Obviously, Ambleside is closed at the moment, but when you can get back here again, it’s such a fantastic,...
With the amount of water that runs through our county, fresh from the fells, starting as a tributary high up in the valley heads, bridges play an important role in our history. From quaint tiny packhorse bridges joining villages and hamlets together, or major bridges, aqueducts and viaducts spanning the larger rivers as they rush toward the sea.
We have a stunning collection of stone packhorse bridges, built between 1600-1750, of simply beautiful simple arch construction, a narrow width and low walling. They replaced wooden bridges and were perfect until the advent of droving when wider bridges were needed. These packhorse bridges are so intrinsic to our landscape that in 2015 we even had a temporary art installation: The Paper Bridge by artist Steve Messam, made of paper and constructed using the same architectural principles of the original packhorse bridges – basically no glue or bolts holding it together, just the weight of the paper and the perfect design.
Bridge House in Ambleside, arguably the smallest house in the UK, inhabited by various families over the years, stands over Stock Beck, sitting on its own bridge, and is owned by the National Trust, as one of the quirkiest 17thC remaining buildings of the village.
Other photogenic packhorse bridges can be found at Wasdale, Watendlath, and Slater’s Bridge Little Langdale. The bridge high above Aira Force is perhaps the most spectacular and vertigo-inducing, with the waterfall plunging down below. High Sweden Bridge near Ambleside and Ashness Bridge near Keswick’s ‘Surprise View’ are all very well photographed and much loved.
If you’re looking for elegant ‘town’ bridges over major rivers, the bridges over the River Kent in Kendal, the bridge over the River Eden at Lazonby, Levens Bridge over the River Kent and Devil’s Bridge over the Lune at Kirkby Lonsdale as well as bridges over the rivers Cocker & Derwent in the north of the county at Cockermouth & Keswick are all worth a stroll across, a photo or two, and a marvel at their strength during our famous Lake District Rain! However, some bridges have been dramatically swept away during major flood events, such as Storm Desmond in 2015. The newest bridge replacement is at Pooley Bridge which was opened in October 2020 after Storm Desmond demolished the previous one in 2015 and in 2018, Gowan Bridge in Staveley reopened having been rebuilt after flood damage made it collapse.
Viaducts include the famous Settle to Carlisle railway bridges, the Wetheral Railway Viaduct, Keswick Railway bridge (now a cycle and footpath) and the spectacular Arnside railway viaduct across the Kent estuary, with stunning views over Morecambe bay and taking the train across the Arnside Bore.