Penrith is a small market town in Cumbria, to the north-east of the Lake District.
Situated on the M6 (junction 40), A66, A6 and West Coast Mainline rail link (London in a little over 3 hours and Glasgow in 2).
The town's appeal to visitors is somewhat limited to the many fine pubs, the supermarkets and the railway station. Penrith does however have some hidden historic gems, most imposingly, Penrith Castle.
Building of Penrith Castle began in 1399, when William Strickland (later Bishop of Carlisle and Archbishop of Canterbury) added a stone wall to an earlier pele tower, primarily as a defence against the then frequent raids from the Scottish borders. The castle was improved over the next 70 years, becoming a royal fortress for Richard, Duke of Gloucester before he became King Richard III in 1483. The ruins that can be seen today date from about that time. The striking sandstone remains are situated in Castle Park, onopposite Penrith railway station.
The churchyard of St. Andrew's Church in the town contains the 'Giant's Thumb', a Norse cross dating from 920 AD erected as a memorial to his father by Owen Caesarius, King of Cumbria from 920 to 937 AD. There is a tradition that the 'Giant's Grave' is the grave of Owen himself. The four hogback stones surrounding the grave are said to represent wild boar he killed in nearby Inglewood Forest. The two norse crosses are some 11 feet high.
Just outside the town is Brougham Castle, which is much better preserved than Penrith Castle which is situated alongside the earth-works of a Roman Fort. The site was later taken by the Norman family of Vieuxpont to build their castle, the ruins the stone keep, and service buildings can still be seen. Ullswater, the Eden Valley and the Rheged Centre are all very nearby.
This page was last edited at 06:08, on 27 February 2009 by Ian Sergeant. Based on work by Bill Johnson and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.