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The definitive tourist guide to the Western Lake District
Whether you enjoy birdwatching, invigorating coastal walks or sampling the finest, freshest local seafood, this beautiful, coastal landscape has something to tempt you.
The Solway Coast in the Western Lake District, not only incorporates some of the most northerly coastline in England, but also some of the best as well. Sparsely populated and filled with marshes, dunes, beaches and wildlife, much of the area is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Along with the natural wonders it also boasts a selection of pretty seaside towns, each with stunning views across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and boasting some of the best sunsets in the country. A trip from near Bowness-on-Solway to Maryport gives you a good chance to explore some of the highlights of the area.
BIRDS AND BEAUTY
In an area of such great natural wealth, Campfield Marsh RSPB reserve still manages to stand out. The patchwork of saltmarsh, peat bog and farmland is a colourful haven for birdlife. Throughout the year visitors can hold up in a hide with their binoculars or wander its trails spying on birds including lapwings, redshank and snipe. Whether it is the chorus of birdsong in the spring or the flocking of thousands of migrating birds in autumn, each season thrums with activity as the cycle of life rolls through the reserve.
A short distance from Bowness-on-Solway (the western extremity of Hadrian's Wall) the reserve also has immense views over the Irish Sea and across the Solway Firth to Dumfries and Galloway. There can be few more picturesque places to begin a tour of the area.
TIP: You don't have to be a keen hiker to enjoy the RSPB reserve. The birdlife can be enjoyed from parking spots on the roadside and the hide is accessible to wheelchairs.
SAND, SEA AND SILLOTH
About a 15 mile drive south from Campfield Marsh is the Victorian holiday town of Silloth. In the 19th Century the town and its brightly coloured buildings became a popular day trip for workers from Carlisle, who took the train west to enjoy its fine sea views and glorious sunsets.
Today the town's charm remains and it is still a magnet for tourists, with a large selection of caravan parks, B&Bs and hotels. Its large park and seafront are great for a bracing wander.
You can find out more about why the Solway Coast has endured as a prime location for visitors at the Discovery Centre in the town. The Discovery Centre tells the story of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, its wildlife, history and people as well as providing a good guide to what else is on offer in the area.
TIP: There are plenty of lunch spots in the town and a highlight is sitting on the seafront and enjoying some of the delicious local fish and chips with the smell of saltwater in your nostrils. No less an artist than the famous JMW Turner was inspired to put brush to canvas by the view from the town, so it is more than a fitting a accompaniment to a cone of chips!
ICE COLD IN ALLONBY
From Silloth you can continue your journey south on the coast road to Allonby. Another historic holiday spot, Allonby and its sandy beach was a popular bathing spot in the 18th century. Allonby also had a complex of hot, cold and vapour baths. The building that housed these can still be seen in the village, along with a selection of other interesting old buildings.
The Ship Inn, an old coaching inn, is good for a pub meal or a drink and counts Victorian authors Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins among its famous former guests.
A slightly sweeter treat can be found by observing the local tradition of buying one of the famous homemade ice creams from Twentymans on the village's Main Street.
TIP: If you want to delve further into the history of the area around Allonby then a little further south you will find the Roman Milefortlet 21, which was part of the ancient empire's defence system in the area and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
UNDERWATER IN MARYPORT
The last stop on the tour is Maryport, where the town's aquarium reveals how the Solway Coast provides a home for the area's fish species. A wide variety of environments are home to an enormous amount of life along the coastline and all these habitats and more are on show at the aquarium. A series of displays reveal how fish live in environments including rock pools, crashing waves, a harbour wall and a tropical reef. There is the chance to handle starfish and get up close and personal with rays, the winged fish of the sea.
Outside of the sub aqua attractions, there are plenty of other things to do too. The aquarium has an exciting adventure playground for kids, as well as a mini-golf course and pool for remote controlled powerboats.
FIND OUT MORE…
Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: www.solwaycoastaonb.org.uk
Campfield Marsh RSPB Reserve: www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/c/campfieldmarsh
Lake District Coast Aquarium: www.coastaquarium.co.uk
The mighty Irish Sea has been shaping the landscape and culture of the Western Lake District for many years. This discovery day introduces you to some of the fascinating maritime history of Whitehaven and Maryport and offers a guide to these historic harbour towns.
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A mosaic of saltmarsh, peatbogs, farmland and wet grassland provide homes for a great variety of native wildlife. Trails lead to a wheelchair accessible hide to see where lapwings and redshanks breed in the summer and thousands of swans, ducks and geese spend the winter.
The Western Lake District is a dramatic and historic landscape.. This day-trip takes you from the coastal towns to the high fells and introduces you to some of the fascinating industrial heritage that has shaped the culture and character of the area.
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Take a journey back through time to an era when the ruthless Romans ruled! This one day itinerary, from Maryport to Eskdale, gives you a fascinating insight into the globally significant Roman history still evident in the Western Lake District landscape today.
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