Driving Around Copeland

A Coastline arguably the most picturesque in the North West

Driving Around Copeland

Home Driving Around Copeland

If you are wanting to take a Car Journey around Copeland the main route is the A595 from Duddon Bridge to Distington which, without stopping, takes around 1 hour.

However we advise breaking your journey and visiting some of the many lovely villages you will pass as you travel to enhance your stay. We can help plan your adventure by advising on places not to be missed and all the different activities there are to offer along the way.

From Duddon Bridge the winding roads take you through some of the countries most wonderful and dramatic landscapes.

After continuing for around a mile, and whilst still on the A595, a small turning to the right takes you to Broad Gate, this narrow road takes you up the fell side to Swinside Stone Circle.

This is a famous monument in a dramatic location, surrounded by mountains. The main circle has 38 large stones, some standing 3 metres (10 feet) high. The entrance seems to line up with the midwinter sunset. It’s one of Britain’s earliest stone circles, about 5,000 years old, and has been officially protected since 1883. However it gets so many visitors that conservation is an ever present concern and the site is now managed by both the National Trust and English Heritage.

Coming back down and returning onto the main A595, the first town to visit is Millom.

Millom, is signposted from the A595 and will take you on to the A5093. There is much to see and do in this small town, including the Discovery Center on the Railway Station.

This great museum will take you through the history which began with Hodbarrow, which back in 1855 was a quiet stretch of beach with a disused windmill, a couple of lime kilns and a farm. At this time the town of Millom did not even exist. Millom was only the name of a district between the rivers Duddon & Esk, where the lords of Millom at Millom Castle, held jura regalia (the right to execute without trial) and not even the sheriff of Cumberland could enter the Castle without their say. At this time the area had a population of less than 100 inhabitants. However, the same area by 1891 had a population of over 10,500, due in 1855 to the discovery of hematite iron ore. Eventually, over the years, Hodbarrow took the shape we see today.

The main features left in the area for modern eyes to see today are two lighthouses. One being of stone, which was built in 1866 and was paraffin fueled and the other built of steel in 1905 to replace the earlier one and was run by electric.

The two sea walls are unmistakable, the Old Sea Wall of concrete was completed in 1890 and stands 50 feet from top to bottom. The Old Sea Wall only stood for ten years before subsidence took its center section, but it still remains an impressive Victorian industrial edifice to this day. The Old Sea Wall was replaced with the Outer Barrier, at over a mile long and completed in 1905, it was built to subside with the land, which it has done for over a century, and apart from the fact that the seaward blocks are now out of their symmetrical alignment, you would never notice. The Outer Barrier reclaimed over 200 acres of beach and tidal estuary.

At its peak Hodbarrow Mines employed over 1000 people, had 40 miles of railway and tram lines and many pit heads and their associated buildings, including Cornish pump houses. Sadly, all was demolished or ripped up in 1968-9, but one can still see where some of these things were if you look carefully.

Although Hodbarrow Mines have been closed over 50 years the area has a wonderful nature reserve. This coastal lagoon and grasslands, located on the site of a former iron mine, support breeding terns, ringed plovers, redshanks and oystercatchers. You’ll also find great crested grebes nesting on the island here. This magnificent bird was almost hunted to extinction in the UK and is now a protected species.

Or why not have a walk though the nature reserve at Hodbarrow and visit the two lovely unspoilt, sandy beaches there!

Millom itself also has many lovely, restaurants, cafes and shops to peruse. The main jewel in Millom is its friendly people, who are always eager for a chat and will gladly tell you all about its history and where to visit.

Moving on …………follow the signs to the next village of Haverigg.

Haverigg is a small, pretty seaside village with a population of around 1850. Being unspoilt and boasting Cumbria‛s only Water Sport Lake it is surrounded by beaches and breathtaking beauty. There are two caravan parks and a camping ground as well as many holiday cottages and bed and breakfast facilities. Within one of the parks, Port Marina Holiday Village, is Cumbria‛s only WakePark, the only venue to offer boat sports without a speed restriction! Try your hand at Cable/ Wakeboarding; Water-skiing; Knee boarding; Stand up Paddle Boarding; Banana rides and Boat Rides! When you have finished all that grab a drink a bite to eat at the onsite Ski Bar, providing great food and entertainment.

Within the village you will find shops, a post office, chip shop and several pubs. On the front are car parking facilities, public conveniences, a children’s adventure park and a traditional Beach Cafe offering delicious home cooking at a very reasonable price. Along from here is Haveriggs own Inshore Rescue. Look out for the sculpture ‘Escape to Light‛ which was installed on the coastal walk and dedicated to all Inshore Rescue Teams within the UK.

Moving on again, the road takes us from the village of Haverigg on to Kirksanton, which is a tiny hamlet on the A5093 to the North of Millom.

With its name deriving from the Gaelic Irish Saint ‘Santán‛ (sometimes “Sanctán”) Kirkstanton has one of the oldest Archaeological sites in the area. The ‘Giant‛s Grave‛, thought to be of Bronze Age origin and standing in the shadow of the ominous and looming Black Combe, stands from 3 metres in height and 4.5 metres apart. These Lacra stone circles are thought to be part of a burial ground and have evidence of prehistoric rock art.

Within the village visitors will also find some of the areas most well reviewed bed and breakfast accommodation (including one with facilities for the disabled) and the renowned “King Billy‛s”(King William IV Pub) – famous for its legendary steaks and ribs.

Taking to the road again, If you are looking for peace and relaxation then welcome to the coastal village of Silecroft.

A few miles to the North of Millom on the A5093 it sits along the glorious Whicham Valley with a backdrop of dramatic scenery encompassing the lake district fells and the magnificent Black Combe.

Overlooking a superb beach and stunning coastal waters, this little village offers accommodation, village pub The Miners Arms, a great coastal caravan park, bed and breakfast hotel and guest houses within a few miles.

Along the A595 one can also begin the ascent of Black Combe, the magnificent hill that dominates this coast and the surrounding areas and which was a subject of a chapter of Wainwrights book ‘The Outlying Fells of Lakeland’. “ the amplest range of unobstructed prospect may be seen that British ground commands” said Wordsworth about Black Combe. This more challenging route begins at Beckside Farm, just off the A595 at Beckside and follows Whitecombe Beck before ascending the Horse Back ridge. This ridge separates Black Combe and White Combe on the eastern side of the fell and gives spectacular views into both combes and out to the surrounding areas and the Irish Sea.

Back on the A595 Traveling north for around 15 minutes, we reach Bootle.

Bootle is recorded in the Domesday Book and was granted a market charter in 1347, it is said to be the smallest market town in England. The Byre café on the road site of Bootle is very popular with locals and tourists and has a lovely country kitchen feel to it. Their large selection of delicious deserts are locally desired, try their sumptuous afternoon tea that won’t disappoint.

Back on the A595, we drive the short journey to the hamlet of Waberthwaite,

Waberthwaite is a small rural former civil parish (about 4 square miles in area) on the south bank of the estuary of the River Esk, Since 1934 it has been part of the combined parish of Waberthwaite and Corney, which covers 10 square miles and has a population of 246 (2011 census). It is located opposite Muncaster Castle and the village of Ravenglass which lie on the north bank of the Esk. It is well known for its Cumberland sausages, and lists among its other assets a granite quarry that is a Site of Special Scientific Interest . Richard Woodhall of Wabethwaite was founded in 1828 and was one of the oldest family run businesses in the country. The family have been producing pork products for eight generations. The Company supplied the royal household with a large range of hams, bacon and sausages as well as to a huge number of national retailers including, Harrods, Selfridges. The shop is still open till this day but on a smaller scale.

Our next stop on the A595 takes us to Muncaster and the wonderful Muncaster Castle.
Muncaster Castle is owned by the Pennington family, who have lived at Muncaster for at least 800 years, and have used this as a family residence. Until her death in 2011, Phyllida Gordon-Duff-Pennington worked for three decades to restore the castle from a “crumbling relic” to establish it as a place for tourism and events. It now has more than 90,000 visitors a year. The Castle has so much to do, a full day is needed to see it all. The Historic haunted castle, Himalayan Gardens, bluebell woods, Hawk & Owl Centre (an exhilarating flying display of bird of prey experience), Enchanted Trail, Meadow vole Maze and adventure playgrounds, cafes, gift-shops and accommodation.

As we carry on our journey along the A595 we drop down to the village of Ravenglass,
Ravenglass is a lovely coastal village within the Lake District National Park. Where three rivers:- The Esk, The Mite and The Irt meet and flow down to the Irish sea creating an estuary past Ravenglass, which was once an important naval base for the romans in the 2nd century. Iron Ore, Granite and copper ore were brought to the estuary by a narrow gauge railway from mines near Boot, about 8 miles away. This line has been preserved and is now called The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, a very popular tourist attraction for both locals and visitors. There is also a lovely childrens park on the beach and many small cafes, restaurants and B&Bs within this area.

Travelling north along the A595 is Holmrook.

This is a small village along the west banks of the river Irt and has the only Petrol Station between Millom and Egremont!

Within the village is Holmrook Hall, once a large country house owned by a relative of Lewis Carroll and where the Author came to stay occasionally. Santon Bridge is a small hamlet just outside Holmrook but host to many lovely eateries and public houses. There is a lovely cafe nestled in a delightful woodland setting, here you will be able to sample tasty homemade hot meals, snacks, cakes and pastries. Next door to this is the Santon Gift Shop, on site since 1954 and selling quality leather and sheepskin goods. In addition to these goods one can buy charming gifts, children’s toys, outdoor clothing and ceramics to name but a few!

One of the pubs within Santon Bridge, The Bridge Inn, is actually the venue for the annual ‘Worlds Biggest Liar Competition’ where competitors from all around the world have 5 minutes to tell the biggest and most convincing lie they can! Politicians and Lawyers cannot enter as they are deemed to be ‘too skillful at telling porkies’.

Whilst in this area, another place to visit are the golden sand dunes of Drigg.

Drigg has a lovely inviting cafe and beautiful bespoke craft shop. You can also hop onto a steam train and travel around the Esk Valley on the Ravenglass to Eskdale Steam Railway, taking in the stunning scenery as you do so.

The beach itself at Drigg is a superb stretch of sand that appears almost endless at low tide. You can walk for miles south and northwards, all the way to St Bees Head if you wish, although Sellafield will be far enough for most.

Heading back on the A595, head towards Gosforth on your right. This quaint village contains a unique collection of Norse artefacts in and around St Mary’s Church. This includes the Gosforth Cross, which is the tallest and oldest Viking cross in England. Gosforth has some great pubs and restaurants which all have a lovely friendly feel.

Not far from Gosforth along the winding roads are Nether Wasdale and Wasdale Head which boast some of the most dramatic views in the Lake District. Wasdale has the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike and deepest lake, Wastwater. Neither of these are to be missed.

If you decide to go left at the Gosforth turnoff you will arrive at the lovey seaside town of Seascale.

In Victorian times it was a busy seaside resort. It still has a beach and walks that lead into the nearby countryside. The sea front has a jetty and a fort, complete with cannon and fully rigged mast.

The village retains much of its Victorian charm, including the Water Tower, a listed building used, before Seascale had a proper water supply, to pump water to ‘The Banks’, from a large water tank on the hill where the golf course now stands. The former Goods Shed is now the Sports Hall.

To mark the millennium, the former wooden jetty was reinstated. It is a focal point for fishing, beach casting, windsurfing and water-skiing, and provides a starting point for many of the village walks. About half a mile north of the town, on private land belonging to Seascale How Farm, is the relatively unknown Grey Croft Stone Circle.

Travelling back along the A595 we arrive at Calder Bridge. which is a hamlet located between the villages of Gosforth and Beckermet. It is around 1 mile northeast from the Sellafield nuclear plant—Calder Hall Nuclear Power Station was the world’s first major nuclear power station when it opened in 1956.

The next town on the A595 is Egremont. Egremont is a market town and civil parish, 5 miles south of Whitehaven and on the River Ehen. Historically in Cumberland, the town, which lies at the foot of Uldale Valley and Dent Fell, has a long industrial heritage including dyeing, weaving and iron ore mining. It had a population of 8000. The town’s layout today is much the same as at the time of Richard de Lucy around 1200 with its wide Main Street opening out into the marketplace. The remains of the Norman castle, built in the 12th century, are situated at the southern end of Main Street near to the marketplace. Egremont was granted a charter for a market and annual fair by King Henry III in 1266.

Egremont is well known for its annual Crab Fair, a quirky event that blends traditional events with modern attractions. Held every September it is the oldest fair in the world and celebrated its 750th anniversary in 2017. Check out the World Gurning Championships which brings visitors from all over the world.

It has an active public and community arts programme, called Creative Egremont. The town is home to the Florence Arts Centre, based at the nearby Florence Mine (now disused), which has a programme of live events – gigs, theatre and stand-up comedy and also an art gallery. There is a studio on-site for the Florence Paint makers, a co-operative of artists who use the local iron ore pigment to make oil and watercolour paints, pastels and other art materials.

Another Great place to visit, whilst in this area is St Bees.

This pretty and well visited West Cumbrian village is found 4 miles south of Whitehaven with a population of around 1800.

Several interesting old houses feature amongst those which line the long main street descending to sea level and a coastline deservedly designated a Heritage Area.
St. Bees Head, a major sea cliff falling to a lovely long golden beach, is a bird-watchers paradise and home to one of England’s main seabird colonies. Here there is an abundance of bird life including razor-bills, puffins, guillemots and herring gulls.

There has also been evidence of Mesolithic and Bronze Age habitation found in St Bees.
Coast-based recreational activities at St Bees are: windsurfing, kite-surfing, rock climbing, bouldering, swimming, jet-skiing, water-skiing, canoeing and paragliding. These are undertaken on St Bees Head and off the large sandy surf beach.
St Bees is also the start of the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk, which was devised by Alfred Wainwright in 1973. It is a 192 mile (309 km) unofficial and mostly un-signposted, long footpath walk across the north of England. It passes through three contrasting national parks: the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

Wainwright recommended that walkers dip their booted feet in the Irish Sea at St Bees and, at the end of the walk, in the North Sea at Robin Hood’s Bay. At St Bees the start is marked by the “Wainwright Wall” which explains the walk and its history. A new interpretation board and the steel banner were installed in summer 2013 by St Bees Parish Council and the Wainwright Society.

Within St Bees, the parish Church has evidence of a pre-Norman religious site. On this a Benedictine priory was founded by the first Norman lord of Egremont, William Meschin, and was dedicated by Archbishop Thurstan of York, sometime between 1120 and 1135.

As we come back on the A595 we keep travelling north through Bigrigg.

Bigrigg, or Biggrigg Moor, watered by the River Ehen, was, at one time, surrounded by forest. Deep hollows in the area attest to iron ore mining as far back as medieval times. Bigrigg’s calcite deposits were considered to be of the highest quality. By 1829, there were three different companies mining eight pits in the area. Iron ore mining continued to expand from this time. Further encouragement for mining resulted when the railway was constructed from Whitehaven to Cleator Moor in the late 1850’s. In 1924 a mine disaster at the Croft Pit Bigrigg trapped 10 men for 28 hours before they were rescued. The mines were all closed by 1932 .Currently there is a petrol station and one pub that services the 1200 local people.

Not far from Bigrigg taking the right turn off the A595 are the villages of Cleator and Cleator Moor. The town’s skyline is dominated by Dent Fell and the town is located on the 190 miles (310 km) Coast to Coast Walk that spans Northern England. As a settlement of note, it was substantially populated by immigrants from the North Eastern counties of Ireland in the latter half of the nineteenth century, leading to the colloquial title of Little Ireland. In Cleator Moor Market Square there are three sculptures by local artist Conrad Atkinson who was born in Cleator Moor. The three sculptures are a memorial to the once thriving mining industry, the sculptures represent the miner, the phoenix and the hand.
Not far from the market square is the old railway line which ran from Whitehaven to Ennerdale. and was built in the 1850’s to carry the coal and iron ore from the local mines and quarries. This has now been tarmacked and is a great cycleway and footpath. This path also forms part of the West Cumbria cycle network, and is also a section of the Sustrans C2C Cycle route from Whitehaven to Sunderland. The route follows the old railway line from Whitehaven, Cleator, Egremont, Rowrah, and Kelton Fell,

Back on the A595 we are now travelling to Whitehaven. Whitehaven the largest town in Copeland, it lies between Cumbria’s two largest settlements, Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness. It is the administrative seat of Borough of Copeland district council and has a town council for the parish of Whitehaven. The population of the town was 23,986 at the 2011 Census.

The town’s modern prosperity was largely due to the exploitation of the extensive coal measures, and a busy trade in coal and tobacco through the harbour from the 17th century onwards. It was, after London, the second busiest port of England for tonnage from 1750 to 1772.

Located on the west coast of the county, near to the Lake District National Park, Whitehaven includes a number of former villages, estates and suburbs, such as Mirehouse, Woodhouse, Kells and Hensingham, and is served by the Cumbrian Coast line and the A595.

Whitehaven has over 250, mostly Georgian, Listed Buildings, many tastefully restored, including St James’ Church, once described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘the finest Georgian church interior in the county’.

Whitehaven is the starting point of the popular 140 mile long C2C Cycle Route. The cycle route travels along the Whitehaven to Ennerdale Cycle path, through the scenic delights of the Lake District and on over the roof of England to the remote North Pennines before reaching the north east coast.

One of the main focal points in Whitehaven is the Harbour. Originally a stone jetty built in 1643, now known as the Old Quay, it is one of the oldest remaining coal wharves in Britain. The Sugar Tongue Quay (used for unloading sugar from the West Indies) was added in 1809. The Lime Tongue was added in 1754 and as trade continued to expand additional quays were built culminating in the construction of the North Pier in 1833 – 41 and the West Pier in 1824 – 38. The final phase, the Queens Dock was built between 1872 and 1876. At the end of the harbour you will find The Beacon, where you can learn all about the harbour and shipbuilding in the area, in an interactive experience for all the family. Also look out for the North Pier Lighthouse along the harbour front.
Whitehaven has a revamped market and a range of high-street stores, eateries, pubs bars and nightclubs.

Coming out of Whitehaven along the A595 our next village is Parton.

Parton, overlooking the Solway Firth, was once a busy port and mining area. Today there is a railway station on the Cumbrian Coastal Line and a large, mainly pebble, beach. Although at low tide a large area of sand is exposed.

Our last road destination is Distington. Distington has a population of around 2,400, there are remains of Hayes Castle to the south of the village. This castle is classed as a Scheduled Monument and was thought to originally be a medieval manorial complex founded by the De Multon family in 1322.

Points of interest and places to visit around Distington are Watch Hill, Branthwaite Hall, and Stanley Pond. Branthwaite Hall, said to be ‘one of the best preserved early houses in Cumbria’ is a late 14th Century stone four storey pele tower with an attached hall range. It was founded by the Branthwaite family and is of a single build, with the central hall, flanked by a pele tower and a crosswing. Built of rubble, with battlements and pitched roof, both the basement chambers of the tower are vaulted. The spiral stair in the south-east corner, terminates in a saddle-backed turret which risers above the crenellations. There are 17th and 18th century additions to the hall, which was restored by the National Coal Board, in 1985

We hope this simple guide has been of some use to those travelling along the A595 and whether you stop at all the places mentioned or find areas to stop of interest to yourselves we know that you will fall in love with the Western side of the Lake District – miles of unspoilt and uncommercialised beauty and history which truly prove that Copeland is indeed the Undiscovered Jewel.

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Jenny Brumby
Duddon Villa
Borwick Rails, Millom
Cumbria, LA18 4JU
Tel: 07793 613 557
Email: jennybrumby@btinternet.com