Lanercost Priory

Lanercost is a small hamlet in Cumbria, which at first glance might appear insignificant, but is actually shrouded in history. Lanercost sits close to Naworth Castle, Hadrian’s Wall and is home to an Augustinian Priory which is now in ruins after being dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538. Whilst there is not enough to do in Lanercost for a full day trip, it is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area or planning to see Hadrian’s Wall.

Lanercost Priory is now managed by English Heritage and is manned by some very helpful and welcoming staff. It is free for members, but less than £5 for an adult ticket if you don’t have membership (although it’s worth considering if you are going to visit several sites along the wall). On arrival, you will be given a site map which provides some interesting points to look out for (such as mason’s marks on the stones) but works best in conjunction with a guidebook. There are also information points located around the site, providing more information about the history of the site. The cloisters are beautifully preserved and the east end of the 13th century church survives to its full height.

If you are visiting the priory it is worth seeing what is on. This summer it is playing host to a couple of outdoor plays, and craft fairs are regularly held in the Dacre Hall, reputed to be the oldest village hall in England.

The Lanercost tea room is also worth popping into and has changed considerably since I last visited! It now houses a visitor information centre, providing additional information about local attractions, including driving distances. It not only goes into detail about Hadrian’s Wall, but also attractions including Tullie House Museum and Art gallery in Carlisle, and the birthplace of George Stephenson in Wylam. The shop stocks a range of locally made produce, and the tea room features artwork from local artists.

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The tea room is attractively decorated and makes a pleasant stop for a cake – I can strongly recommend the chocolate damson brownie which was very rich and gooey! If you are stopping for lunch the menu is full of local produce, but expect to pay pub/restaurant prices. There should be something to suit all tastes, although my brother was horrified that goat’s cheese, beetroot and pinenut pizza had made it onto the menu but there wasn’t the choice of a classic margherita pizza! However, you can expect everything to be freshly made given that their motto is “We don’t serve ‘fast food’… We serve good food as fast as we can!”.

Due to its size, it is easy to see why Lanercost might get overlooked as a site, but if you are in the area it is worth a short detour.

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