The pepper pot loomed overhead, a shaft of February sunlight lighting up its whitewashed walls. Across the Furness Peninsula, Morecambe Bay glittered enticingly and the quaint little town of Ulverston bustled away below the hill. I sat on a bench letting a sliver of warmth seep in as one man and his dog wandered past, weaving their companionable way to the top.
The 100 ft high Hoad Monument was erected in 1850 in memory of Ulverston-born Sir John Barrow, a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society and Second Secretary to the Admiralty. It resembles the famous Eddystone Lighthouse but has no function beyond its attractive commemorative purpose.
Hoad Monument Ulverston
I was on the Furness Peninsula on my fourth #FollowPye Morecambe Bay Day Out, accompanied by Fiona, a friend who lives in Warton in Lancashire, and trusty Quirky Penguin. I’m an ambassador for Pye Motors, our local Ford dealership, and have a very nippy, state-of-the-art all-new Ford Fiesta in which I zoom around Morecambe Bay, using Seldom Seen Maps to explore this unique part of Cumbria and Lancashire.
We started following Seldom Seen Map 2 The Furness Peninsula at Ulverston, then drive on the coast road to Barrow via Manjushri Buddhist Meditation Centre. We visited Furness Abbey, cut across to Askham Beach and ended our day at Broughton-in-Furness.
According to our map, pole-vaulting was ‘refined’ if not actually started, in Ulverston. That’s the sort of wondrously vague fact these maps tell you … However, of much greater interest to many, is that comedian Stan Laurel was born here. The Laurel and Hardy Museum has a huge display of memorabilia from the movie stars’ lives and shows their films in a little replica cinema.
Curator William Cooper pointed out some of the most significant items including an original fez from Sons of the Desert (1933) and the shorts Stan wore in Swiss Miss (1938). The recent film, Stan and Ollie has brought many more visitors to this delightful museum.
Ulverston is a quaint hotch-potch of colourful buildings, independent shops with good pubs, cafes and restaurants to satisfy its many visitors.
Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre – Conishead Priory
From Ulverston we drove on to visit Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre, an internationally renowned Buddhist centre on the edge of Morecambe Bay. Manjushri KMC is based in what was known as Conishead Priory, a very impressive Gothic-style building, on the site of an Augustinian Monastery. We had just missed the daily free guided meditation session but had time to look round the tranquil Kadampa Temple for World Peace, with the largest bronze statue of Buddha cast in the western world.
The World Peace Cafe serves excellent vegetarian food. We had soup (butternut squash) and a sandwich (cheese and pickle), served by friendly volunteers in the light and airy Conservatory. The weather was so good, people were eating outside too.
The sinuous A5087 to Barrow passes by some tiny villages, including pretty Bardsea, which are most definitely ‘off-the-beaten’ track. We didn’t have time to get to the Stone Circle on Birkrigg Common, Gleaston Castle or Gleaston Watermill, but I can highly recommend them. Last year I toured this area on two wheels; read about my cycle ride on the Furness Peninsula on an Electric Bike.
The views along the coast road across the Bay are splendid, especially with a sprinkling of snow on the Lancashire hills.
Now run by English Heritage, the ruins of Furness Abbey speak volumes on the venerable history of this part of North West England. Furness Abbey was founded by Stephen, later King of England and dates back to 1123. It was once the second-wealthiest and most powerful Cistercian monastery in the country after Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. It’s just north of Barrow-in-Furness, which we didn’t visit as I will be going there on the last of my Seldom Seen Days Out. There’s plenty of helpful information in the Visitors Centre and an impressive display of objects found on site, including the famous Furness Crozier, a monk’s ring with a large gemstone and a collection of rare stone effigies.
Emergency conservation work is currently being done to stop the ruined Abbey church sinking into the soft ground after serious cracks were found in the walls. Medieval masons used large pieces of oak in the foundations and after 500 years, this timber is now gradually giving way. It’s still a very impressive and evocative sight.
We popped into nearby 4-star Abbey House Hotel, where a wedding couple were just departing after their reception. This Grade II Listed mansion was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1914 as a guest house for Vickers Ltd, based in Barrow. “In its abstracted, military echo of the Tudor style, it prefigures the style of Lutyens’ Castle Drogo.”
Prior to going out on this Pye Motors Day Out, I’d asked Twitter for recommendations of places to visit on the Furness Peninsula. Thanks to John McKeown @vidsmart for suggesting Askam Beach. Set on the shores of the River Duddon, we got a superb view across to the Lake District fells, topped with snow. The estuary is renowned for its wildlife; more controversial is the off-shore windfarm clearly visible in the Bay. Askam village was built to serve the mining of iron ore found nearby. It’s paired with Ireleth which has orgins going back to the Viking occupation of Britain.
My favourite village in the area is Broughton-in-Furness. One of my best friends has lived here for many years and every Boxing Day I stay with her and her husband in their elegant Georgian house on the Square. The Square was set out in 1760 by John Gilpin Sawrey, who lived at Broughton Tower, a large mansion on the edge of the village. An Obelisk was put up to mark the Jubilee of King George III in 1810 and on August 1st every year there’s the Reading of the Charter commemorating an Elizabethan charter to hold fairs. Once an important market town, particularly for the woollen and cattle trades, Broughton still has the fish slabs on which the fish caught in the River Duddon was sold. There are stocks and, much like you find in Greek villages, a huge tree in the middle, . The old Town Hall now houses the Tourist Information Centre.
The village has a thriving community with good pubs, a greengrocer and deli, butcher, cafes and really good bakery. Fiona and I ended our visit at the Broughton Bakery for a cuppa and yummy bakes; a tasty way to finish our jaunt.
Had we had time, we’d have gone to unspoilt Blacksmiths Arms in Broughton Mills, a few miles away. A Grade II listed pub built in 1748, it’s on the Campaign for Real Ale’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. Fiona recommends the Newfield Inn at Seathwaite. Due to our route, we missed out on visiting the pretty village green at Lindale, Dalton-in-Furness, South Lakes Safari Zoo, Millom. A day is just not long enough to explore the many fascinating places on the Furness Peninsula.
More #FollowPye Days out Around Morecambe Bay
The Lancashire Coast: Cockerham to Bolton-le-Sands via Morecambe and Heysham
The Kent Estuary: Carnforth to Sandside via Silverdale and Arnside
The Cartmel Peninsula: Grange-over-Sands to Newby Bridge via Cartmel and Holker
Quirky Travel Read
Looking for a DIFFERENT guide book to the Lakes? ‘111 Places in the Lake District’ by Solange Berchemin has numerous special places, including around the Furness Peninsula, plus quirky tips to help you make the most of your visit.
Family-run Pye Motors has a well-established local car dealership and has been in this area since the 1930s. MD Nick Payne is passionate about this part of the world and it was his idea to do a series of days out around Morecambe Bay using the Seldom Seen Maps. Find out more here about what Pye Motors does in the local community.
My Review of the Ford Fiesta Vignale
Disclaimer: Pye Motors provides me with the all-new Ford Fiesta and I am delighted to be an amabassador for this excellent company. All views are my own.