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Kirkby Stephen >  Google™ Map Jul 2018  Cumbria Coat of Arms

kirkju-býr Old Norse a village with a church + stephen (personal name). Population - 1,822.

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Jul 2018

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There's free parking to be had by the livestock market behind Faraday Road. Not that anyone's here to barter over a bullock or a new ewe, it's just the best bet to avoid sparks flying over the limited spaces elsewhere.

Kirkby Stephen - Harrison & Hetherington

Faraday, by the way, was his uncle Richard, actually, since Michael Faraday was London born and bred. He moved there, though, whilst still in the womb, they say, and it's believed he was conceived in a cottage in Outhgill where his father, James, lived and worked as the village blacksmith, you see.

It's more of a small, market town than a village but it's got a church in it, alright.

Kirkby Stephen - Parish Church

It's not quite known which one they mean, though, since there are at least three on this watch but the largest of the lot, the Parish Church, is most likely to have helped name that toon.

You'll find it hidden behind the 'Cloisters' that used to double up as the old Butter Market but it's just a shelter now, really. The church itself is partly hidden behind a line of lime trees and is unusual in that it caters for both Anglican and Catholic camps.

Kirkby Stephen - Market Square

That'll be because, of the other two in town, one's now a budget accommodation provider and the other an 'emporium', whatever it is they're emporing in there, these days.

Kirkby Stephen Hostel
Kirkby Stephen - The Eden Emporium
  The Pink Geranium Café (Market Street)

With Kirkju-býr already covered, nobody really seems to know about Stephen other than he tagged along after the Vikings. Some say it's a corruption of 'on-the-Eden' and if you want to go all proper native then pronounce it as in 'Stevven'.

That way, they'll treat you like a local and here might slide an extra sausage into whatever they call your bun in Cumbria. A bun, actually, none of your barms or rolls or cobs in this part of the North West.

It's a reassuringly familiar mix along Market Street where there's been one in and around since the Market Charter of 1353, of course.

Kirkby Stephen - Market Square

Most of what can be seen is rather grand and 18th or 19th century although an alleyway hints at something much older.

Kirkby Stephen - Market Street
Kirkby Stephen - 1636

If you look quite closely, that'll be 1636 old.

Amongst the necessary vendors, there's a smattering of antique shops, galleries and tearooms but it's not all given over to tourism, just yet.

Kirkby Stephen - Market Street

There's been a recent effort to promote this stretch of the Eden Valley as an alternative destination to the Lake District and while the hills aren't quite so high this side of the M6, Alfred Wainwright, no less, bigged-up the Howgill Fells, big time.

There mightn't be any lakes but, unlike Windermere in August, the main road through here isn't a long, thin car park, just yet.

  Upper Eden Visitor Centre (Market Square)

They offer advice on 'local walks, attractions, travel information, local accommodation providers, computer use, supply Disability Rights UK National Key Scheme Keys (keys for accessible toilets), and much much more.'

It looks from here to be more of a centre dedicated to visitors to the Upper Eden Valley that's community-run and all they ask in return is for you to call in and say 'hello' if you are passing.

The river running through here is the River Eden, a mighty 90-mile-long watercourse and you can get at it along an intriguingly named lane, Stoneshot.

It's down past something aptly crumbling and previously agricultural to a popular spot with the former brewery buildings providing the backdrop to Frank's Bridge, named after some old brewer or other, they say.

Kirkby Stephen - Stoneshot
Kirkby Stephen - Frank's Bridge

They used to haul coffins over the bridge on their way up to the burial grounds in town. You too can haul yourself, coughing, as you arrive from Shap on day five of the Coast to Coast walk.

You know? Wainwright's 190-mile cross country hike from West Cumbria to the North Sea at Yorkshire?

If this is your way then you're about 80 miles in with just the 110-or-so to go to Robin Hood's Bay. If you're coming from Yorkshire then congratulations but it's still about 80 miles to St Bees and you've been doing it all the wrong way.

  Nine Standards Rigg

One of the highlights along Wainwright's route is a line of, get this, nine hilltop cairns. Their origin is unknown and some say they're Roman, arranged to intimidate from a distance.

Whatever the whens and whys, you can find them three-and-a-bit miles southeast and 2,000-foot up. The summit also marks England's east-west watershed and makes for a full afternoon out so, one day, SlyBob might be able to provide their own pic, just not today.

Be careful not to get your Kirkbys confused, however, there's another quite well known one, Lonsdale, about 30 miles south of here. They're both adequate pit-stop providers but how to tell the two apart?

In Lonsdale the lanes and roads are narrow,
with nothing much more to see than a sparrow.
In Stephen along and around Market Street,
would you believe a ring-necked parakeet?

They're a regular sight in and on the leaves and eaves just not today so somebody else's work will have to be taken for that. They're awfully squawky and fond of the resident fruit trees so when it's said ring-necked, it's hoped the locals haven't gone and done just that.

When it's said parakeet, that was for rhyming purposes since parrot or, strictly speaking, macaw is a little harder to work with. Strictlier speaking, they're mainly scarlet and blue-and-yellow macaws and the latter, in a certain light, appear to be orange.

Now you try rhyming something with that!

  John Strutt Conservation Foundation

Just north of town is where frustrated farmer John Strutt created a parrot sanctuary, naturally. Not a fan of the cage, he's said to have 'trained' them to fly home of an evening following a solid day's squawking from the top of Kirkby Stephen's chimneys.

The slightly larger-than-a-football-pitch-sized garden is part of a larger conservation foundation and opens occasionally with the charity extending to letting children in for free. You, on the other hand, will have to hand over some pieces of eight.