Literary Heritage at the Sun Inn, Kirkby Lonsdale

Kirkby Lonsdale is best known for its spectacular natural surroundings, but take a closer look at the area in and around this historic market town and you’ll find a rich – and largely undiscovered – literary and artistic heritage…

Mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, Kirkby Lonsdale is located on the Cumbria-Lancashire-Yorkshire border between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. But did you know about these cultural connections?

  • John Ruskin – ‘Ruskin’s View’, Kirkby Lonsdale: Victorian art critic and social thinker John Ruskin described the scene featuring St. Mary’s Church in Kirkby Lonsdale and the backdrop of the River Lune as “one of the loveliest views in England, therefore in the world”. Now popularly known as ‘Ruskin’s View’, the scene was also immortalised in the painting by JMW Turner.
  • The Brontë sisters – Cowan Bridge: Cowan Bridge is a village between Kirkby Lonsdale and Ingleton, and was the site of the Clergy Daughters’ School attended by the four Brontë sisters. Charlotte’s depiction of Lowood School in Jane Eyre is believed to have been based on the school in Cowan Bridge, with Kirkby Lonsdale becoming ‘Lowton’.
  • Thomas Gray / William Wordsworth – Lune Valley: 18th century poet Thomas Gray was one of the first great literary figures to write about the Cumbrian landscape and described the stunning views about Kirkby Lonsdale in his Journal of his Tour in the Lake District. Meanwhile, Wordsworth’s affinity with the Lune Valley is also documented in his famous Complete Guide to the Lakes.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Thornton-in-Lonsdale: Author of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, also visited the area. He married his first wife in St Oswalds Church in Thornton-in-Lonsdale – five miles from Kirkby Lonsdale on the Cumbria-Yorkshire border.

Meanwhile, book enthusiasts can make the short journey to nearby Sedbergh, officially designated as ‘England’s Book Town’ for its numerous bookshops and other businesses based on writing, reading and publishing.

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