The village of Wetheral stands on the west bank of the River Eden some four miles east of Carlisle, for which it serves as a dormitory. Wetheral stands a little over a mile south of the A69 and is usually reached from it, though it is worth noting that the most obvious access, from the junction of the A69 with the B6063, is via a junction rendered blind by a bridge and a corner on a fast road: it is not a good place to try turning right.
Wetheral is also accessible from Junction 42 on the M6, two and a half miles to the south west; or via minor roads from the west, from Carlisle via Scotby. One direction from which there is no vehicular access is from the east. The only bridge here over the river is the tall Eden Viaduct carrying the Carlisle to Newcastle railway (and a footpath). The nearest road bridges over the River Eden are on the A69 to the north, or at Armathwaite, six miles to the south.
The presence in Wetheral of a railway station, close to the western end of the viaduct, does much to boost its attraction as a place from which to commute, which in turn helps keep house prices healthy. The railway station closed as part of the Beeching cuts in 1967, but was reinstated in 1981. This western section of the railway opened in 1835, and the following year one of the world's first fatal railway accidents took place not far away, on the far side of the Eden Viaduct. At 4pm on Saturday 3 December 1836 a train carrying passengers and freight was heading west towards Wetheral and Carlisle when it was directed by wrongly set points into a coal siding. Two passengers stowing away in a horse carriage and a bystander were killed.
If we assume that you begin your tour of Wetheral at the railway station, the lane leading up to the heart of the village takes you past the imposing, and startlingly white, Crown Hotel. This does excellent food and can be highly recommended if you are passing through (not, if we are honest, that many people find themselves in Wetheral without it being their intended destination). The lane emerges at the northern apex of the large, triangular village green. Close by is the village shop, post office and the Eden Coffee Lounge, while on the west side of the green is Fantails Restaurant.
Near the south eastern apex of the village green stands The Cross. The cross you see today was placed here in 1838 on the site of a maypole erected some 20 years earlier, which in turn was placed on the site of a medieval cross. The imposing buildings to the east of the green stand on the crest of a steep slope which drops to their rear to the valley of the River Eden below. Much that is of interest in Wetheral can be reached by following a lane that descends the side of the valley from the south east apex of the green. If you take a left at the junction a short way down the hill, you arrive at The Church of the Holy Trinity and St Constantine. A church has stood here in one form or another since the 1300s, though much of the present building dates back to the 1500s. In the graveyard is the shaft of a cross, and we wonder if it was the one displaced from the green by the maypole in 1808.
Following the lane past the church to its foot brings you to the west bank of the River Eden. The core of the village can be glimpsed on the ridge rising behind you, while to your left is the Eden Viaduct. Above the far bank of the river is the village of Great Corby, and until the railway viaduct (and footpath) arrived, the two villages were linked by a ferry across the river here.
Retrace your steps up to the junction most of the way back to the green, but then take a left. This is a narrow lane that brings you to Wetheral Priory Gatehouse. This imposing building is all that remains of a priory founded here in 1106, though the gatehouse itself probably dates back to the 1300s. The priory was, like the church, dedicated to St Constantine, and the reason for this can be found in the shape of caves in the bank of the river nearby. These are known as "St Constantine's Cells" and are believed to have been used by the early saint, St Constantine, prior to his martyrdom in Scotland in about 576.
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