The air smells of seaweed and woodsmoke as I step on to the platform at Ravenglass. The salt marsh nearby has galaxies of faded red thrift flowers, the River Esk glitters in the nighttime light, and a waterside path heads off closer to distant fells. As partial to strolling, Wordsworth and sticky toffee pudding, I’ve had many memorable holidays inside the Lake District over the decades. But, like most of the alternative 16 million site visitors a yr, I’ve not often visited the Cumbrian coast.
I’d arrived in Lancaster a hundred and fifty mins after leaving London – much less than half what it would take me to force – and switched to the railway that meanders past Barrow-in-Furness and thru the countrywide park. The kaleidoscope of landscape and changeable weather out of doors turned into engrossing: inexperienced crags rose out of foggy marshland, ribbed sand shone gold and Black Combe loomed thru hurricane clouds over Silecroft. There had been manmade landmarks too, inclusive of the lighthouse-fashioned monument above Ulverston or the pink sandstone partitions of Furness Abbey.
I’m staying at the Pennington Hotel, just steps from the Esk estuary and 3 minutes from Ravenglass station. Heading back there from my evening walk, I pass a ruined Roman bathhouse, half of a mile from the village, a relic of a second-century citadel.
It’s a part of a huge Unesco international history web site that consists of Hadrian’s Wall: Frontiers of the Roman Empire. In 2017, Unesco delivered the Lake District to its listing, so Ravenglass is one among only a few locations to have double international heritage status.
After grilled Manx kipper the following morning, I take the train 5 minutes to Drigg station request prevent, to explore a big region of dunes on the brink of the national park. Walking to the ocean, I skip the fence of a low-stage radioactive waste facility – a reminder that Sellafield, the elephant on the coast, is just 5 miles north. Site of the world’s first commercial nuclear strength station and now a decommissioning plant, its chimneys are intermittently visible. Local wildlife appears to be thriving though; there are Orange-breasted stonechats on the fences and sand martins looping overhead.
A thousand acres of dunes near Drigg are full of flora and birdsong. The white burnet roses have a specific unearthly splendour – like the simbelmynë plants that develop at the grassy tombs of Rohan in Lord of the Rings. I follow a sandy route thru the marram grass and stroll alongside the seaside to Seascale beside a peaceful, cloud-echoing sea. Birds are the handiest different creatures I see for three miles alongside holiday-brochure sands on a sunny summer season half-term morning.
Waiting for a train returned from Seascale, I can see the Isle of Man – a ghostly form across the sun-hazed sea. “Ah, Mona’s Isle, the vanishing isle,” says one in every one of my fellow passengers before lapsing lower back into telling me how terrible the trains are. (The advent of closing summer’s timetable prompted cancellations, although it did also suggest new Sunday trains.)
You can’t live in Ravenglass and no longer trip on La’al Ratty, because the nearby narrow-gauge steam railway is nicknamed. Sitting in miniature open-air carriages, as sooty vapour drifts through the alrightleaves overhead, we bypass through surroundings that feels extra CGI than real. Twisted trunks writhe out of the mossy woods, and the slopes of Muncaster Fell are cloaked in violet rhododendrons.
At the stop of the little railway is the village of Boot, at the foot of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike. From Boot, you could hike over tarn-crowned moorland or stride via misty woods. I opt for an hour’s amble to the Dalegarth Falls, a sequence of ferny, fairytale cascades, and a 10-minute walk down country lanes close to the station, past two pubs, to quite Eskdale Mill. The mill, reopening this month after formidable renovations, is a part of the region’s numerous records. “We’ve were given the entirety right here, from Neolithic to nuclear,” says Les Coan, an enthusiastic volunteer.
The feel of stepping into a film-scape increases with an afternoon go to to Muncaster Castle (grownup £15, toddler £7.50), a nice mile from Ravenglass, where the once a year Festival of Fools has just completed. I climb thru sunlit woodland into unfeasibly flowery gardens with perspectives over the estuary to the Irish Sea. Tunnels of cream and purple blossom cause the castle, wealthy in art, carved wood, tapestries and gossipy family anecdotes.
A Muncaster price tag includes the on-site Hawk and Owl centre’s presentations; the birds sweep and plunge above a wildflower meadow at speeds of up to 70mph. Senior falconer Emma McLachlan seems to bop with a massive falcon, in a choreographed sample of glides and dives with a stirring musical soundtrack. She describes the chook to us as “like a actual-existence dragon”.
At teatime, tall grey herons start to acquire inside the bushes. Peter Frost-Pennington is director of Muncaster Castle, which is his spouse’s ancestral domestic. Over coffee and lemon drizzle cake, he enthuses about the region’s flora and fauna. Almost each kind of English habitat is represented within an 8-mile radius so “the whole lot from a beetle to an eagle can live here”, he tells me; “it’s the Lake District on steroids.”
I head domestic on the coastal railway subsequent day, through Carlisle this time. The dunes have vanished into veiling rain so I determine to stop off at two museums in Whitehaven, a put up-business metropolis with Georgian structure, 1/2 an hour north of Ravenglass. The Rum Story (grownup £9.95, infant £4.95), winding thru a sequence of unique cellars and warehouses, explores each grim and cheerful components of the “darkish spirit of Whitehaven”. Besides a harrowing slave ship diorama, there are squawking rainforests, Chicago jazz, and the price tag comes with a free tipple.
The waterside Beacon Museum (person £6.50, baby £three.25) has a floor committed to Sellafield and any other tracing the area’s past through Vikings and Victorian buying and selling ships. History is inseparable from the sea in this stretch of coast and, from the Beacon’s top-ground gallery, there’s a view throughout harbour walls and lighthouse to a wild, wind-whitened sea.