Hotels near the Rheged
Rheged Visitor Centre brings history to life in Europe's largest grass-covered building. Named after the ancient kingdom of Cumbria in the Dark Ages, it is designed in the shape of a Cumbrian fell in order to blend into the countryside, and is the largest visitor attraction in the county.
The kingdom of Rheged emerged from the turmoil of the Roman withdrawal in the early 5th century and was at its peak around 590 AD, when it stretched between the Irish Sea and the North Sea, from south Scotland to the Midlands. Amidst the history and mythology there are tales of Rheged's first king, Coel Hen, immortalised in the nursery rhyme Old King Cole, Uther Pendragon, his son Arthur and sorcerer Merlin (a recent Hollywood film claims the true story of Arthur is that he was a former Roman soldier in Cumbria) and King Urien, whose good luck symbol, the raven, has been adopted for the visitor's centre.
Utilising local materials and constructed in a disused limestone quarry, Rheged includes 12 stone features taken from moulds of limestone crags on Shap (Rheged's spiritual heart), complete with waterfalls. The 85,000 square feet over five floors includes seven glass atriums and massive windows overlooking two lakes. A babbling brook even flows through the building.
As well as the exhibits tracing the history of the area, Rheged also includes a giant cinema screen - as big as six double-decker buses - which screens a specially-shot film about the ancient kingdom, Rheged The Movie, epic films about dolphins and moutaineering and recent commercial films in a regular Wednesday series.
In July 2001 the Helly Hansen National Mountaineering Exhibition opened. A permanent feature created by the British Mountaineering Council and the Mountain Heritage Trust, it explores the excitement and dangers of a sport that typifies the enduring fascination of the region.
Giant Screen Movies £5.95; seniors & students £4.95; 5-15 yrs £4; under 5s free
The Helly Hansen National Mountaineering Exhibition £5.50; seniors & students £4.70; 5-15 yrs £3.90
Joint & family tickets available
Opening Hours: 10am-5.30pm; closed Christmas Day
Address: Redhills, Penrith, CA11 0DQ
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