Visiting Appleby-in-Westmorland

A short drive from Waitby and Kirkby Stephen takes you to Appleby-in-Westmorland, which nestles within a large river bend formed by the looping meanderings of the Eden. This beautiful market town and its ancient roots have a history that stretches back a thousand years or more.


The backs of the buildings in Appleby show their ancient heritage

From the middle 11th Century to the late 13th Century, the town passed from Scottish to English hands and back again many times, reflecting the political turbulence in this part of the world during that era. But evidently life carried on and the town’s market charter, granted in 1174, helped to establish its economic importance in the region.

Another aspect of the town’s substantial heritage is the Appleby Horse Fair, which has been held in on the first Tuesday to the second Wednesday of June since 1750. Some say the fair’s roots date back even further. This event is an important part of the Gypsy and Traveller calendar and it attracts more than 10,000 Romany and Irish families, with up to 30,000 other visitors also swelling the town’s usual population of 2,500.

Horse trading is an important aspect of the Appleby Horse Fair, and if you visit the town while it is on, you will see all manner of horses being groomed, washed in the shallow waters of the River Eden and trotted along public roads. For an evocative look at what the fair is about, visit Elisa Scubla’s website and download the trailer of a documentary she has filmed looking at the history behind the event.

Name change

Local government changes in 1974 merged Westmorland and Cumberland into the county of Cumbria, so the town changed its name to Appleby-in-Westmorland to preserve the historic county’s name.

But a name is not all that remains of Appleby’s history, which is immediately clear as you pass over an ancient bridge across the Eden to reach the town.

At one end of the wide main street, Boroughgate, you will see impressive cloisters, built in 1881. Pass by the Moot Hall, believed to date back to the 1500s and now used as the tourist information centre, and follow the road past the gracious old stone buildings.

Boroughgate is marked at both ends by crosses that were built to demarcate the boundaries of the historic market – the Low Cross being an 18th century copy of the High Cross, dating back to the 17th Century and inscribed with the words ‘Retain your loyalty, preserve your rights.”  At the top of the street you will see the gates to Appleby Castle, which has an intriguing history of its own, albeit far too detailed to go into here…

Some of the shops in Appleby also have branches in Kirkby Stephen, such as Stephenson’s grocers and the Appleby Bakery, but there are many other shops, cafes and restaurants to explore.

Ruby's relishes

Ruby’s also sells home-made relishes and chutneys

We began with lunch at Ruby’s, a snug little café/restaurant on Bridge Street. It started out as a deli and the owners Karl and Colette now open on Friday and Saturday evenings for dinner. Do go in for lunch, to stock up on Mediterranean specialities or even book yourselves in for dinner. The pureed borlotti beans are fantastic.

Another Waitby School favourite is the Tufton Arms. The food and ambiance are both excellent in this traditional luxury hostelry, and there’s a special offer for our guests (more details in the visitor information pack).

Moving on up Boroughgate is the Courtyard Gallery, housed in a 17th Century Granary. The gallery features original paintings and etchings, along with a wide range of prints and objets d’art, sculpture, glass, postcards, books and other items.

Courtyard Gallery

Through a long archway and up the stairs to the Courtyard Gallery

It was there that I fell in love with Matt Forster’s magnificent ‘Into the Valley’ and ‘North Pennines’. We have been looking for some paintings for Waitby, so watch this space…

There are many other shops and pubs in Appleby, so if you do visit, allow plenty of time to explore this wonderful old market town and its peaceful river banks.


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