remind you of?

Gawthorpe Hall

The first sight of Gawthorpe Hall may strike a chord with fans of Downton Abbey, the period soap-opera that follows the fortunes of the Crawley family and those that serve them.  I’m sure those of the true Fellowes’ faith will correct me, but doesn’t this Lancashire house look a little like Highclere Castle, the real …

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The chuffing romance of Haverthwaite

Heritage railways, Britain

Imagine a simpler, hate-free, monochrome world, where you know your doctor, civil servants are both civil and servile, politicians benign and dogs only ever bark happily.  You are secure in the womb of grim, factory-stained, buildings.  There’s a footbridge over a railway and a train is coming.  You gaily dash to cross just as the …

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Hunting Hobbits in Lancashire

Cromwell's_Bridge, Lancashire

Middle Earth is in Lancashire; it’s official.  Just as Beatrix Potter was inspired by the Lake District, Thomas Hardy by his native Dorset and AA Milne, in a manner of speaking, found Pooh in Ashdown Forest, so JRR Tolkien is claimed to have been illuminated by the verdant countryside of the Ribble Valley.  John Ronald …

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Brough Castle, Cumbria

Brough Castle, Cumbria

The bleak ruins of medieval Brough Castle perch on the western edge of Church Brough, a peaceful collection of attractive, solid, old dwellings huddled round a small square with St Michael’s church in the background.  The village of Brough is divided by the busy A66.  The larger portion, Market Brough to the north of the …

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The importance of Eamont Bridge

Eamont, Athelstan, Cumbria

It is hard to wrap your brain round, but the small Cumbrian village of Eamont Bridge was once an international frontier crossing.  Well – kind of.  At first glance, it seems a nondescript sort of place, stretching along the A6 in typically linear northern fashion, so that both ends of the village could be blocked …

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Kirkby Lonsdale’s Devil’s Bridge – and the bikers who live there

Bikers, Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale

There are several reasons why you may want to visit Kirkby Lonsdale. Not least, because it’s a fine old Cumbrian market town, with a lovely church, St Mary’s, and, beyond that, Ruskin’s View – a panorama allegedly described by the Victorian polymath, without a trace of hyperbole, as “One of the loveliest views in England, …

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The mystery of U-534

U-534, WW2 was in black and white

The sectioned remains of a World War Two vintage German submarine, or U-boat (from Unterseeboot – undersea boat), lie next to Woodside ferry terminal at Birkenhead, on the west bank of the River Mersey. In April 1945, Hitler’s Third Reich was dying.  The Allied armies were inexorably closing in, like the jaws of a giant pair …

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