Mallerstang, Eden, Cumbria

England’s Last Wilderness

Explore two castles steeped in legend in Mallerstang, a glorious valley south of Kirkby Stephen.  David Bellamy described this general area as “England’s last Wilderness“.

Distance: 7.5 MILES (12km)

Type: Easy

Time: 4 HOURS

This narrow valley at the head of the River Eden is bounded by Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell to the west and Mallerstang Edge to the east.

Mallerstang is a place of mystery and legend. Ancient castles dot the landscape, ruins from a time when the marauding Scots and the defending English clashed frequently. The Castles of Lammerside and Pendragon bear witness to these violent times. Both lie in unspoilt spots, which, if located elsewhere in the country, would be frantic with visitors.

Mallerstang, like many other Pennine Dales, reflects the pattern set a thousand years ago by its Norse settlers (whose language is still evident in the names of many of its geographical features).  Its small community is scattered along the 10 kilometres of the dale in a series of isolated houses and small hamlets, with no village.

A Dog’s Eye View

The Dale is closely associated with Lady Anne Clifford, and the ancient road to the east of the river is known as “Lady Anne’s Highway” in memory of the indomitable Countess of Pembroke, who often travelled along this track while moving between her many castles.

It is, however, much older than this and was used by the Romans as a route between Wensleydale and their forts along what is now the A66. A local shepherd found a hoard of Roman coins on Mallerstang Edge near the Highway in 1927. (This “Mallerstang hoard”, is now in the Tully House museum Carlisle).

The walk is clearly signposted from Kirkby Stephen and is best done by walking ‘up dale’ on the western banks of the River Eden and returning on the eastern side.

Roman Road

 Kirkby Stephen

The walk begins and ends at Kirkby Stephen station, which lies on the picturesque Settle Carlisle line – one of the finest train rides in Britain. After two miles of walking along the banks of the Eden, there is a surprise waiting in the middle, of a farmer’s field; the remains of Lammerside Castle. Built in the 12th century, Lammerside Castle was one of a series of pele towers built throughout the north of England to keep the Scots at bay. The castle was probably abandoned in the 17th century by the Wharton family when they relocated to the more impressive Hall bearing their name.

Nine Standards

 Arthurian Legend

Continue for 1½ miles along the bridleway to reach Pendragon Castle, set upon some higher ground and surrounded by wild flowers and outstanding views. Legend has it that Uther Pendragon, King Arthur’s father, built the castle. Legend also goes on to say that Uther died along with 100 of his comrades when the Saxons poisoned the local drinking water.

Myth becomes more factual in the 12th century when a Norman lord Ranulph de Meschines built the present castle. Like Lammerside Castle though, Pendragon was soon utilized as a pele tower during the 14th century in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat the Scots. The castle was burned at least twice on raids from the north. Lady Anne Clifford was probably the last noteworthy owner and among other improvements she added a ‘brewhouse’ to the castle in the late 17th century. After her death, the castle was abandoned and fell into disrepair.

Pendragon Castle is a ruin located in Mallerstang dale, Cumbria

 River Eden

Pendragon Castle is the far point of the walk and for the first two miles the return walk keeps largely to the banks of the beautiful River Eden and the impressive view across to Wild Boar Fell (named as the place where the last indigenous wild boar was killed in England). If returning to the train station, there is a wooden bridge before Nateby. Or, skirt along the fellside on the eastern banks until you re-enter the town with its choice of pubs, teashops and generously portioned sandwiches in the Mega Byte.

Black Bull, Nateby

Find Mallerstang

Kirkby Stephen Station is the midway point of the Settle Carlisle railway.

Kirkby Stephen

Useful tips and guidance when walking your dog

  • Walk your dog on a lead where indicated, if it is on a lead it can’t get away and cause problems.  Take a spare lead, you might lose one.
  • Dog owners have a responsibiity not to allow their dog to foul indiscriminately. Carry poo-bags and dispose of them responsibly. Not enough bins? Never a dustbin to hand when you need it? Have a look at these fab websites for some great ideas to give you “dog walking freedom“. Muksak or the award winning Dicky Bag
  • Is your dog ready? Before going on a long walk consider if your dog is healthy enough, has the desire and is trained enough to walk with you. Train your dog if necessary. A dog who is well behaved results in a more enjoyable walk, and you are legally required to control your dog.
  • Carry water for both your and your pet. You can buy collapsible bowls or a combined container/bowl for your dog.
  • Take great care of your dog near water. Know its limitations. Not all dogs are strong swimmers and the currents in rivers and along the coast can be deceptively strong.
  • Carry a small First Aid Kit for your dog.


For places to see and things to do in and around Kirkby Stephen Click Here

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