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Car-less in Penrith, Cumbria, for a Ceramics Fair

Is there stuff to do and see around Penrith, Cumbria--other than walking on unpaved paths--that would be accessible to a traveler depending on public transportation? I promise to do some guidebook research, but input from folks familiar with that area might save me some time.

I’ve just learned about two large ceramics fairs near Penrith in late July and early August next year, and I’d really, really like to get to at least one of them. Prior to this discovery I was tentatively planning to leave Edinburgh on July 31 (after taking advantage of the Arts Festival that begins on July 25) and head to Durham, York/Yorkshire and ultimately to London. I plan to be out of Scotland by the time the big Edinburgh festivals begin in August.

I see that Penrith has decent rail connections to Edinburgh and not-impossible ones to Durham, though the latter is slow enough that it should probably be considered a scenic (I hope) excursion.

These are the ceramics events, in case someone else is interested:

  • Potfest in the Park (juried—overall quality will be better), July 26-28, at Hutton-in-the-Forest. This location is about 6 miles from Penrith, with one round-trip bus per week (on Fridays) that seems to pass fairly near the venue, but I don’t know whether it would be safe to walk the rest of the way; will the roads have shoulders? Taking advantage of that bus might well require spending the previous night in or near Penrith (may be challenging due to competition from ceramics vendors and other customers needing hotel rooms). There’s stuff to see at Hutton-in-the-Forest itself; it seems as if it would make for a nice day, so I might need to spend two nights locally. I would almost certainly want to return to Edinburgh after this fair rather than immediately heading across to Durham.

  • Potfest in the Pens (not juried), August 2-4, at Skirsgill Mart. This location is about 2 miles outside Penrith with apparently no public transportation, but a taxi shouldn’t be exorbitant. The timing of this fair would free me of the need to return to Scotland to take advantage of the Arts Festival.

If I were to add a few nights in or near Penrith to my itinerary, could I use the time productively? I am aware that Penrith is practically in the Lake District National Park. What I’m not sure of is how worthwhile I will find that, given that I will have just spent at least 3 weeks in Scotland and cannot do rural walks (bad balance—I can walk forever on pavement). There are always trade-offs: Time in Penrith will cut into time that would otherwise be spent in Edinburgh or Yorkshire. Having two weeks at the end of the trip in London is non-negotiable.

So: Should I try to do this with the minimum amount of time in Penrith, just enough for one of the ceramics fairs, or should I add some sightseeing time?

There will be no rental car. My friend and I both have poor vision and are not willing to risk it. ‘Tis a pity, I know.

Thanks for your insight.

Posted by
2108 posts

Penrith and the surrounding Eden Valley is one of the least visited areas in England. Quiet villages where farming takes priority over visitor attractions. For a time-rich visitor looking for somewhere off the beaten track, the area can be rewarding.

But from your comments: no car, unable to do rural walks and could use time more productively in Edinburgh, Yorkshire and London, then I would say it would be better to visit one of the fairs then move on.

http://www.visiteden.co.uk/explore-eden/the-eden-valley/penrith/attractions-in-and-near-penrith

Posted by
20848 posts

Thank you, ramblin' on, that's very helpful input, indeed. One of the mistakes I sometimes make is spending too much time getting to areas that are nice but either similar to others I've just visited or a bit underwhelming--spots more suited to someone spending a month in an area rather than visiting it as part of a more wide-ranging trip.

Posted by
3336 posts

It's a very short bus ride over to the Lake District! I just did it in August.
Take the X4 or X5 and get off at the Booths grocery store in the center of town where all the buses drop off and pick up for the area. You can explore the town. walk down to the lake (all paved), take a boat around Derwentwater. Good restaurants in town. It's worth a day trip!
Not that it's too exciting but there is a nice ruined castle directly across the street from the railway station in Penrith.

Posted by
20848 posts

Anita, are you suggesting a possible trip over to Keswick?

Posted by
3428 posts

Acraven, thanks for posting this. I love ceramics (have been taking classes at a local community college since I retired). I am going to see if I can possibly work out a trip to one or more of these. I followed your link and see that there is also a Potfest in Scotland in June. I might try for that one. Fingers crossed!!!

Posted by
5775 posts

Here is a link for public transportation to attractions in the Lake District and Cumbria:

http://www.lakedistrictonboard.com/

The Lake District and Cumbria are home to some of the best scenery and
visitor attractions in the country. This website describes all the
best attractions within the area and how to reach them via bus, train
and boat services.

Posted by
20848 posts

Edgar, that's a great website. I might very well never have found it. Thank you!

Toni, the U.K. has some great crafts, especially ceramics. You might find something interesting on the CraftScotland website. If you have a list of specific cities you'll be visiting, post them here and I'll tell you whether my research has uncovered local craft galleries. They will be places I haven't seen yet, so no promises as to whether they will be affordable for human beings or more like museums with price tags. I'm more a looker than a buyer, so I'm good with the expensive places; I figure I may as well look at the best stuff.

Posted by
2926 posts

Just wanted to say that I enjoyed Penrith very much. It impressed me as a real (i.e. non-touristy) town, with people busy going to work and school, shops selling everyday merchandise, that kind of thing. The TI office was pretty big and very helpful. The town square is pretty. In the high street, Narrowbar was a great place to stop for lunch.

We were there in order to find our way to the stone circle known as Long Meg & Her Daughters. The TI office provided directions. I don't think any bus goes there, but I could be wrong.

Posted by
20848 posts

That sounds like a place I would enjoy. Will have to dig into the transportation schedules to see what I can work out.

Posted by
3428 posts

Acraven, Thanks, we have been to the UK more than 40 times (over a period of 20+ years). But we had to stop our international travel about 10 years ago due to family health and business issues. I've read about quite a few of the UK potteries. When I retired I started taking ceramics classes. I get to 'play' with mud and fire!!! : ) I'd really love to go to one or more of the Potfests. But it is really mostly dreaming. I'll be talking to hubby, but I truly doubt that we'll be able to be gone for more than 1 or 2 nights. That's what we've been doing for the past while- taking overnight trips to see the ageing rockers before they die!

NOTE+ We always used public transportation in the UK- never drove. I'm certain you'll be able to figure out a way to do it and see the things you want.

Posted by
3336 posts

acraven yes, I am suggesting that you may enjoy it! Keswick is a beautiful little town and I have been there and all around the lakes many times over the years. It's perfect for a day trip.