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Romans & the red cliffs of St Bees - Cumbria

Cumbria is more than just lakes and mountains.
It’s also about more than 100 miles of stunning coastline and Roman heritage.

St. Bees

Stretching from Bowness-on-Solway in the north down to Morecambe Bay in the south, somewhere in between lies the heritage coast of St Bees and Maryport.

Family Fun is the order of the day at St Bees, where towering sandstone cliffs, a perfect sandy beach and a rich past add a bright splash of dashing red to a part of the country best known for being green.

This stretch forms part of England’s only Heritage Coast, where towering cliffs of St Bees Head take in the largest sea bird colony in the North West during the spring and summer months.

Then head up the coast to Maryport, a bustling harbour town with Roman roots.
Discover its maritime past and enjoy a Roman ramble.

Maryport Harbour

Day 1:

Take a train on the Cumbria coast line to St Bees station and follow your nose to the beach. There, you’ll be greeted by the dramatic cliffs of St Bees. Stretching for four miles, this is the highest and most westerly point of England, made up of vast slabs of red sandstone laid down 240 million years ago. It’s also the source of St Bees’ sandstone – the red stone used for many buildings in Cumbria.

Almost 100 metres high, the cliffs are topped with grassland and patches of wild gorse, which also provide havens for a wide variety of small birds. Keep cameras and binoculars on standby for the Peregrine falcons that often hunt along the coast and can sometimes be seen flying overhead or perched on the cliff face.

The area is a RSPB nature reserve and provides nesting sites for more than 5,000 pairs of seabirds. It’s also famously home to England’s only colony of Black Guillemots.

Access to the reserve is via the path over the metal footbridge at the north end of the promenade. From here follow the coastal path to St Bees Head and back. Tread carefully, as this is an unprotected cliff-top route.

St. Bees Head
For lunch, there are several pubs and eateries within walking distance of the beach; and in the evening, catch the train back to Maryport or spend the night in one of the pretty coastal villages along the way.

Day 2:

Enjoy a relaxing lie-in or head for the harbour as dawn breaks. Here, you’ll also find the Maritime Museum and the Lake District Coast Aquarium, which boasts more than 75 tanks containing marine life found around the Cumbrian and UK coastline.

Lunchtime is an opportunity to grab a bite at the Quayside Café at the Aquarium, before you walk off your lunch with a Roman themed ramble, starting at the Maritime Museum. This three-mile walk climbs the sea brows, yielding spectacular views of the Solway Firth. The route meanders into the Solway Coasts Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and takes in the Senhouse Roman Museum, which houses some of the most important archaeological finds in Europe and is sited near the Roman settlement of Alauna.

Senhouse Roman Museum

Information you need to know:

Weather: The weather in the Lake District can change quickly, clear morning skies can rapidly give way to rain, sleet or even snow so be prepared! Changes in weather can dramatically alter the difficulty of a route so please consider this before setting off. Call 0844 846 2444 to check the forecast.

Be Prepared: Appropriate clothing can make all the difference. It is important to be warm, comfortable and dry when out exploring so make sure you have the appropriate kit and plenty of layers. Your rucksack should hold everything needed and be carried comfortably. Have extra layers, a hat and gloves, enough food and drink, and a first aid kit. A compass, map and the knowledge to use them is invaluable.

Don’t rely on technology alone: Mobile phone reception isn’t always good in the Lake District. Leave details of your route and expected finish time with a buddy. If you are delayed, please contact your buddy to let them know. This will prevent mountain rescue, a team of volunteers, being called out unnecessarily. If there is an emergency call 999, ask for Cumbria Police and give your location; an accurate grid reference is ideal.

Discover more about what to do and see at St Bees is here and Maryport here.

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