Although Cockermouth lies just outside the north-west boundary of the Lake District National Park and is not as well known as some other Lake District landmark towns, it is nevertheless well worth visiting.
In fact, this delightful town could almost be classified as a ‘hidden gem’.
Wordsworth House & Garden
The most famous people associated with Cockermouth are William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy who were born in the town and lived much of their young lives there. Wordsworth House and Garden have been restored as a living museum and are open to the public. Life in the 1770s is authentically recreated with costumed servants carrying out their household chores. Children love joining in the activities.
Pay a visit to the Cockermouth TIC in Market Street to pick up a visitor’s map and Town Guide to make the most of your visit.
The town owes its name and existence to its position at the confluence of the rivers Cocker and Derwent. The resultant fast flowing river was bridged at this point by the Romans and a settlement grew up. The Normans built the castle but the major development occurred in the 13th century when the town was granted charters to hold markets.
Markets are now mainly held on weekends in the Market Place and take the form of Continental and Craft Markets. In olden days public houses were allowed to be open all day on market days and Cockermouth still has an enormous number of attractive old pubs and hotels even though licensing laws now allow opening all day whether there are markets or not!
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Jennings Brewery Tours in Cockermouth is a popular tourist attraction. The old Castle Brewery is beautifully located beneath the walls of the castle and is a major employer in the town. Although now part of the Marston’s PLC it continues to brew its own real ales by the time honoured method.
Cockermouth’s history as a market town and a centre for spinning, weaving and cloth making has left the town with evidence of its industrial past. At one time the fast flowing river powered over 40 mills (wool, linen, and cotton), hat factories, tanneries, and smaller concerns making chairs, churns, mangle rollers, nails, farm machinery, etc.
At the end of Harris Park, there is a small youth hostel sited in a 16th century mill on a bend in the River Cocker's approach to the town.
Much of the centre of the town is of medieval origin substantially rebuilt in Georgian style with early Victorian infill. Cockermouth is famous for its Georgian architecture and many of the facades are now painted in colourful washes.
The tree lined Kirkgate offers examples of unspoilt classical late 17th and 18th century terraced housing, cobbled paving and twisty curving lanes which run steeply down to the River Cocker. A number of the buildings are of traditional stone construction with thick walls and green Skiddaw slate roofs.
Many of the facades lining the streets are frontages for historic housing in alleyways and lanes (often maintaining medieval street patterns) to the rear. An example of this may be observed through the alleyway adjacent to the house of hardware merchant J B Banks and Son in Market Place. Here 18th-century dye workers' cottages line one side of the lane and the former works faces them across the narrow cobbled lane. Examples of Georgian residences may be found near the beautifully restored 13th century Market Place, St. Helens Street, at the bottom of Castlegate Drive and Kirkgate.
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Market Place is focus of North West Morris Dancing
The Market Place is the focus of historical and cultural events run by volunteers from The Kirkgate Centre. During the summer months the local Belfagan Women's Morris perform North West Morris Dancing in the Market Place and other venues around the area. They wear traditional wooden clogs, brightly woven woollen skirts and jackets, and use garlands, sticks and hankies in their various dances.
Check out the Belfagan Women' Morris performance diary at Web: Belfagan Morris
The Kirkgate Centre is just off the Market Place and only 2 minutes walk from the centre of town. The theatre is multi-purpose being used for live theatre, musical concerts and cinema. As well there is space for exhibitions and historical displays.
Delightful walks and cycleways
There are delightful walks beside the rivers and a cycleway along the old Cockrmouth, Keswick & Penrith railway track bed giving views of the town and river. The main cemetery on the Lorton Road is something of a walker's garden, featuring streams, humped stone bridges and views of the nearby fells.
There are many shops selling locally produced goods as well as restaurants and of course, Real Ale pubs. The tourist can easily spend a day or even longer in this fascinating little town; Cockermouth is situated a few minutes travelling distance from lakes such as Ennerdale, Crummock Water, Loweswater and Bassingthwaite.
Contact & Further Information
- By Car
This is the recommended method for visiting Cockermouth. The nearest motorway is the M6 junction 40 at Penrith, which is 30 miles (48 km) away via the A66.
Go to Web: Parking in Cockermouth Website
- By Rail
Nearest railway stations are at Maryport on the Cumbrian Coast Line, and Penrith and Carlisle on the West Coast main line.
- By Coach
A coach service runs daily from Victoria London to Workington and Whitehaven calling at Milton Keynes, Wigan, Preston, Lancaster and Kendal and Cockermouth. The trip takes 9 hours.
A second service runs from Birmingham Digbeth via Wigan, Preston, Lancaster and Kendal to Cockermouth, then on to Workington and Whitehaven (approx 6 hrs).
- By Bus
Local bus services connect Cockermouth to Workington, Penrith and Carlisle, operated by Stagecoach North West.
Google Maps - Cockermouth