C2C - Route 7
Route Section: Keswick > Alston
From Start: 85km (53m) | To Finish: 141km (88m)
Alston 35km (22m)
Stanhope 75km (47m)
Way in from Newton Reigny (traditional C2C route)
After passing Blencow Hall (the one with the mighty crack in the turret) you go through Little Blencow, Newton Reigny (passing, or stopping at, the Sun Inn) and Newton Rigg campus.
The route leaves the road here and weaves its way through Cumbria University campus.
Please ride with care. You will soon be on the track that leads down to the M6.
Go under the M6 and you emerge in Thacka Lane which becomes Drovers Lane - you are heading the wrong way down a one-way street, but not matter: this avoids the busy town centre.
If you wish to continue along the route without stopping in Penrith then take a left up Fell Lane and at the top, after a short but bracing pull, head out along Beacon Edge.
If continuing into town, desaddle here at Meeting House Lane and enjoy! Pubs and restaurants aplenty and there are loads of B&Bs and hotels. This is the big stop-off on the route.
Penrith Castle - Free entry.
Arragons , Brunswick Road. 01768 890 344 www.arragonscycles.com.
Harpers Cycles, 1-2 Middlegate 01768 864 475
About the town
A handsome red sandstone market town, Penrith was the capital of the Kingdom of Cumbria in the 9th and 10th centuries, a time when the area was allied to Scotland as a semi-independent part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Since it was on the main north-south road it also witnessed more than its fair share of bloody action during border conflicts; the Scots torched the town three times during the 14th century alone.
Its early growth was restricted because the town had no water supply, but in 1385 Bishop Strickland diverted Thacka Beck from the river Peterill, an eco-sensitive agreement that allowed the townspeople to draw only as much water daily from the Peterill as would flow through the eye of a millstone (still on view outside the Tourist Information Centre).
By the 18th century it was an important cattle market. The oldest streets in the town, Burrowgate and Sandgate, are narrow, unspoilt and 800 years old. Two traditional shops have also survived, as if preserved in aspic: Graham’s, Penrith’s answer to Fortnum & Mason; and Arnisons, the drapers, established in 1740 in the building that was once the home of Wordsworth’s grandparents.
The poet and his sister Dorothy attended the Dame Anne Birkett School, now the Tudor Coffee Room, overlooking St Andrew’s Churchyard and final resting place of Owen Caesarius, a legendary giant and King of All Cumbria.
They are far from the only famous figures from history associated with the town. As “Guardian of the West March towards Scotland”, the Duke of Gloucester plotted his way towards being crowned Richard III from behind the sandstone ramparts of the magnificent Penrith Castle.
It was not all skulduggery though: he also stayed at one of the pubs in town and is even said to have had a private underground passage to it so that he could go back and forth unseen. The link is commemorated in the pub’s name, the Gloucester Arms, and some of the original stonework is still there – which can hardly be said of the castle, which was already a ruin by the mid-16th century, its striking red stonework providing for many of the town’s buildings.
The Two Lions pub is equally historic while the George Hotel provided lodgings for Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, during his ill-fated foray south, in search of the crown.
Others linked to Penrith include Mary Queen of Scots, Oliver Cromwell and the writer, Anthony Trollope. The first must have spent most of her life on horseback to get to all the places she is alleged to have visited, though in the case of Penrith the connection is justified.
Cromwell occupied the town in 1654 and though the pen is mightier than the sword, Trollope is not thought to have caused as much bloodshed. More recently, the area was immortalised in Bruce Robinson’s classic film comedy of 1987, ‘Withnail and I’, in which the area is again traumatised – this time by a pair of drunken wannabe actors.
Above Penrith is Beacon Hill, past which you will shortly be cycling. Beacons have been lit there through the ages to warn of threat of invasion. Its views are stunning.
Things to do and see
Penrith Museum and Tourist Information Centre Housed in the former Robinson’s School, an Elizabethan building altered in 1670 and a school until the early 1970s. The museum covers the history, geology and archaeology of the Penrith area. Free entry. 01768 867466
St Andrew’s Church. The Giant’s Grave in the Churchyard is that of Owen Caesarius, the legendary slayer of monsters from Inglewood Forest. The tower is 12th century, the rest dates from 1720, after being rebuilt following a fire. The stained-glass windows were added in 1870.
The town’s architecture . Take a walk around. Well worth a stopover.
Penrith Castle. Started in 1399, once home to Richard III, but abandoned after his death. Free entry.
Daffodils Coffee House, 8 St Andrews Churchyard, Penrith, CA11 7YE. In the heart of Penrith, serving homemade soups & breads with delicious cakes & treats. Fresh food, fairtrade coffee & tea, cosy log fires & a warm welcome, in the delightful setting of St Andrews Churchyard. 01768 210604.
Out to Langwathby
Head up Fell Lane and go right at the top, where it mercifully flattens out. Enjoy the views.
You will start heading downhill but get ready to turn left up Stagstones Rd, past Roundthorn Country House.
Stagstones Rd becomes the B6412, leading to a T-junction near the bottom of the hill, where you turn right before going left briefly on the A686.
Cross the metal bridge with its separate section for walkers and cyclists and you are shortly in the lovely village of Langwathby.
Where To Sleep
Run by: Dave & Lyn Johnson
A family run Victorian guest house offering welcoming accommodation 250m from Penrith’s many town centre pubs and restaurants. All the rooms have freeview TV, DAB radios/iPod docks and free wi-fi. There is secure storage and washing facilities for cycles and the owners are happy to dry wet gear. They can also accommodate up to 12 and are happy to coordinate accommodation for larger groups. For support vehicles there is private off-street parking. Mid-week deals now available.
Rooms: 1D, 1T, 1D/T, 2F (can sleep 3 in separate beds). 4 en-suite, 1 with private facilities.
B&B: from £40.
Pk lunch: On request (pse pre-order).
Drying facilities and secure lock-up.
VisitEngland: 4-star and Cyclists Welcome.
Tynedale Guest House
Run by: Marguerite & Thomas Powley
Happy to handle large groups. High level of comfort and attention to detail, and long experience of looking after C2Cers. Quality accommodation in a warm and friendly environment offering a delicious, locally sourced English breakfast. Stone built and highly secure cycle lock-up, plus free wifi. An excellent pedal-stop for weary C2Cers. Pubs and restaurants all close by. 'Home baked treats to go, usually sticky flapjack,' says Marguerite. A truly warm welcome!
Rooms: 1S, 2T,4D,3F.
B&B: from £35.
Eve meal: pubs and restaurants are nearby.
Pk lunch: £5. Please pre-order.
Secure cycle parking.
Distance from route: 300 metres.
The Crown Hotel
Run by: Anna & Mike
Group friendly with superb home cooked Thai cuisine, made by Anna who is Thai. Now a vibrant hub of the local community, runs a beer festival and is now the home of Penrith Chess Club. There's also a tango club and a Northern Soul night once a month. This 17th century former coaching inn is less than a mile from the centre of Penrith, on the A6 southbound. The Crown has 14 bedrooms so is ideal for groups. There's a lock up for bikes and a big bar and eating area. Dinner is reasonably priced and there's a new menu. Can take groups of up to 12.
Rooms: 14 T/D/S/F - half en-suite.
Bed: from £40
Eve meal: Thai menu from £8.
Pk lunch: £7.50
George and Dragon
Run by: Charles Lowther
Ideal for groups who fancy a night of affordable comfort, the George and Dragon hits all the right notes: top quality food (Michelin, Good Food Guide, Good Pub Guide and AA Guide recommended), beautifully refurbished and comfortable rooms, fine ales in a welcoming bar and a great wine list. Secure lock up for bikes (they welcome cyclists). The George and Dragon is a Georgian gem run by Charles Lowther, whose family has been in the area for 800 years. Clifton is on the A6, just a couple of miles from the centre of town, or accessible by back lanes via Brougham. It's almost bang on the new Ullswater braid. Courtyard and garden plus free wifi. Food is locally sourced and worth a trip for this alone.
Rooms: 7D (all with king size beds), 2T, 2F.
B&B: from £50pp sharing. Single occ. £85.
Eve meal: mains from £13.50. 3-courses from £25.
Pk lunch: on request.
Bar open all day serving tea, coffee and snacks.
Run by: Mark Rhodes
Wayfarers is stylish and also cheap and can take large groups (up to 18). Penrith is the most popular stop-off on the C2C so the arrival of Wayfarers in 2012 came none too soon. The route passes 50m from the doorstep and this upmarket hostel is geared up for cyclists, with secure indoor bike storage, a drying room, and cleaning and maintenance facilities. Newly refurbished, there's a lounge, full kitchen and dining facilities and an outside seating area. All rooms are en-suite with made up beds (sheets & duvets), lockers, bedside lights, towels for hire (£1) and free WiFi. Individuals, small parties and groups of up to 18 are welcome.
Rooms: 2T, 2X4 berth, 1X6-berth.
B'fast: £5 (continental). Secure lock-up.
Drying room. Self-catering facilities
Run by: Alison Wall
A handsome town house in the centre of town with four flexible rooms, so ideal for a small group up to a maximum of 9. Alison provides excellent and generous breakfasts. Should you wish for the full Cumbrian fry up after the cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurt and toast, it's all there. There is free WIFI, free parking and a secure on site cycle storage. Early breakfasts not a problem. You can expect a cheery welcome. Book direct for the best price.
Rooms 2D, 1 Tpl, 1T (can be configured as a double)
B&B B&B: from £33pp in a triple room. Rooms from £65 single occ.
Eve meal No, but plenty of choice nearby
Pk lunch Pse order before 6pm
Secure storage Plenty of on-site free parking