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Ravenglass, Muncaster and Eskdale

The green fields and woodlands of the valley of Eskdale, embroidered with the sparkling thread of the river Esk, penetrate deep into the central Lakeland fells. Where the fields peter out below Hardknott Roman Fort, the River Esk continues upwards embraced by mountains to its source at Esk Hause. The only exit is via the Hardknott Pass – a tortuous zigzag of switchback bends and steep inclines that is not for the faint-hearted. In the heart of this lovely valley is the small village of Boot, home to a working corn mill, three real-ale pubs and a micro-brewery.

At the coastal end lies Ravenglass where three rivers meet (Esk, Irt, and Mite) to form an estuary and natural harbour. From being an important Roman port and fishing town where ships once docked at the end of its main street, Ravenglass is now better known as a terminus for the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway or La’al Ratty.

A little inland stands Muncaster Castle, ancient family seat of the Pennington family with colourful spring gardens, a renowned owl centre, a celebrated ‘fool’ and ghosts aplenty to keep visitors amused for hours. Nearby is Waberthwaite, famous for Richard Woodall’s hams, bacons and Cumberland Sausage that are regularly despatched to the Queen.

This is the land of Bronze Age settlements, Roman forts, Anglian crosses, Viking remains, Norman churches, medieval mills and many other hidden delights awaiting discovery in this rich and welcoming corner of Cumbria.


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Bridge End Farm Cottages

Bridge End Farm Cottages

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Things to do

What's on

 April 2020>
There are a variety of events taking place in Ravenglass & Eskdale and the surrounding areas over the year. Why dont you check out the calendar and see what's on while you're here?

For events happening around the county, click below for our What's On page.

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Surrounding Areas

River Esk, Eskdale
Muncaster Castle
Seascale village

Culture and Heritage

Roman Fort, Ravenglass
Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
Muncaster Castle

Although Neolithic flints have been found in the sand dunes around Ravenglass, it is Bronze Age settlers who provided evidence of their occupation of the higher ground. For the Romans the natural harbour at Ravenglass, became an important port around 79 BC. Little remains of the fort as much of its stone was used to build Ravenglass and was further despoiled when the Furness Railway was driven through the western defences, but the remains of the old bath house are still standing at Walls Castle. A Roman road advanced through Eskdale to link with Hardknott (Mediobogdum) at the head of the valley thereafter continuing through Little Langdale to the fort at Ambleside (Galava). Its position on an elevated spur hemmed in by mountains inspired a description of ‘an enchanted fortress in the air'.

During the Dark Ages, Celts and Angles lived in the area; the latter leaving their legacy in the form of intricately patterned stone crosses. It was Norsemen who established homesteads and enclosures for their livestock. Waberthwaite is of Norse origin (Wyburgh's clearing) as is Brotherilkeld at the head of Eskdale. The Norse also left their mark in the form of carved crosses and distinctively shaped hogback tombstones - the best examples being at Gosforth Church. Just above the village of Boot, a gully in the fellside marks the site of Nab Gill iron ore mine (NY 175 015), which exploited a wide vein of haematite (iron ore). The ore was commercially mined from the 1870s but enjoyed only a short period of prosperity. The remains of an incline, mine office and smithy can be seen from the track above Eskdale Mill.

At the base of the slope, a disused trackway and platform of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway can still be discerned. This much-loved railway (or La'al Ratty) was first opened in 1875 to carry iron ore from the mine at Boot to Ravenglass (where its freight was transferred to the Furness Line), but had a chequered history. After closure in 1913, it was re-opened as a narrow gauge railway in 1916 and found a new market carrying granite. The quarries closed in the 1950s and the line once again fell into disuse, but in 1960 a group of railway enthusiasts stepped in to save it. The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway has since become one of Lakeland's most loved attractions, providing an unforgettable experience through the glorious Eskdale countryside.

Ravenglass & Eskdale

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