Upper Eden centres on the old market town of Kirkby Stephen and covers 17 parishes in eastern Cumbria. The area takes its name from the river which rises close to the county boundary with Yorkshire and flows north to Carlisle.
Its natural beauty derives largely from its geology. Limestone fells such as Wild Boar Fell and Nine Standards Rigg, with their dramatic profiles, contrast with pastoral valleys and wild reaches such as Mallerstang.
The Upper Eden landscape
With thanks to Andrew Griffiths and the Upper Eden Community Plan
The influence of people on the landscape has helped create its special character and its unique sense of place. This dates back to the Neolithic era (possibly the Nine Standards Rigg; definitely the Raisbeck stone circle), continuing through the Iron Age (eg Croglam hill fort) into Roman times (eg Brough camp). The Norse ‘Loki stone’ in Kirkby Stephen church is a rare physical legacy of the Viking invasions, while Norman castles are a powerful presence in the landscape – Brough with its scale and dominant position; Pendragon with its pseudo-Arthurian connections. Kirkby’s church, ‘the cathedral of the Dales’, has almost as long a history. The area is particularly well populated with strip lynchets (Celtic and medieval plough strips), while the later stone walls, barns and vernacular architecture all combine to create a distinct identity.
Industrial and transport heritage marks the landscape too, notably limekilns, disused mine workings and rail lines. The (closed) Stainmore Line, with its iconic Belah Viaduct, and the (open) Settle and Carlisle Line, with its even more iconic Ribblehead Viaduct are internationally renowned.