Milnthorpe has a long history - its busy Friday street market in the Square dates from 1334. The village's heyday was from the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth centuries when many of the buildings in the centre of the village (now a conservation area) were completed including the present Cross Keys. When the turnpike road between Kendal and Lancaster was constructed through the village nearly two hundred years ago Milnthorpe became an important staging post and the Cross Keys gained a fine reputation as a coaching inn with stabling for 36 horses (and receiving guests of no lesser importance than a Tsar of Russia and a Queen from Austria) and a comfortable place to stay - a reputation which still continues today.
Milnthorpe has surroundings of peaceful tranquility. The River Bela winds lazily through parkland to the Kent Estuary at Sandside, where the dramatic expanse of Morecambe Bay has a backdrop of brooding Lakeland Fells. At Arnside, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there are many walks through wooded hills and along the rocky shore to enjoy.