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West Cumbria
Your guide to the 'wild' side of the English Lake District
Telephone: +44 (0)1539 531 258
Email: travel@beyondtheforest.com
LAST UPDATED
4 / 12 / 2008

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Buttercups at Brotherikeld, Upper Eskdale
West Cumbria is sometimes regarded as the 'wild' side of the Lake District. Here you will find the highest mountain, the deepest lake, the steepest road and a rugged landscape carved by glaciation and erosion from south-westerly winds, and the rain they bring to the high mountains. In some respects the western side is the Lake District's best kep secret, despite it having England's favourite view (Wasdale) - as voted by television viewers. This region certainly requires more perserverence to reach - either by the lengthy A595 coast road from the south, or the long cross-country A66 from the north. Access from the west is restricted to a string of high fell roads, used mainly by those that know them!

The west coast is characterised by a coastline of river estuaries, sand dunes and the rocky, sandstone headland of St. Bees. Behind this is an often narrow coastal strip backed by high mountains and windswept fells. The crystal clear lakes - Wastwater, Ennerdale, Crummock Water and Buttermere are all deep - set in steep-sided, glaciated valleys between high, brooding mountains and screes. As a consequence this region offers some of the most challenging walks in the Lake District and some of the best-loved mountains: Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Pillar and, Wainwright's favourite - Haystacks. A few hill farmers still eke out a living between these bleak, but inspiring fells, raising the hardy herdwick sheep which are an essential part of the landscape. Lower down you find pretty, wooded valleys such as Eskdale or the Vale of Lorton, and fast flowing rivers which are home to salmon, trout, bobbing dippers and grey wagtails. There are market towns such as Cockermouth, birthplace of the poet William Wordsworth, coastal villages such as Ravenglass, Seascale and St. Bees, and larger, coastal towns which developed as ports and around the iron and coal industries - Whitehaven, Workington and Millom.

History has left its mark throughout the region - from Viking and Saxon place names to Roman remains - the bath house and former Roman port at Ravenglass, Hardknott fort overlooking upper Eskdale, and the encampments around Cockermouth. The Normans built the now-ruined castle at Egremont and founded the priory at St Bees, Mary Queen of Scots fled over the Solway to seek refuge at Workington, whilst the well-preserved Georgian harbour town of Whitehaven, once the second largest port in England, saw the last attempt to invade mainland Britain - that of John Paul Jones during the American Civil War. This region is also rich in industrial heritage, and the decline of the traditional industries have provided some outstanding tourist attractions: the popular Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway - once described as the 'Smallest Railway in the World' - which once served iron mines high in teh Eskdale fells and now offers one of the most scenic journeys anywhere in the UK, the Florence Mine - the last working deep iron mine in western Europe, the award-winning Haig Pit coal mining museum at Whitehaven, and the excellent cycleway which follows the trackbed of the erstwhile Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway from Rowrah to the coast. The Cumbrian coast is also the starting point for two well-known long-distance cross country trails, the Coast-to-Coast walk from St Bees to Robin's Hood Bay, and the C2C cycle route which starts at Whitehaven.

West Cumbria is paradise for lovers of natural history, part due to its diversity of habitats, partly due to it's relative isolation. There are RSPB reserves at Hodbarrow and at St Bees Head, nesting site for rare Black Guillemots. Rare flowers such as Bee Orchids bloom in the limestone Clints Quarry, Bog Asphodels colour the floating mire of Hallsenna Moor and natterjack toads are at home in the coastal dunes of Eskmeals reserve. Ennerdale has become a great natural wilderness, a showpiece project where the endless regiments of dark conifers have beem replaced by traditional species, growing freely. However, it is not necessary to restrict your visit to the many excellent nature reserves to observe nature - woodlands are carpeted with bluebells, anemones, wild daffodils and primroses in the spring, hedgerows are filled with birdsong and the myriad colours of countless wild flowers, and dune slacks are ablaze with cranesbills, burnet roses and gorse.

West Cumbria has something for everybody: Museums and exhibitions including the Beacon and the Rum Story in Whitehaven, the Sellafield Experience, the Wool Centre and Jennings Brewery, both in Cockermouth, Lowes Court Gallery at Egremont, and Rosehill Theatre. A special attraction is Muncaster Castle, haunted by Tom Fool, its infamous Jester, and surrounded by spectacular gardens (best known for its extensive rhododendrons) and home yo the World Owl Centre. Like other parts of the Lake District there are festivals throughout the year - country shows at Wasdale, Gosforth and Eskdale, the Whitehaven Maritime Festival, the famous Crab Fair in Egremont which includes World Gurning contest, the World's Biggest Liar contest at Santon Bridge, the Postman Pat event for children on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, hound trails, village carnivals, charity duck races and so on. There are also several renowned restaurants including Zest at Whitehaven, and the Pennington at Ravenglass, village pubs serving real ale. microbreweries such as those at Wasdale Head and at Foxfield, home made ice cream from Hartleys of Egremont, or Buttermere Ayrshires, and even Cumbria's best fish and chips - Crosby's, also in Whitehaven!

We can offer accommodation throughout the region - from the smart Pennington Arms in Ravenglass, and Sella Park at Calderbridge (both part of the Muncaster Estate), to Moresby Hall near Whitehaven, and a selection of quality farmhouse accommodation. We can also put together itineraries for family holidays or special interest packages for small groups - for example nature history trip or industrial heritage. This is a part of the world we really know inside out!
Other regions of Cumbria:

North Cumbria
Eastern Fells of Cumbria
South Lakes with Beyond the Lake - Cumbria Uncovered
Tekephone:
0845 3000 247 (UK)
01539 531 258 (UK)
0044 1539 513258 (Int.)







1 Atkinson Court, Fell Foot, Newby Bridge, Cumbria, United Kingdom LA12 8NW - Tel. +44 (0)1539 531258; Email. travel@beyondtheforest.com

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