“OK – I’ve been on a ferry across lovely Windermere, had a drink in the Old Dungeon Ghyll, wandered in Wordsworth’s footsteps around Grasmere, gone over the Honister Pass to beautiful Buttermere and seen the most of the main sights in the Lake District. Now what?”
Cumbria is one of Britain’s biggest counties and there are plenty of intriguing places to explore when you have done the major attractions. The Lake District can get very busy at any time of year so I recommend getting off the beaten track to explore lesser-known parts of Cumbria. Unspoilt, rich in natural beauty and ancient history you’ll find charming villages, friendly pubs and plenty to see and do. Here are four of my favourite places in the south, east, north and west of the county.
This little town in the south of Cumbria has a peaceful air about it where time seems to stand slow down and all is right with the world. Avocet, oystercatchers and the shoveler duck are a few of the birds you may spot as you wander along the sandy shoreline, overlooking the tidal waters of Morecambe Bay. A relatively short walk takes you to the top of ‘Arnside Knott’, with superb views over to the Lake District fells and out across Bay to the Irish Sea. There’s a viaduct across River Kent transporting rail passengers over to Grange and up the west coast Nearby places of interest include RSPB Leighton Moss, Levens Hall and the grounds of Dallam Tower with its ancient deer park. In the evening treat yourself to excellent fish and chips from Arnside Chip Shop, grab a waterfront seat and watch the sun setting over this tranquil scene.
This sleepy little village on Cumbria’s west coast was known as Glannaventa in Roman times. The harbour served as a supply post in the 1st century AD and you can still see the remains of the old Roman Bathhouse nearby. Three rivers, the Esk, Mite and Irt, flow into the estuary so take time out to enjoy the view and listen to the clanking of the halyards on the yachts dotted around the water. The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway (15” gauge) takes just 40 minutes to trundle up into the impressive Cumbrian fells in Eskdale. Ravenglass Station Café serves tasty snacks and you can get a decent pint at the Ratty Arms. Quirky Muncaster Castle, home to the original Tom Fool, is not far and if you’re there mid-afternoon you may see the herons flocking into the estate trees for their daily feeding session.
Overlooking the Solway Firth and the lowlands of Scotland, about 20 miles from Carlisle, this now-isolated little town was once a thriving Victorian seaside. With stunning views across the water and excellent fishing and invigorating air, it attracts visitors who take pleasure in nature and the great outdoors. The town’s largest annual event is Solfest The Solway Music Festival, Cumbria’s biggest four day live music festival. Not far from Silloth is Bowness-0n-solway and Banks, the end (or beginning) of Hadrian’s Wall with its little viewing hut with a mosaic celebrating not only its Roman history but also the plentiful bird-life to be all year round. There’s a micro-brewery, a popular golf course and other holiday attractions but its main appeal is a faded gentility and other-worldly atmosphere, far from the tourist hordes.
A perfect combination of scenic and historic attraction, Appleby has it all. The River Eden flows through the town, providing the focal point for one of Cumbria’s most spectacular events – the Appleby Horse Fair. Since 1685 Romany families have travelled from all over Britain to meet up with old friends, trade horse and provide a unique spectacle as they wash their ponies in the river. Appleby Castle dominates this pretty market town and was home to a very remarkable woman. Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676) , builder of castles and benefactor to many local people, is buried here and the town is on the route of Lady Anne’s Way. Stock up on scrumptious picnic fare at Appleby Bakery and take time to explore the idyllic Eden Valley.
So, whether you’re visiting in the height of summer or in one of the quieter seasons, take time to explore more of Cumbria and search out a few of these special places …
A version of this article appeared on Visit Britain Superblog