What the Devil’s Going On?

Exploring England #31

Imagine you’re driving from Kendal to York, and just past Kirkby Lonsdale you come to a car park on the side of the road . It’s full of cars, buses and motorbikes but there’s nothing to indicate why everyone has stopped. What would you do? Continue on, all the while wondering what the attraction was, or turn off to find out?

It wasn’t difficult for curiosity to get the better of us – of course we stopped to investigate. From the road there was nothing to see but a food and coffee van strategically placed nearby. Plenty of people were taking advantage of the treats on offer, but there had to something more, so we continued on until we came to a bridge over the River Lune. We soon discovered it wasn’t just an ordinary bridge – it was a scheduled ancient monument dating from medieval times.

Known as The Devil’s Bridge, the triple arched stone bridge is the finest of its kind in Northern England. It was probably built in the 14th century, but records of its construction were lost in York during the English Civil War. The bridge was in use until 1932 when, a little further upstream, Stanley Bridge was constructed to cope with increasing traffic demands.

How did the bridge get its devilish name? According to local legend, the Devil offered to build a bridge over the river in one night, and in return he demanded the soul of the first being to cross in the morning. He was outsmarted when a woman threw some bread which her dog chased onto the bridge.

We imagined the Devil may have been very annoyed by this trickery, but thankfully there was no sign of him when we crossed the bridge. On the opposite bank of the river, both The Devil’s Bridge and Stanley Bridge were beautifully reflected in the river.

At the western end of the bridge we found an intriguing sign.

Again curiosity took over –  what were Radical Steps? We thought perhaps a curving spiral staircase or a twisting set of ornamented treads leading to a mysterious destination! We set off along the shaded path beside the River Lune to find out.

When we came to the steps, they weren’t radical at all. Steep, worn and covered in moss, 86 steps went up the hillside in an orderly fashion. It was only when we got to the top that we discovered the origin of the name. Built in 1819 by Francis Pearson, the steps were christened “Radical” because of his strong political beliefs.

At the top of the steps we found a tiny cottage, just big enough for one.

Nearby on Church Brow was Ruskin’s View, a lookout high above the Lune Valley. A painting completed in 1822 by the artist JMW Turner later inspired the poet John Ruskin to describe the scene as ‘one of the loveliest in England, therefore in the world’. As we stood admiring the view of the valley and mountains beyond, it was hard to disagree.

A cheeky robin posing on the fence seemed to enjoy the view too.

From the lookout, the path continued past the Norman Church of St Mary the Virgin and its graveyard dotted with timeworn headstones to the old market square, complete with an ancient market cross. In medieval times, this was the site of the swine market.

Instead of taking the main road into town, we followed a footpath lined on either side with high stone walls and prickly hedges. It took us past beautiful old homes and green fields back to Bridge Brow and The Devil’s Bridge.

After a walk full of exploration and discovery, we were grateful to see the van still open – now it was coffee time!

Join Restless Jo for more Monday Walks

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53 thoughts on “What the Devil’s Going On?

  1. Ha! Ha! I knew those steps would be for a radical or two. 🙂 🙂 I wouldn’t mind a week or so in the poet’s cottage though, Carol. What an interesting little excursion. Poor dog! I suppose if there was food involved he wouldn’t mind. 🙂 Thanks a lot for sharing. (Only one ‘l’ in Kendal, not that it matters) Good weekend?

  2. You really are an adventurous traveller and find the most wonderful country walks. Thanks for sharing this one. I’d have been very tempted by the Radical Steps too!

  3. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Little Ouseburn Open Gardens | restlessjo

  4. Love your capture of the robin. A cottage for one at the top of radical stairs sounds fabulous. I have noticed a lot of bridges seem to be attributed to the devil, and I have always wondered why….

    • The steps weren’t as daunting as they look. We loved the robin too. He sat there for ages but for most of the time he stood on one leg. I have heaps of photos of him looking like a one legged robin and this is the only one with two legs!

  5. The lune valley is beautiful, it was one of my Sunday ride out routes in my motorbike when I lived up north, although I never knew about the bridge. Love the one person cottage ❤️

  6. Such picturesque countryside and The Devils Bridge is truly too beautiful to have this name. It is such a gorgeous and historic church nestled in those green hills. What a sight for you to behold!

  7. Just think – if you hadn’t stopped out of curiousity about all the vehicles in the car park, you wouldn’t have come across this interesting walk. 🙂 I feel sorry for the poor dog that ran across the bridge. Thank goodness the coffee van was still open – a good walk is always better for a drink at the end of it I think.

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