The pretty well visited West Cumbrian village of St. Bees 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 which is a bird-watchers Elysium and one of England’s main sea-bird colonies with a abundance of bird life including razor-bills, puffins, guillemots and herring gulls.
Evidence of Mesolithic and Bronze Age habitation has been 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 para-gliding. These are undertaken on St Bees Head and off the large sandy surf beach.
St Bees is 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 footpaths in north England. Devised by Wainwrights, it passes through three contrasting national parks: the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the North York Moore’s 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.
ST BEES PRIORY is in the parish Church of St Bees. There is evidence for a pre-Norman religious site, and 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.
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 market place. The remains of the Norman castle, built in the 12th century, are situated at the southern end of Main Street near the market place. 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 celebrates 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 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 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.