Hale to Lytham St.Annes / Blackpool to Grange-over-Sands / Humphrey Head to Muncaster

We drove up for the weekend and stayed in Cartmel again. It was the longest day but we had our lights on at 6 due to the rain! The plan was to reach Ravenglass and complete a large section of the West coast.

Humphrey Head

Humphrey HeadA fine morning and we headed for Morecambe Bay sands. The limestone cliff of Humphrey Head is 172ft high and extends like a finger for a mile into the bay. The last wolf in England was reputedly killed here in the 15th century and the weather vane on Cartmel Priory depicts a wolf's head in recognition of this.

TractorThere is a Nature Reserve, which includes the rare Lancastrian whitebeam and at the foot of the cliffs is the holy well of St Agnes but after quite a search we didn't find it. We walked round the beach at the foot of the cliff, but didn't get far as the tide was coming in.

It was deserted apart from a few abandoned fishing tractors.


FlookburghCrossing the Cumbria coastal footpath and railway, we arrived at Flookburgh, once so close to the shore that high tides washed along the main street. It looked a bit grey and nearby is an old airfield advertising parachute jumps and a dismal looking holiday park.

Just to the north is Holker Hall, built in an extravagant mock-Elizabethan style in 1874. This, like other stately homes in the area, strangely closes on Saturdays, so we didn't even get to see the gardens or the motor museum.


BridgeWe drove on find the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. This was a branch line of the Furness Railway that got the chop in the 60's and is now only 3½ miles long and run by steam enthusiasts. The station at Haverthwaite is really cute.

TrainWhile we waited for the train, we had a look inside the engine shed and had a picnic on a bench overlooking the station. The train steamed in majestically, then the engine was reconnected at the other end and it puffed away again, making superb chuff chuff noises - brilliant!

Stott Park Bobbin MillJust up the road, is the Stott Park Bobbin Mill. A working mill built in 1835, it created the wooden bobbins vital to the spinning and weaving industries of Lancashire. Although Stott Park worked continuously until 1971, it remains almost identical to its Victorian appearance and machine in the mill was driven by a belt running off a main 'line' shaft, connected to the waterwheel.

machineryThe mass of belts drive the machines and we watched bobbins being made. The growth of this traditional lakeland industry was predominantly due to two factors: an abundance of raw material available for coppicing, and the numerous fast-flowing streams that could provide the power needed to drive the waterwheel.


Canal FootWe first went to see the Greenodd Sands at Canal Foot . I took some pictures of the Leven Viaduct for the railway and could see the small Chapel Island and Heysham Power Station in the distance. After the opening of a canal from here to Ulverston, the town flourished as a port in the early 19th century. It is the world's shortest, widest and deepest canal.

Hoad HillOn top of Hoad Hill, we saw a 100ft monument in the form of a lighthouse, built in 1850 to commemorate Sir John Barrow, an explorer who also was born in the town. It can be seen from miles around and can be climbed by an interior staircase.

Laurel and Hardy Museum

Ulverston is the birthplace of Stan Laurel and the town has the only Laurel and Hardy Museum where you can see a magnificent collection of ephemera and watch old movies.

We stayed in a town centre hotel where the food was excellent and the staff very friendly. Our room was pretty cruddy though, right by the road on the ground floor and we had to park in a public car park, but there was a very nice garden.

UlverstonThere is a street market on the cobbled streets on Thursday and Saturday when the Ulverston town crier issues a warm welcome. The Coronation Hall was built by public subscription in 1914 to celebrate the Coronation of King George V, but the onset of war prevented it being built to its planned size.

Bardsea Country Park

Conishead PrioryThe strip of coast beside the road to Baycliff looks across Morecambe Bay and has picnic spaces and waymarked foot-paths. We drove past Conishead Priory, thinking it was private. An Augustinian priory stood on the site in the 12th century, but the present mansion is a 19th-century Gothic fantasy that has been restored and is now run as a centre for Buddhist studies.

Buddha statueIt was open to the public so we went to have a look around. The house is pretty impressive but it looked odd seeing an enormous Buddha statue inside a Gothic mansion! The Kadampa Temple was built in the grounds for reflection and meditation. We went in and everyone removed their shoes by the door.

Wadhead Scar

Wadhead Scar, overlooking Ulverston Sands, is very pretty. Cars were parked beside the shingle beach and people were sitting on benches looking out to sea - a pastime we have noted as being very popular.

There is a Druid's Circle above the village of Bardsea which has evidence of having been used for burial. There are two concentric circles made up of 31 stones.


AldinghamMuch of this village has been gradually lost to the sea over the centuries, except for the 12th century Church of St Cuthbert, now protected from the sea by a castellated wall. The church is quite plain from outside but is very pretty inside.

There are two carvings in the chancel portraying a demure bride and a bashful bridegroom. The 19th century Aldingham Hall is now a residential home for the elderly.

Bridegroom Bride

Gleaston Water Mill

Gleaston CastleWe took a short detour to find the 14th century ruin of Gleaston Castle that is now part of a farm.

Gleaston Water MillClose by is a water mill whose buildings date from 1774, with the original wooden gearing. It has all been restored and visitors can see the 18ft water wheel and milling machinery in action.

There are also rare breeds including pigs and highland cattle, and displays of the discoveries from recent archaeological 'digs'. Next door in an old curing house is the Pig's Whisper, where piggy items of all types are for sale.

Roa and Piel Islands

RampsideWe rejoined the 'A' road beside the sea (subject to tidal flooding) and drove along part of the Cumbria Cycleway before reaching a very odd needle shaped tower at Rampside and a causeway to Roa Island. There is a 1½ mile shingle causeway to the south-east that is Foulney Island Nature Reserve and is flooded at high tide. We got there at high tide!

Piel Castle

Midway between Roa Island and the Isle of Walney, is Piel Island. The island can be reached on foot, with care, from South Walney at low tide, or by an irregular ferry service from Roa Island.

lifeboat stationPiel Castle was built in the 16th century by the monks of Furness Abbey and parts of the massive keep and walls still survive. It was an important part of Barrow's defences from the 12th century and the monks traded and smuggled goods to Ireland from here.

The ferry wasn't running so we walked down the stone jetty beside a massive lifeboat station, to take pictures.

These islands enclose a large natural harbour for Barrow with a narrow navigable channel in the middle. The Cistercian way begins here and the 33 mile path leads to Grange over Sands with a short train journey to avoid the quicksands.

Isle Of Walney

Walney ChannelPassing a gas terminal, power station, sewage works and huge dock, we crossed the Walney Channel by a bridge to the Isle of Walney. Andy reckoned the local council must have bought the whole island to build houses - it was very dismal.

South WalneyOn the island's landward side is a wide expanse of water, dotted with rocky islands and moorings for pleasure craft while the seaward side has a sandy beach more than 10 miles long.

Hard hatsWe took the road south until it turned into a very pot-holed track at the end with ponds formed by old gravel workings and a nature reserve with one of Europe's busiest lesser black-backed and herring gull colonies.

It was deserted but a notice warned us that the gulls were nesting and hard hats were provided. We didn't walk far before being dive bombed and decided to retreat.

N Walney beach

The nature reserve at the north end of the island is an area of dunes and grassland where birds such as redshanks and stonechats congregate. The area has been used since prehistoric times as evidenced by the many mesolithic, neolithic, bronze and iron age finds. Flints, broken pieces of pottery, and the rare stone axe have been found.

N WalneyA rabbit warren was established probably when it was held by the monks of Furness Abbey. Grazing by cattle and sheep continued for hundreds of years until the establishment of the airfield during World War II. The holiday homes looked a bit grim and it was starting to rain so we decided we'd seen enough.

Furness Abbey

Furness AbbeyWe began the day in a peaceful spot on the north side of the town at the ruins of Furness Abbey, built by Cistercian monks. The building works spanned several centuries resulting in a variety of styles and ideas. The church remains date largely from the 12th and 13th centuries when the original Savignac church was enlarged, and along the eastern edge of the cloister are five splendidly preserved Norman arches.

Norman archesIt still exudes the power and importance that Furness held in medieval England. When considering how frequent Scottish raids occurred during those times, it is incredible to see so much remaining.

The abbey was absorbed into the more powerful Cistercian Order in 1150 but disputes between the abbey and nearby landowners became frequent and when Henry VIII suppressed the monasteries, Furness became the first of the major monasteries to submit. The abbey began to attract interest from the public during the Romantic period with poetry by Wordsworth encouraging tourists. When the railway came, the site became so popular that a large hotel was built on the site.


Submarine shedLocal deposits of iron transformed Barrow in the early 19th century into a thriving industrial and shipbuilding centre. High-grade ore was shipped to steelworks all over England, and by 1870 Barrow's own steelworks were the biggest in the world.

Barrow-In-FurnessMajor shipbuilding is over now but Trident nuclear submarines are still built here, in a massive hall by the port area.

We went to the Dock Museum, a modern building which is actually built over an old 19th century graving dock and you can go right down to the floor of it. There are loads of models of boats and other exhibitions.

graving dock Dock Museum


Dalton CastleWe went into Dalton to visit the castle, but it only opens on Saturday afternoons. Dalton became the ancient capital of Furness and was known as the judicial and economic centre of the Abbey monks. The Abbot of Furness built Dalton Castle , 'a pele tower' in the 14th century. It has walls six foot thick and was used as a courthouse and jail.

Sandscale Haws Nature ReserveThere is a road out to the Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve, an area of dunes and wild flowers including some rare orchids, so we went to have a look. The National Trust warden was very helpful and provided some information, then we went down to the wide sandy beach for a walk.

Duddon SandsIt was very picturesque and almost deserted with good views to the Southern Lakes. At low tide in the Duddon estuary the sand is 2 miles across at its widest point. Footpaths link villages on opposite banks at low tide, but the sands are treacherous with fast incoming tides.

Broughton In Furness

Broughton In FurnessAt the small town of Broughton, the market place and was laid out by the Lord of the Manor to resemble a London square with tall Georgian houses on three sides.

AskhamThere is a set of stocks, a slate table where fish were once laid out for sale, and an obelisk commemorating George III's golden jubilee in 1810. It is quite pretty and has a fairy large tourist office.

Passing a wind farm on the hillside we reached Askham, A village that developed due to the discovery of iron. The pier is a jetty made from iron slag overlooking the huge sand flats.


We left the northern section of the old county of Lancashire behind as we crossed the River Duddon and entered Cumberland - both now part of Cumbria.


Hodbarrow Nature ReserveMillom grew prosperous from iron mining. There used to be 11 working shafts, making them the largest and busiest in Britain. Workers were brought in and by 1873 some three hundred were employed in the mines. In order to protect the workings from high tides and storms a defensive wall was built around what is now the Hodbarrow Nature Reserve.

Hodbarrow Nature Reserve

A dramatic stretch of brackish water was formed when the iron mines were flooded after the last one closed in 1968. Great crested grebes, tufted ducks, oystercatchers, terns and swans gather at the water's edge.

We could see people walking around the sea wall and there are a couple of lighthouses. We took a picnic over to Hodbarrow Point and sat beside the water watching the swans with their cygnets. Pyramidal orchids were flowering all over the place - it was lovely.

HaveriggOn the northern side of the lake are the remains of old ironstone mines and quarries and the little resort of Haverigg. There is a small promenade and some children's play areas but not much else, although there is an open prison nearby.

The Coast to the Esk Estuary

Black CombeThere is about 20 miles of lonely deserted coast with little road access between Haverigg Point and Ravenglass. The central part consists of shingle banks in the shadows of the 2000ft Black Combe, whilst the sands to the north are the home of yet more MOD firing ranges.


At Silecroft there is a large car park and we could look for miles in both directions and see nothing - it is pretty eerie.

We read that there is a track to the shore at Annaside but after driving past filthy farms we arrived at a bridge marked private.sign We thought this was fair enough for cars but the owners had put a notice up telling walkers NOT to use the bridge, but to wade through the river to rejoin the public footpath. Pretty mean of them - I hope ramblers ignore it!

NewbigginJust past Bootle, the road is only open when there is no firing practice and it is liable to tidal flooding as well. That would be good - getting shot at whilst attempting not to drown!!

Near Newbiggin the road takes an abrupt turn inland right beside the River Esk and under a railway bridge. The flood marker at the side of the road looked ominous.

Muncaster Castle

Muncaster CastleDuring the Second World War evacuated art from the Tate Gallery, including paintings by Rossetti, Turner and Blake, were stored here.

The pele tower stands on Roman foundations and was extended through the ages into the Castle of today. In 1208 the land was granted to the Pennington family, and it is still their home, probably only due to the magical 'Luck of Muncaster', a glass drinking bowl belonging to Henry VI. He gave it to the family in 1464 declaring that as long as it remained intact, Penningtons would live and thrive at Muncaster.


The gardens are lovely with breathtaking views and we saw red squirrels and herons being fed. The World Owl Trust has its headquarters here and we were able to see the lovely owl collection. It really is a nice place for a day out.

sunset at SilecroftWe drove on to Ravenglass to where we started in 1998 to find petrol - there aren't many service stations around here!