There’s nothing quite like the arrival of a cool, crisp Cumbrian winter; and after a challenging 2020, what better way to blow-off the cobwebs and get refreshed than by paying a visit to The Lake District Coast to embrace the cosiest season of the year? For those in need of a winter detox or a positive start to 2021, why not consider a getaway to the peaceful, further-flung western side of Cumbria, where the sparking sea meets our stunning snow-capped peaks?
From taking part in activities sure to get the heart racing, or indulging in more simple pleasures like curling-up and hibernating in an ultimate state of relaxation at one of our many accommodation providers, you can truly get away from it all this winter, right here on the Lake District Coast. Use this winter to come and discover somewhere new – or rediscover those places you may not have been to for a while… Here’s some inspiration to get you started:
Part of the fun of winter is pulling on your best warm gloves, heading outside and becoming at-one with nature. The RSPB’s Hodbarrow reserve definitely ticks that box thanks to its coastal lagoon and grasslands. Supporting countless families of breeding Terns, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and Oystercatchers, you can also find Great Crested Grebes nesting here – a protected species here in the UK after almost being hunted to extinction. The wider Duddon Estuary is also home to many species of bird. Be quiet and vigilant and you’ll see everything from seabirds to common garden birds like the festive favourite, the good old Robin.
Black Combe’s 2,000 foot high summit rewards walkers with spectacular panoramic views across Cumbria and as far as the Isle of Man, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. To reach it, just follow the footpath from the southern end of Whicham Valley – just remember a winter’s walk means the daylight hours are limited, so be sure to plan ahead!
If the cold is starting to bite a little too hard, head towards the Millom Discovery Centre, which you can find inside the Victorian station building. This informative local history museum sheds light on Millom’s mining heritage and fascinating indoor ‘street’ layout. Further immersion can be enjoyed thanks to open ‘front doors’ which allow access to typical Victorian rooms and individual historic displays. Be sure to check whether it’s open fist, by clicking here.
Millom also offers another escape from the chilly weather thanks to its very own playhouse – The Beggar’s Theatre. Due to Covid-19, all customers are politely reminded they need to book in advance, with seats allocated and pre-booked drinks waiting at your bubble’s table.
For some quaint seasonal shopping (or even any last minute Christmas gifts or new year bargains!), take a look at what Bootle has to offer. As the smallest market town in England, a salt of the earth shopping experience awaits you, amid the plentiful array of market stalls offering some hearty Cumbrian produce. While here, pop-in to the Norman Church of St Michael to gaze up at its stunning stained glass windows.
What better way to experience the Western Lake District than by steam railway? Climb aboard England’s longest narrow gauge heritage attraction, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, and marvel at Cumbria’s winter wonderland all the way from the coast to the foot of the western fells of the Scafell range. With this 14 mile return journey taking around 90 minutes from start to finish, it’s a great day out during all four seasons with both open top and closed carriages are available, offering both comfort and spectacular views. It even has its very own museum!
Back in the coastal village of Ravenglass, the famous and imposing Muncaster Castle is always a winter’s treat. Decked out with seasonal decorations, it has been the home of the same family for more than 800 years and even houses a magnificent Hawk & Owl Centre, where falcons, owls, hawks, eagles, herons & vultures fly daily.
The brilliant Eskdale Mill is the last remaining working water-powered corn mill in the Lake District National Park. This traditional watermill and drying kiln sits in Boot village alongside the fast-flowing Whillan Beck, which flows down from moorland on Scafell. Recently re-opened, it’s an essential part of any Western Lake District itinerary and a welcome shelter-spot from the wintery weather.
St Bees Head:
Back on the coastline, St Bees Head is a breath-taking sight in the winter, as wild weather and crashing waves add to the rugged feel of this stunning stretch of coastline. With towering red sandstone cliffs above and a tide-permitting sandy beach below, this forms part of England’s only Heritage Coast between Scotland and Wales. Winter also offers a more peaceful chance to enjoy the cliffs, as despite it being the home of the largest sea bird colonies in the North West, most vacate their clifftop home during the autumn and winter, only to return in the spring and summer.
When you feel the need to warm-up, to the east of St Bees at Cleator Moor, you’ll find the Parkside Hotel which offers shelter, rooms for the night, with excellent food, good beers, real ale and a selection of wines. Alternatively, Summergrove Halls makes it easy to get away from the hustle and bustle to a part of England with fantastic scenery and easy access to the Western Lakes and the Cumbrian coast.
For a prime coastal spot, Seacote Hotel and Holiday Parks is the perfect location, where you can choose between staying in the hotel or enjoying a self-catering break in a luxury holiday caravan. A little further south, grab a snack or enjoy a meal at the Stella Park House.
Thanks to a wide range of things to do, a visit to Whitehaven can easily be a winter’s day-out in itself. Sitting proudly on the harbourside is the fascinating Beacon Museum, where tales of Vikings and Victorians accompany a host of seafaring artefacts with numerous exhibitions being held all-year-round. Telling the story of historic Copeland, the museum traces the social, industrial and maritime heritage of the area, using local characters, audio-visual interactive displays and fascinating museum pieces. You can also see history merge with the present in the top floor viewing gallery that offers unrivalled views of Whitehaven and the Solway Coast.
Whitehaven’s maritime story also includes the creation of 1785 Jefferson’s rum, with more stories to be told at the town’s Rum Story attraction, delving deeper into Cumbria’s connections to the rum and spice trade. There are also tales of Blackbeard and piracy on the high seas, smugglers and Nelson’s navy.
Further up the Lake District Coast is the brilliant Senhouse Roman Museum in Maryport, the home of an internationally significant Roman collection housed in a Victorian Naval Battery adjacent to the Roman fort. Located at the western end of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site and overlooking the Solway Firth towards the Scottish coast, the museum’s collection includes Roman military altars, sculptures and objects which tell the story of Roman life and beliefs on the edge of the Empire. Outside, you’ll also notice a sign informing you how far it is to Rome, should you be feeling extra adventurous!
Your winter history lesson doesn’t stop there though, as Maryport’s Maritime Museum gathers together objects, photographs and paintings relating to the maritime, industrial and social history of Maryport – all displayed over two impressive floors.
Maryport is also home to The Lake District Coast Aquarium, which boasts more than 75 tanks containing a collection of the diverse marine life found from along the Cumbrian and UK coastline. There’s a great café on-site, and if the weather eases-off, there are picnic tables and a patio. Tickets are valid all day, so you can come and go as you please!
Nestled between the St Bees Heritage Coast and the western edge of the Lake District National Park, the town of Egremont boasts a ruined castle built on the site of a Danish fort following the conquest of Cumberland in 1092 by William II of England. The present castle was built by William Meschin between 1120 and 1135.
Egremont is also the home of the Florence Arts Centre; a multi-purpose hub for the arts, complete with an art gallery, an auditorium for live music, theatre and film screenings, workshop spaces and artists’ studios. Furthermore, the Lowes Court Gallery has supported the work of artists and craftspeople for the last 40 years.
Take a chilly dip?
In addition to the Irish Sea along Cumbria’s coastline, the Western Lake District, Cumbria offers five different places where you can literally chill-out thanks to the lure of a wild swimming session.
With the exception of Ennerdale Water, visitors are free to brave the winter with a dip in any lake or tarn, but of course, we do remind you to take care and recommend for weak swimmers to stay safe and sound on shore.
Here’s our brief guide to the five most popular places to take a winter’s day dip:
Carved into the landscape by a glacier, Wastwater (or Wast Water, depending who you ask), holds the bragging rights for the title of ‘deepest lake in England’ – and is one of The Lake District, Cumbria’s best-known wild-swimming spots.
- Crummock Water
Another spot very popular with wild swimmers, Crummock Water is off the beaten-track, but well worth a visit. Near-silence is guaranteed as the use of powered craft is not permitted.
One of the smallest lakes in Cumbria, Buttermere offers peace and tranquillity in spades. With only one road passing the shore for a short distance on its eastern tip, a drive over the Honister Pass brings you out to a perfect place to pull over and head down to the water’s edge.
Completing a row of three lakes – which also includes Buttermere and Crummock Water, the small, picturesque Loweswater is a welcome addition to any western Lake District itinerary. As powered craft are not permitted to sail on any of these three lakes, the only sound you will hear is the breeze, the birds, and the cool water lapping against your skin.
Slightly further afield but close enough to justify inclusion in this list, at four miles long and around three quarters of a mile wide, Bassenthwaite is one the largest lakes here in Cumbria, bathing in the shadow of the mighty and imposing fell of Skiddaw. Flanked by the A66 on its western shore, Bassenthwaite is easy to get to if you fancy a swim.
For further information about access to all the lakes listed above, check out our Wild Swimming blog here, and for details of lakes right across The Lake District, visit the Lake District National Park website here.
The RNLI says, “The mental and physical health benefits of swimming in cold water are well documented, but we are keen that the ever-growing number of swimmers and dippers are aware of the risks and know how to enjoy the activity safely, especially during the winter season.”
To help, the RNLI Water Safety Team has put together a video of top tips aimed at Cold Water Dippers. This video is specifically aimed at dippers – those who are bobbing around in the water for a short period of time or swimming in the shallows – rather than point to point or longer distance swimmers. Watch it here.
See winter’s wonder from the top of our mighty mountains:
While there are more, 214 of the Lake District’s fells were famously documented by Sir Alfred Wainwright in his series of walking guidebooks. Strengthened further by his appearances on television, Sir Alfred opened-up the fells to the masses, illustrating his way through the national park with his unmistakable sketching style. Many people have the 214 peaks on their lifetime’s ‘to-do’ list. The only question is, which one to climb first? While Scafell – England’s highest mountain might be tempting, more inexperienced walkers might want to enjoy the sights of the stunning Western Lake District’s fells by looking up, from the shores of England’s deepest lake, Wastwater.
However you choose to enjoy the Lake District’s western fells this winter, be sure to stay safe and always plan-ahead. The Lake District National Park’s Fell Top Assessor team are in action every day throughout the winter to help keep you safe on the fells, so before you head up, always check out their latest updates to the Lake District Weather Line, here.
You can find further winter tips by the team at VisitLakeDistrict.com here
You can visit many of our suggested winter weather locations listed above by car, or for information on current rail and bus timetables, follow the links below:
- Avanti West Coast (For connections to Cumbria’s coastline from The West Coast Mainline at Lancaster and Carlisle)
- Northern Rail (for Morecambe Bay and Cumbrian Coast routes)
- Local bus services with Stagecoach