It’s the largest island in England less than 50 miles from Manchester, any ideas? Well the answer is Walney Island, or Isle of Walney. Eleven miles long and one mile wide. Its just over the Jubilee Bridge from Barrow in Furness. I wanted to get up close and personal with another lighthouse. I’m not in the same league as those who want to study lighthouses and signal lights, I’m more in the “get a life” league, but I do like to view and being around lighthouses. I was staying in Yealand Old School from the map of hostels in Cumbria on this website. I took the train from Carnforth to Barrow in Furness and enjoyed fascinating and spectacular scenery. Then it was just one miles walk from Barrow in Furness station over the bridge and hello Walney.
I’ve decided to head for the south side of the island. The first sign for Walney indicates there is at least a six mile walk ahead. Another day of clear blue skies, accompanied by exceptionally warm weather, I’m off. Basically it’s a road walk. No shops, no buses, more cyclists than cars. So the penny quickly drops, whatever distance I cover to get to the wonders of Walney, I need to walk it back as well. Having covered a couple of hours of tarmac, flat lands,horses, donkeys and seagulls I think sunstroke has set in. It’s a shimmering mirage? No it’s Walney Caravan site, open for business but not doing much pre Easter trade. However the friendly staff are ready to serve up a sandwich, tea and water. Which is bloody lucky as I didn’t pack any of the above.
Refreshed I crack on, a white lighthouse in view. The final section is via entry to the Walney bird sanctuary. I know nowt about birds, but the three quid entry fee is money well spent I soon come to realise when walking amongst the paths and dunes. My accompanying map tells me it’s three mile circuit, which can be followed, ignored depending on your reasons for entry.
My first stop is the old wooden pier which fell into disrepair many, many decades ago. Beyond the pier is Piel Island with it’s historic castle which is accessible by ferry from Rhoose during the summer months. From Romans, Norse, English nobility, Kings, monks, pirates, the island and castles history is fascinating. As I turn and head for the lighthouse which dominates the shoreline, I’m walking amongst dozens of sheep, rabbits, seagulls but no other two legged creatures. This new aftershave just isn’t working!
The lighthouse is used for private or commercial purposes, as such I can only view from thirty/forty yards away, which is fine it’s close enough to be enjoyed. Along from the lighthouse is an old bird hide which looks out over the estuary. With a rucksack as a pillow, I stretch out on a long wooden bench, gently, gently drifting off…A seagull acts as my alarm call, 30 minutes later! Probably the snoring. I’ve been drugged…by the sea air. On gaining my bearings I continue the circular route, whilst watching a small armada of boats returning home along the estuary, ready to moor up for the night. Leaving the sanctuary still with a warmth in the afternoon air I retrace my steps making my way back to the station. This walk isn’t for everyone, primarily as it tarmac there and back. In total around 14/15 mile circuit. Personally I’ve pleased I made the effort. If the road walk isn’t for you do check out the bird sanctuary circuit. Thoroughly recommended.
For a map showing the bunkhouses and hostels in Cumbria look at our Lake District map.