10 of the best kept hidden secrets of the North West coast
- Credit: Dave Willis
Join us on a whistlestop of the Lancashire coastal locations that have become our firm favourites for days out. Roger Borrell reports
The Lancashire coastline from the Mersey up to the old border with Cumberland has some extraordinary twists and turns. At its heart lies Morecambe Bay, more than 300 square kilometres of mudflats and sand – the biggest expanse of its type in the United Kingdom.
As locals, we tend to stick to the tried and tested places for our leisure time. But at Lancashire Life we like to get out and about and part of our role is to show you some of the hidden corners that might just become new favourites on your list of places for days out.
This isn’t meant to be a comprehesive list – just ten of the places we have enjoyed over the last few years and would like to share with you. Happy exploring!
A hidden corner where old Lancashire meets old Cumberland. Millom poet Norman Nicholson evoked the character of the estuary and its margins in his work ‘On Duddon Marsh’.
This large sandy estuary is north west of Barrow. There are 45 kilometres of shoreline with Special Scientific Interest status and it remains an internationally famous habitat for wildlife. There is some spectacular scenery and great walks in the Duddon Valley and when you need a rest there is the pretty market town of Broughton-in-Furness nearby. Don’t miss its brilliant bakery.
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It is thought to have been a much bigger community many years ago until tidal waves washed away many of the early cottages. There’s an ancient church where St Cuthbert’s body was taken on his grand tour and one of the main landmarks is Aldingham Hall, built in the 1840s by the rector and left to his manservant, who upset the locals so much he fled to Australia. Take a walk on the beach up to Baycliff, where there are two inns serving food.
Humphrey Head Point
Wainwright describes a walk from Kents Bank Station, south west of Grange over Sands, to Humphrey Head which is a limestone outcrop between Allithwaite and Flookburgh. It has great views over Morecambe Bay. Most of it is a nature reserve – ironic as this is said to be the place where England’s last wolf was killed by Royal command in the 14th century.
There used to be house with a spring below the head and pitmen from County Durham would walk here to take the therapeutic waters. Today you can buy shrimps in Flookburgh or take the waters of a different kind in the award-winning Hazelmere tearooms in nearby Grange.
Jenny Brown’s Point
Jenny Brown is said to have been a wealthy farmer’s daughter who died of a broken heart waiting for her soldier sweetheart to return from the Napoleonic Wars.
It’s a sad story but this outstanding piece of coastline is an uplifting place to walk on a sunny day. It is close to the Lancashire village of Silverdale and a tall chimney of limestone on the shoreline is a reminder of the copper smelting industry established here at the end of the 18th century. You can find a local walk here and aftewards, there are refreshments available at the Wolfhouse gallery and cafe.
In Victorian times, Bolton-le-Sands had a home for ‘delicate and convalescent girls’ set up by the Waifs and Strays Society. Today, there are few waifs in this pretty community wedged between the Lancaster Canal and Morecambe Bay, but if you stray towards the shoreline there are some interesting walks.
One takes you in a circular route from the canal to the shore where you’ll find the wonderfully named Wild Duck Hall. At Hest Bank there’s a café on the beach.
There is a lot more to Heysham than the nuclear power station. It is a charming seaside village, on the edge of Morecambe Bay and just a few miles from Lancaster and Morecambe. There are many quaint 17th century cottages and its stunning floral displays have twice won it Britain in Bloom’s Gold Small Village.
Turner liked Heysham so much that he painted it back in the 1790s but its history goes back much further – to the Stone Age. It now has its own Viking Festival in celebration of the many ancient sites dotted around the area. These include the Barrows, an area of cliffs where many tools and pottery artefacts have been found, suggesting it was once an ancient burial ground. Don’t miss Heysham Heritage Centre, housed in a beautiful 17th century farmhouse, and the Grade I listed St Peter’s Church.
This is a fascinating corner of Lancashire. A large dock is connected by lock gates to an even bigger marina and this is linked into a spur of the Lancaster Canal. It was built in the 1820s and provided a valuable outlet to the sea.
There was ship repairing until the 1960s and the docks are still active. However, leisure is now the main pursuit, especially walking. There are a few pubs and the Lantern O’er Lune café serves high quality food. The Lancaster Smokehouse is well worth a visit.
Another historic Lancashire location, Sunderland Point is said to have been where the first bale of US cotton was landed in the 18th century. The village, with just 30 or so houses, is linked to the land by a tidal causeway, which means it is cut off at high tide.
It is popular with ramblers, bird watchers, photographers and artists and is a fascinating place to roam along the salt marshes and mud flats but make sure you check the tides. The star attraction is the unconsecrated grave of a black servant who found himself living at Sunderland Point. There is a touching inscription from 1796 that a life will be judged ‘not on a man’s colour but the worth of his heart’.
This is certainly a place to blow away the cobwebs. Pilling is a little community on the northern tip of the Fylde, not far from Knott End. The village has several attractive, traditional Lancashire cottages and the main landmark is the restored Pilling Windmill, which was built in 1808.
Many come here to walk to the coast along the wonderfully named Fluke Hall Lane. When refreshments are needed there’s the Golden Ball pub and Pilling Pottery, which has a studio and café. Both get good reviews.
Walney Island is a small sliver of land in the Irish Sea acting as a defensive barrier across the tip of the Furness Peninsula, providing protection for the shipbuilding town of Barrow-in-Furness and the surrounding area. It measures just 11 miles and is under a mile wide, making it the eighth largest island off the English coast of England.
Walney Island is connected to the mainland by the Jubilee Bridge and has two recognised nature reserves, North Walney and South Walney, both run by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust.
The South Walney Reserve is probably most famous for having the largest mixed ground-nesting of herring and lesser black-back gulls in Europe. North Walney has been populated by man from prehistoric times due to a number of archaeological finds. It is now home to around a quarter of the country’s natterjack toad population.