Longtown, Cumbria, England

Longtown is a small town near the border between England and Scotland. It was founded by Dr Robert Graham in the 18th century, when the Graham family began to lay out the settlement…


Status: City of Carlisle District, Cumbria (historically Cumberland), Town, England

Date: 19/02/2014

Travel: Stagecoach (Gretna – Longtown)

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: River Esk, Esk Bridge, High Street, Graham Arms Hotel, Arthuret Church etc

Longtown 1

The tree lined streets were an aesthetic choice, and it is an early example of what is considered today as a new town, where it was planned out and designed from scratch as opposed to old settlements growing together to create one town.

Longtown 2

The main feature of the town, is the Graham Arms hotel, which was established by Robert Graham in the 18th century as a coaching stop for travellers and mail heading from England up to Edinburgh in Scotland. It was a busy stop, as the final town before the Scottish border. One of the most regular travellers was Salmon caught on the river Esk, that runs through the town.

Longtown 2a

The streets lined with trees continue off the high street, on both sides, giving a consistency to the towns layout and design. On one of the side streets you can find the small parish hall, that has some information boards about the history of the town.

Longtown 3

The main bridge into the town coming from the North is the red sandstone bridge of 1756 over the river Esk, which also happens to be the place that Charles Edward Stuart AKA Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720 – 1788) crossed the Esk during his campaign into Scotland, where he was ultimately defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, not far from Inverness.

Longtown 4

The river Esk itself runs from the hills near the town of Moffat in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland, through the town of Langholm, then over the border into England, and out into the Solway Firth at Longtown. Part of the river that meets with the Liddel Water also forms the border between England and Scotland.

On the north bank of the river, is the largest sheep market in England, which also does cattle auctions, that opened in 1926.

Longtown 5

History wise, although Longtown itself is relatively new, its location is of historical importance, as it’s sat at the heart of the Debatable Lands. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, this section of the Anglo-Scottish Border was a lawless place with regular raids on both sides by the Border Reivers, who stole cattle and attacked local landowners. The Tullie House Museum in nearby Carlisle gives some historical information about the attacks, and a statue of a Border Reiver can be seen on the way into the city coming from the North.

In 1306 the town was granted a market charter but because of the Reivers it was nearly impossible to establish a safe and secure market.

Longtown 6

The oldest building in the area is Arthuret Church, built in 1150. It is just outside the town, and originally played host to the monks of Jedburgh. The church was rebuilt in 1609, and paid for by collections taken during the reign of King James I. The most notable grave in the churchyard is that of Archie Armstrong, who was the favourite Court Jester of two monarchs, namely James I (1566 – 1625) and Charles I (1600 – 1649).

Longtown 7

The church is also noteworthy as nearby is the site of a famous battle from 1542. The Battle of Solway Moss was fought between the English and Scottish armies. The Scottish were invading England, under the lead of James V (1512 – 1542), after the English defeat at Haddon Rig earlier in the year. The English Army was led by Sir Thomas Warton (1495 – 1568), and his 3000 strong army met the 10000 in the Scots army.

Despite being vastly outnumbered, the English Army came through and secured victory, and Sir Thomas was rewarded with the barony of Westmorland.

The name Longtown most likely comes from the main high street, which takes up most of the town, and is a long, wide street with all of the main shops, pubs and hotels. Locally the name Dodge City has been applied, due to the large width of the high street (after the city in Kansas, USA).

Transport wise, although Longtown has no train station it is very close to a number of stations, including Gretna Green on the Gretna – Glasgow Line, and Carlisle on the West Coast Main Line between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh. The Waverley line from Carlisle to Edinburgh once ran through Longtown, but it closed in 1969, and crossed the Esk along with the current bridge.

Local bus services give direct services to Gretna, Annan and Dumfries in Scotland as well as Carlisle in England. The M6 runs close to the town, with Northward connections to the M74 (For Glasgow and Scotland) and Southward connections for Carlisle, Preston, and motorways around Manchester and Liverpool, as well as the South of England.

Nearby is the scenic Lake District, one of England’s most famous National Parks, as well as the Northumberland National Park heading eastwards.

Longtown is a pleasant place, and what it lacks in its own historical identity it makes up for in the interesting story of how it came about, and the amount of history that has gone on around it.


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