Appleby in Westmorland, it maybe a small town in the Eden Valley, Cumbria, but it is packed with history and plenty of unique surprises to explore.
The town is known for the Appleby Horse Fair, a week or so where the town gets full with visitors, travellers and of course horses.
But, Appleby in Westmorland is so much more than that, and that horse fair weekend is such a small window of time in the year. The rest of the year it remains a great place to visit. History, interesting buildings, shops, restaurants and good walking.
Built within a great loop of the River Eden it is surrounded by mountains, open countryside, riverside beauty, but let’s look within. I should know, I lived near here for over 3 years.
The History Of Appleby
life here on record goes back to the days of the Vikings in the 9th Century. They settled in the area now known as Bongate and named the settlement ‘Appleby’, Norse for ‘Place of Apples’.
In the days pre 1974, with the old county boundaries, the town was simply called Appleby. It was the capital town of the county of Westmorland before all the changes.
The name change to Appleby in Westmorland helped to preserve and recognise a connection to the past.
That past goes far back beyond the Norman Conquest of the 11th Century from when it was made the main market town of Westmorland. With a history that long you can imagine it has connections with some famous historical names.
George Washington’s father went to Appleby Grammar School, and George’s two older brothers were also sent over from Virginia, USA to be educated here too.
When George was 11 his father died and that ended George Washington’s chance to follow on and have the same full education over here.
In America you will see George Washington has his birthplace in a county named after this Cumbrian area, Westmoreland, Virginia.
MPs to Prime Ministers – William Pitt the Younger and Viscount Howick (2nd Earl Grey) were members of parliament for the town.
Lady Anne Clifford
In the past I have mentioned Lady Anne Clifford many times in my articles, her tireless work restoring all the castles and properties she was left, for example Brougham Castle nearby.
Appleby Castle became her main home out of all the castles she owned and she gave a lot of work and help to the people of the town.
Her name seems attached to much of the history and buildings in the town, such was her influence and power in her time.
In the 17th century she restored the church, St Lawrence. Looking inside you will find the monuments to Lady Anne and her mother, Lady Margaret Clifford.
St Lawrence Church
Speaking of which, a big landmark in the centre of town is St Lawrence’s Church. The arched cloisters taking you from the bustling road to peace and calm almost immediately.
Parts of the building dates back to the 13th century like its porch. And older than that is the arch. The Scottish raids meant it was destroyed a few times so over the centuries it has been rebuilt. making a church that was built and created throughout the ages.
As you drive or walk through Appleby you cannot miss Moot Hall, the old white painted building that the town seems to evolve around.
It is dated to 1596, and was built for the town’s administration. A quaint white building as if on its own in the centre of town.
The ground floor now hosts the font of great local knowledge, the Tourist Information Centre. If you visit Appleby then this needs to be your first point of call. You will find anything you need to know here and the staff are absolutely amazing.
The top floor still does host the council meetings.
The main street of Appleby that stretches from Appleby Castle gates down to the cloisters of the church is called Boroughgate.
A really wide tree lined street that is wonderful to look up or down at any time of day or season. It is home to historic monuments as well as the local shops.
The Market Crosses
At the top and bottom of Boroughgate you will see standing, distinctive tall crosses.
These do mark were the old markets used to be. The pic above shows the bottom cross, and beside it is now an oval shaped little car park for shoppers and the Saturday market.
This ring shaped car park, with the road running around it, and Moot Hall, used to be the bull tethering ring ‘Bull Ring’. The place all the bulls were tethered for market day.
The high cross, at the top of the road was the historical site of the cheese market.
The Almshouses, St Anne’s Hospital
The Alms Houses of St Anne’s Hospital are situated near the top of Boroughgate on the left as you walk up. If you get chance they are remarkable to visit.
This is another building were Lady Anne Clifford left her mark. During the 17th Century, she became concerned with the welfare of the poor widows of the town. So, she had built these alms houses in 1651. Enough for 12 Sisters and a Mother. They are still in use today.
A big tip is to ask to see inside the tiny chapel. Full of interest, history and the rules the ladies had to stick by to live here… some of them still stand to this day.
One of ladies, if around, will be more than willing to help you take a look inside, in return for a donation.
The vicar of Appleby still comes every week to give a service to the residents. Around the walls are the commandments, bible passages and of course the written rules. In a glass case is a fine example of an extremely old King James bible.. so saddened to a past visitor had ripped the front cover off.
Also in the chapel is a fine portrait of Lady Anne Clifford herself, as can be seen here, during the 19th Century it was incorrectly labelled as her mother, Margaret.
Appleby is a lovely place to shop, for locals and visitors alike. What is great is that most of them are independent. Some examples.
When I lived near Appleby I had my pair of rascal Basset Hounds, Monty and Jasmine. Pets Pantry was a perfect pet shop for my needs. In fact it goes beyond pet supplies to helping you feed the birds and red squirrels in your garden.
There was nothing that I needed that the shop did not supply and even to this day I still head back there to treat Malc, my border collie to some unique and special treats.
Wendy, who runs the pet shop, takes pride in making sure all customers get what they need and will order in anything you want, plus also does deliveries to help locals who cannot get into town.
Cupboard Under The Stairs
For all you Harry Potter fans, Appleby has been recognised as a Honorary Quidditch Town. There is a shop in town to celebrate all thing Harry Potter called Cupboard Under The Stairs.
It of course sells all things unique and also quirky related to Harry Potter.
About halfway up Boroughgate you will come across another lovely little and unique place called Courtyard Gallery. It is situated in what was a 17th Century Granary.
Here you can view all the art and prints in a wonderful setting and atmosphere.
Tea, coffee and plenty of cake are on offer too so there is no excuse.
Places To Stay
The Eden Valley is a beautiful part of the world and away from the way too busy parts of Cumbria. Appleby is perfectly placed to be the centre of your adventures here.
Appleby Manor Hotel & Spa
If you like the finer kind of stay then I would recommend Appleby Manor Hotel and Spa.
What else would you want? Luxury rooms, luxury spa, lovely gardens and all overlooking the town and valley.
The Tufton Arms is a lovely Victorian building in the centre of town and is known for being a comfortable and relaxing place to stay as well as having fabulous and welcoming staff.
I will be coming on to places to eat shortly but the food here is wonderful as well as the hotel.
Crown & Cushion
Also near the Market Square is the Crown and Cushion Inn. As well as accommodation you can enjoy a lovely Cumbrian welcome from a Cumbrian Pub.
There is a beer garden, food plus it is dog friendly, bonus!
Places To Eat
If you are looking for places to eat in Appleby then there is plenty of choice on offer for a small town like this. With variety of tastes too. I have already mentioned a couple in the places to stay so here are a couple more.
Situated on Bridge Street, Angelo’s Ristorante is all things Italian cuisine and beyond. The hosts are known to be very accommodating as well as the food and atmosphere being top notch. It also has a take away service.
More than just a cafe, Bojangles, also on Bridge Street, is a bistro that you can enjoy all sorts of meals from english breakfast, to wraps and to evening meals.
If Asian food is your wont for the day then look no further than Ashiana. A huge and delicious menu covering curries and flavours galore.
A Walk Around Appleby
Around and through the town of course you have the looping River Eden. This itself is full of hidden treasures, from wildlife and woodland to great architectural backdrops.
If you ask the Tourist Information Office they can give you some lovely walks of all lengths so you can get the most out of your time here.
There are more highlights as you walk around.
The Bridges of Appleby
The bridge above is the main thoroughfare to get into town from the east…. It is called St Lawrence’s Bridge. The original bridge was built here to connect the settlements of Bongate and Boroughgate.
The current bridge is a rebuild that was completed in 1889.
By Jubilee Foot Bridge (below) there is a weir where the water drops a few feet down, stretching across the waterway.
In Autumn, this spot gives rise to the spectacle and a great view of salmon jumping up to get ‘up river’.
Not only do we humans know this but a pair of Herons are also seen patrolling or standing motionless across the top of the drop, waiting to catch their jumping dinner. Quite a spectacle.
For those with patience and quiet timing you can often also see Otters swimming around in the river.
In fact there is a huge array of birds and flowers. Take the time, any time of year to see what you can find.
The Eden Benchmarks
If you have explored any length of the River Eden you could quite well have seen one of the 10 Eden Benchmarks. Stone sculptures that act as seats, all designed by different artists to mark the turn of the new millennium.
There are ten in total along the river and Appleby is home to one of them – The primrose Stone.
This was just a taster. There is so much more to see and there is so much more to tell. as you go out of the town there is some of the best walking country to set foot in.
Remember, the Tourist Information Office is in Moot Hall. I would highly recommend the town circular walk that they can help you with. Maps, photos, illustrations and a booklet packed with info for every turn.