There are some beautiful places for you to visit during your stay in Barrow-in-Furness. We’ve picked out the unmissable attractions such as Piel Island and Furness Abbey and paired them with other fascinating options such as The Dock Museum, the enormous Earnse Bay and the best nature reserves in the region.
Activities in Barrow-in-Furness
Enjoy a day out unlike any other with a trip to Piel Island. The tiny island sits at the tip of the Furness peninsula in the middle of the Piel Channel and is accessible only during the summer months via ferry for just a fiver from Roa Island, which is just a 15-minute drive away from our Barrow-in-Furness hotel.
It’s worth visiting this little 50-acre island to meet its king, explore its castle and visit its pub. That’s right, while it’s only small, it’s still home to the fascinating Piel Castle, which dates back to the 14th century and is made entirely from local stones. The castle is owned and managed by English Heritage and is completely free to explore.
If you’re wondering, ‘who could possibly be the king of Piel Island?’ It’s the landlord of The Ship Inn, the island’s local pub, and a good one at that. It dates back to the 18th century, and there’s a room with a large oak chair, which if you sit in, you can become a ‘Knight of Piel’ to commemorate your visit. It’s a bit of fun, but the ale selection is serious, and the views are astonishing.
It only survives in ruins, but the 12th-century Furness Abbey is still a fascinating activity to tick off during your stay. It was one of the most powerful monasteries in the country and would have been an impressive sight, especially with the Mill Beck running through the abbey grounds. Just like Piel Castle, Furness Abbey is managed by English Heritage, and they do a good job bringing its rich history to life if you want to learn. In truth, it’s a stunning site that’s simply worth visiting purely for a pleasant walk around.
The Dock Museum
Barrow’s history is intertwined with the town’s steelworks and shipbuilding docklands. That’s why the town’s The Dock Museum is such a fascinating day out and well worth making time to visit, especially as entry is completely free. Barrow-in-Furness had one of the largest and most important steelworks in the world, so much so that it was targeted for bombings during World War II. It’s just one of the many great stories and excellent exhibitions for you to see while you’re here. Part of the museum is housed in a dry dock where ships and nuclear submarines were built, which is very cool too.
When the sun is shining, there are few better places to be than Earnse Bay. It’s the most beautiful sand and shingle beach, which stretches for a grand total of eight miles along the western side of Walney Island and enjoys sublime views of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man and has the mighty mountains of the Lake District for a backdrop. It’s great for walking all year-round and ideal for sunbathing when the weather’s warm.
If you do fancy a day in the great outdoors, some of the country’s finest nature reserves are here in Barrow-in-Furness. Sandscale Haws is a National Trust reserve on the Duddon Estuary. It’s one of the nation’s most important homes for the characterful natterjack toad, which are famous for the fact that they run instead of hop. It’s just a short drive up the road and overlooks the rather-lovely Roanhead Beach.
In terms of town centre park options, Barrow Park is just opposite the train station and is the perfect place for a picnic during the summer months. It covers a total of 45 acres and includes a lovely boating lake, a miniature railway that’s long been a favourite with young families, bowling greens for the older generations and the perfectly maintained Jubilee Gardens. Right at the heart of Barrow Park, you’ll also find the bandstand, which hosts live music when it's warm.
Lastly, South Walney Nature Reserve enjoys beautiful views of Morecambe Bay and is home to the only population of grey seals in Cumbria. It’s situated on Walney Island, where the shingle habitat is ideal for all kinds of birds and wildlife. There is a handful of waymarked trails that wind their way throughout the reserve, allowing you to soak up the sights including Walney Lighthouse and Piel Island.