The small town of Kirkby Lonsdale lies at the southern end of Cumbria between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Quite by chance a few years ago we discovered that the stunning view of the River Lune that we encountered after walking through the pretty churchyard of St Mary’s Church church, was in fact a rather famous one. The panoramic view, described by John Ruskin (1819-1900), social reformer, artist and poet, as “one of the loveliest views in England, therefore in the world”, was captured in a JMW Turner painting (Ruskin’s View) which sold for more than £200,000 in 2012.
A grade 1 listed building, the predominantly Norman church sits in a pretty churchyard that was once a wildflower meadow which attracts butterflies in their dozens. . The remnants of this can be seen in over seventy species of flowers. I can’t claim to have seen them all but have identified among many others ,harebells, ox-eye dasies and cranesbill. The grounds provide a haven for wildlife and are known to play host to many small creatures like voles and shrews. On our visits we’ve seen kesterels, redwings and dunnocks as well as the more common robins, goldfinch and wrens.
Mentioned in The Doomsday Book, Kirkby Lonsdale is the prettiest of towns, boasting many buildings which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries and there is evidence of ancient settlements of Romans, Anglo Saxons, Normans and Danes.
The town was chosen in 2014 by the BBC to film their serial Jamaica Inn. The decision attracted a lot of criticism; many considered it wrong to use a location so far away, but Kirkby Lonsdale’s market square was thought to more accurately portray Cornwall’s 1820s Launceston than the modern day Launceston does.
This is a place we return to from time to time, not because there is anything new to see (though there are some wonderful independent shops selling beautiful clothes and some very nice chocolate), or because there are ‘things to do’, but simply because its narrow streets and sense of history offers such calm and peace to blow away the cobwebs.