Kirkby Lonsdale and the Devil’s Bridge

It was a bitterly cold morning when we left the hotel and talk a short walk around the village before setting off for the short drive to the nearby town of Kirkby Lonsdale. Someone told us that there had been a frost overnight but I am not too sure about that.

The journey took us out of the county of Yorkshire and through a small wedge of Lancashire and into Cumbria and to Kirkby Lonsdale which is only a part of Cumbria by a whisker, just a mile or two over the county boundary.

It is indeed a very charming town, the sort of place that when visiting I decide that it would be rather nice to live there but after a look in the Estate Agent’s window the asking prices confirm that I am happy enough to stay where I am.

There is not a great deal to do in Kirkby Lonsdale it seems except to walk around the picturesque streets and public footpaths. We visited the Thursday market which consisted mostly of artisan craft stalls which didn’t interest me greatly and then followed a walking route that took us along the side of the very attractive and free running River Lune as far as the fourteenth century Devil’s Bridge.

According to the legend the original bridge was built by the Devil because it was too difficult for mere mortals to achieve this feat of engineering.  Probably because of the weather the Devil had never been to Cumbria before but sometime around the eleventh century he dropped by.  As he wandered about admiring the scenery (no one has satisfactorily explained why he didn’t go somewhere even more scenic, such as Lake Windermere for example) he came across an old lady who seemed rather upset.

 ”What’s the matter? he asked (or possibly roared).

“Oh, I’m in such a terrible muddle and I don’t know what to do! My cow has wandered across the river and I can’t get her back”.

Ah!” said the Devil “What you need is a bridge and I am just the man to build you one. Why don’t you go home, and in the morning there will be a bridge waiting for you. All I ask in return is to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge”

That night she wondered about this stranger who would build her a bridge. ‘What a strange request!  Why should I cross the bridge to get my cow back if he gets to keep me in exchange? Mind you it is very tempting offer”

The next day she got up and called for her faithful dog. Together they went down to the river. 

“I told you that I would build you a bridge” said the Devil. “Now it’s your turn to keep your side of the bargain”.

She started to walk towards the bridge. But just when she got there she stopped, took out bone from her apron pocket and hurled it across the bridge and the dog chased after it.  Dogs are hopelessly stupid creatures that will do  dumb things like that.  A cat wouldn’t. 

“FFS”  exclaimed the Devil.  I don’t believe it! Your dog has become the first living thing to cross my bridge. It’s no good to me” he screamed and then vanished and I can understand that because I am not what you call a dog lover myself. 

After this the Devil was apparently never seen in Cumbria again – some say it was because he was so embarrassed at being outwitted by the old lady but I suspect that it more likely had something to do with the wet weather!

Actually, it turns out that Satan is quite a prolific bridge builder and Wikipedia lists at least a hundred Devil’s Bridges, mostly in Europe and almost always with the same story.

We returned now to Clapham and on a gloriously sunny Autumnal afternoon took a long countryside walk alongside the River Wenning which led to Ingleborough Cave which claims to be the finest show cave in all of England and had a £9.50 admission charge and no discount for seniors.

Reminding ourselves that all such places make these sort of extravagant claims we decided against going underground today and besides we have been down caves before elsewhere and one is much like any other.

On the way down we passed by an effervescent waterfall so congratulated ourselves on not paying for the Ingleby trail the previous day. Like true Yorkshire folk we were saving money every day. We were practically honorary Tykes.

 

29 responses to “Kirkby Lonsdale and the Devil’s Bridge

  1. Interesting story Andrew, you recounted it very well. It’s true one cave is much like the rest!

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  2. What a delightful ramble. I’ve never heard the Devil’s Bridge story before.

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  3. I bloody love the story of Devil’s bridge, you tell it well 😂

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  4. The Devil certainly has a whole lot of bridges. Great post as usual, Andrew.

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  5. Well, I’ve never heard that story, but I’ve seen a number of Devil’s Bridges in my time

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  6. I’ve always thought this area a bit too close to home so have never visited except for brief stops passing through. Seems I haven’t missed a great deal.

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  7. I heard a similar story in Regensburg, Germany. It is a good story though. Looks like a lovely place.

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  8. I was looking at Kirkby Lonsdale as a base for exploring the Dales/Lakes, but maybe you can suggest an alternative? We don’t want to be out in the country (where we usually end up), but in a pleasant small town with a market, pubs, restaurants that we can walk to.

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  9. No discount for seniors – shameful. It’s the only time I’ll own up to my age.

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  10. Our youth club took us camping, potholing/caving up there and I loved it.

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  11. Pingback: Kirkby Lonsdale and the Devil’s Bridge – Nelsapy

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