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On Penrith Beacon

Walk in the footsteps of Jacobites from the rebellions of 1715 and 1745.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 360ft (110m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Good paths and pavements, no stiles

Landscape Town and woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL 5 The English Lakes (NE)

Start/finish NY 517307

Dog friendliness This is where locals walk their dogs

Parking Car park at bus station

Public toilets At car park

1 This walk begins at the bus station car park in Penrith. Exit to Sandgate and turn left, cross the double mini-roundabout and continue up Fell Lane to Beacon Edge. Cross the road, go through a gate and follow the path up through the trees where it veers left, passing a gate on your right. The path turns sharp right into a dog-leg at a second gate and then left at another gate to the right. Continue from here, passing a path forking off to the right, and in 100yds (91m) arrive at Beacon Pike. There's a view from here over Penrith and beyond it to the fells in the west.

2 From Beacon Pike retrace your route to the fork passed earlier and turn left on to the grassy path through the woods. When you encounter another locked gate across the path, veer slightly left and follow the line of the fence, skirting Beacon Hill, until it rejoins the original route. Return to Beacon Edge, turn right and follow the road to a path signed 'Salkeld Road'. Turn right and follow it along the back of the cemetery.

3 The footpath goes through a couple of gates before arriving at the golf course at Salkeld Road. Turn left on to the road and then left again at its junction with Beacon Edge. Turn right and go down Wordsworth Street, turn left into Meeting House Lane and finally right, back into Sandgate.

Beacons were a means of communication in times past. Great fires lit on prominent hills would warn the surrounding community and watchers on far-off hillsides of approaching danger. In the case of Penrith the danger was usually a raid by the Scots. They ransacked the town on several occasions, the last being in 1745.

In an attempt to restore James Stuart (1688-1766), the 'Old Pretender', to the throne as James III, the Jacobites rose in 1715 and marched south with an army of Highlanders. Joined by the Earl of Derwentwater and 'a parcel of Northcountry jockeys and foxhunters' at Brampton, they advanced on Penrith. The beacons were fired and the Cumberland and Westmorland militia called out. Accompanied by several thousand yeomen, farmers and labourers they marched to intercept the Jacobite forces at Penrith Fell. However, when they encountered the advance guard, the defending army ran away leaving their commanders, Lord Lonsdale and Bishop Nicholson to fend for themselves. Lonsdale fled to Appleby and the bishop's coachman whipped up the horses and drove his master home to Rose Castle. The Jacobites levied a contribution of £500 on Penrith but otherwise left it undisturbed. They did however plunder Lowther Hall. The rebellion ended in failure and Derwentwater had his estates forfeited and his head chopped off.

Following the defeat of the 1715 rebellion Penrith enjoyed 30 years of relative peace. Then the Jacobites struck again and this time at their head came James' son, Prince Charles Edward (1720-88), the 'Young Pretender' or Bonnie Prince Charlie. He had sailed from France with a small party of supporters and raised his standard at Glenfinnan in the Scottish Highlands. He marched south, with an army of Highlanders, taking Carlisle and, by 18 November, the advance party arrived in Penrith. No beacon was lit and they met no opposition. The prince arrived on 22 November and took up quarters at 19 Devonshire Street. Again the Jacobites spared the town but requisitioned 1,000 stone (6,350kg) of hay and ten cartloads of oats from Lowther Hall, Dalemain, Eden Hall, Hutton John, Hutton Hall and Greystoke Castle. The rebel army got as far as Derby but indecisiveness led them to delay and eventually they turned back. Penrith Beacon was lit again to call the countryside to arms. News that they were in retreat encouraged people to turn out to cut off the stragglers. On 15 December at Langwathby, a Penrith party defeated 110 of the Jacobite's Hussars. For this 'Sunday Huntin' the main Jacobite army threatened to burn Penrith. Later that day Highland troops, under Lord George Murray, defeated a Hanoverian force at Clifton Moor. Murray joined the Prince at Penrith, ready to leave for the long march north to eventual defeat.

While you're there

Acorn Bank Garden and Watermill is a National Trust property at Temple Sowerby. The garden is protected by oak trees and you can walk through the orchards and by the mixed borders. It has the largest collection of herbs in the North and there's a woodland walk leading to the watermill, which is currently under restoration but open to visitors.

What to look for

Penrith has many wonderful and unusual buildings. Sandgate Hall is a 17th-century town house, unaltered since it was built apart from the modern windows. Potter's Lodge, on the corner of Fell Lane and Scaws Drive, is a fine example of Georgian architecture.

Where to eat and drink

The Agricultural Hotel in Castlegate, next to Safeway, is one of the great pubs of Cumbria. Warm and friendly it serves a wide variety of pub grub including local specialities like black pudding and mash with a Dijon mustard sauce. You can wash it down with a pint of Jennings ale.


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