Ulverston - Barrow - Furness Peninsula drive

A drive around the Furness peninsula, an area heavily influenced firstly by the monks of Furness Abbey and later by steel manufacture and ship building. The route visits a number of associated attractions and also some wonderful coastal scenery.

Sandscale Haws
South Lakes & Cumbria Drives Home

Route Map

Summary of main attractions on route (click on name for detail)
Distance Attraction Car Park Coordinates
0 miles Ulverston N 54.19605, W 3.09245
2.3 miles Conishead Priory N 54.17303, W 3.07186
3.5 miles Bardsea Country Park N 54.15993, W 3.06950
5.8 miles Birkrigg Common summit N 54.15735, W 3.09992
6.5 miles Druid's Stone Circle N 54.15541, W 3.08612
9.0 miles Aldingham N 54.12990, W 3.09836
11.5 miles Gleaston Water Mill N 54.12846, W 3.13355
17.2 miles Roa Island N 54.07353, W 3.17418
22.8 miles Barrow-in-Furness N 54.11078, W 3.22846
25.9 miles Walney Island, Earnse Bay N 54.11871, W 3.26999
28.2 miles Barrow Dock Museum N 54.11129, W 3.24026
31.1 miles Furness Abbey N 54.13708, W 3.19887
34.0 miles Sandscale Haws N 54.16996, W 3.22642
37.0 miles Dalton-in-Furness N 54.15568, W 3.18620
38.9 miles South Lakes Safari Zoo N 54.16791, W 3.16209
41.9 miles Swarthmoor Hall N 54.18578, W 3.10244
43.3 miles Ulverston N 54.19605, W 3.09245

The Drive

Distance: 0 miles         Location: Ulverston, Brewery Street car park         Coordinates: N 54.19605, W 3.09245

Hoad Monument, Ulverston
The historic market town of Ulverston has a number of attractions for visitors and is worth some exploring. There are plenty of old cobbled streets, interesting buildings, shops, cafes and pubs. It is all centred on the attractive market place which still holds regular markets every Thursday and Saturday. The town is famous as the birthplace of Stan Laurel, born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in 1890. The fascinating Laurel & Hardy Museum is dedicated to the famous comedy duo and an impressive statue of them stands outside the nearby Coronation Hall.

On the hill overlooking the town is the eye-catching Hoad Monument, a replica of the Eddystone lighthouse, which can be seen from miles around. The monument is a fairly short but strenuous walk from the town and is worthwhile for the magnificent views of the town and surrounding area. A flatter walk can be had along the old canal which is a pleasant stroll just over 1 mile to the picturesque Leven estuary. The canal was the shortest, widest and deepest in the country and a reminder of the importance of the town as a port before the railway was built. The car park is pay and display with nearby toilet facilities.


Leaving the car park, turn left to join the main roundabout where you take the third exit towards the A5087 and Bardsea. Continue past the Stan Laurel Inn on the left and shortly meet a T junction where you turn right on the A5087. The road continues through the outskirts of Ulverston eventually passing a cemetery on the right which marks the town boundary. Approx 1 mile beyond this is Conishead Priory, signposted on the left.

Distance: 2.3 miles         Location: Conishead Priory          Coordinates: N 54.17303, W 3.07186

Conishead Priory
Conishead Priory has played a number of roles since its development in the 12th century. The original priory has long gone but the ornate gothic mansion that we see today dates from the early 19th century. Since the mid 1970ís the site has been owned by the Manjushri Buddhist organisation. They have built the impressive Temple for World Peace adjacent to the priory which houses Europeís largest bronze Buddha and is open daily for visitors. The main house contains a cafe, gift shop and toilets which are also open daily but the only way to see the rest of the house is by guided tour which is only available at weekends and bank holidays. Outside you can roam the wooded grounds which lead down to the nearby picturesque coastline. There is free admission and parking with a charge for the guided tour. Attraction is sometimes closed for lengthy periods for Buddhist festivals, check website.


Return to the A5087 and turn left on the coast road. Continue on the tree lined road for approx 1 mile to where it meets the coast and parking for Bardsea Country Park is along the roadside on the left.

Distance: 3.5 miles         Location: Bardsea Country Park          Coordinates: N 54.15993, W 3.06950

Bardsea Country Park
Bardsea Country Park is a pleasant coastal access area adjacent to the road and near the pretty village of Bardsea. There is plenty of free layby parking alongside the road and some lovely views across Morecambe Bay. Adjacent to the parking is a grassy area with benches and a pebbly/sandy beach which is fine for a picnic on a good day. At low tide there is a vast area of sand/mud stretching across the bay. There are also walks along the beach and Sea Wood is nearby which is a wonderful ancient oak woodland on the coast. On the opposite side of the road is a small cafe and separate toilet facilities.


Opposite the parking area is a minor road which you take to enter the village of Bardsea. Continue through the village passing Holy Trinity Church on the right, in an imposing position with views over Morecambe Bay. Soon pass the Ship Inn on the left and just beyond is a left turn to Urswick which you take. The minor road climbs out of the village for approx 0.9 miles to cross a cattle grid which takes you on to the open Birkrigg Common. There are a number of places to pull in and admire the area as you continue to a T junction where you turn left, then in a short distance turn left again as the road circumnavigates the Common. Continue to climb for approx 0.3 miles to a small and rough roadside parking area which gives the easiest access to Birkrigg Common summit area.

Distance: 5.8 miles         Location: Birkrigg Common summit          Coordinates: N 54.15735, W 3.09992

Birkrigg Common summit
Birkrigg Common is a wonderful open access area overlooking the Furness peninsula and Morecambe Bay. The summit is marked with a trig point and bench and being one of the highest points on the Furness peninsula, offers fabulous views in all directions. You can explore the Common via the numerous grassy footpaths which run between limestone features and bracken. The summit is approx 150m gentle uphill stroll from the stated parking area, although there are plenty of other roadside parking areas giving open access to the whole Common. Parking all free but no facilities nearby.


Continue on the minor road which soon begins to descend with open views ahead over Morecambe Bay. Soon pass through a small settlement and approx 0.2 miles beyond, some rough roadside parking gives access to The Druid's Circle, still within Birkrigg Common.

Distance: 6.5 miles         Location: Birkrigg Common, The Druid's Circle         Coordinates: N 54.15541, W 3.08612

Druid's Circle, Birkrigg Common
The area around Birkrigg Common contains a number of Bronze Age relics and the Druid's Stone Circle is one of the more impressive. There are two roughly concentric stone circles although the outer one is mostly obscured by turf and vegetation. The double circle is quite unique in the UK and evidence indicates that it was used for burials. Although relatively small and not quite complete it is worth visiting if only for the surrounding views. The circle is approx 100m north of the stated parking area. Free parking and entry but no facilities nearby and beware of soft verges on the roadside.


Continue along the minor road which descends and soon rejoins the A5087 coast road at a T junction. Turn right and pass through the ancient oak woodland of Sea Wood. Soon leave the wood behind and enter more open country with good views across Morecambe Bay. Before long the road passes the village of Baycliff on the right and the Fishermans Arms Hotel. Continue beyond the village for approx 0.7 miles to a cross roads where you turn left to Aldingham. The minor road soon enters the small village and descends to the coast where there is parking on the left adjacent to the church.

Distance: 9.0 miles         Location: Aldingham          Coordinates: N 54.12990, W 3.09836

Aldingham sea front
Not much remains of the historic village of Aldingham with apparently much being lost to the sea over the centuries. However, the few buildings that remain are in a peaceful setting with wonderful views across Morecambe Bay. St Cuthbertís Church is directly on the coast and although it has been much extended and restored, the oldest part dates from the 12th century and is worth exploring. Across the road is Aldingham Hall which is now a private nursing home but you can see the fancy exterior from the road. The wide pebbly/sandy beach is adjacent to the car park and at low tide, soft mud/sand stretches as far as the eye can see. There are adjacent toilet facilities which along with the parking are free but a donation is welcome.


Head back the way you came to the cross roads with the A5087 and go straight across towards Gleaston Water Mill. Continue through pleasant open countryside for approx 0.8 miles to the village of Scales. Pass through the peaceful village for approx 0.2 miles to take the first left turn. Continue along the single track road for approx 0.6 miles, passing a small tarn on the left before you see Gleaston Castle ahead on the right. The castle dates from around the 14th century but has been ruined for many centuries and is not open to the public. You get a good view of the castle from the road before passing through the adjoining farm. Continue a short distance to Gleaston Water Mill on the right, with parking on the left.

Distance: 11.5 miles         Location: Gleaston Water Mill         Coordinates: N 54.12846, W 3.13355

Gleaston Water Mill & Dusty Miller's cafe
Slightly off the beaten track, Gleaston Water Mill is an impressive historic water corn mill which has been restored to its former glories. The buildings date from 1774 and have an interesting history although were in a bad way until restoration took place during the 1990ís. You can wonder around the mill and see the original milling machinery and 18ft waterwheel. There is also a gift shop and next door is Dusty Millerís cafe. Mill and cafe open Wednesday to Sunday from Easter to September. Admission fee applies to mill, including parking and toilets.


Continue on the minor road which shortly enters the village of Gleaston. The road immediately bears left then left again around a small green to head away from the village on a pleasant country lane. In approx 1 mile the road meets the A5087 coast road again at a T junction where you turn right. The main road soon meets the coastline and there are various laybys from where you can fully appreciate the lovely views across Morecambe Bay. The beach tends to be pebbly/sandy with vast amounts of sand/mud at low tide. Continue along the coastline for approx 2.5 miles to a roundabout where you take the first exit to Rampside. Again following the coastline, you soon see a very slender tower on the foreshore which dates from the 19th century and served as a navigation beacon for boats approaching Barrow. The road passes through the village of Rampside, including The Clarkes Hotel on the right, before bearing left on to a causeway. The causeway leads approx 0.5 miles to Roa Island and about half way along on the left is a mile long spit of land leading to Foulney Island which can be walked at low tide. Continue on the road to Roa Island, passing through the small settlement to some roadside parking at the end of the road.

Distance: 17.2 miles         Location: Roa Island          Coordinates: N 54.07353, W 3.17418

Piel Island from Roa Island
Roa Island is now the most southern part of mainland Cumbria although until the mid-19th century it was a true island. At that time the causeway was built linking it to the mainland, mainly to allow the Furness railway to connect with steamers which stopped at the small island. The railway and steamers are long gone but the island provides some good views towards Walney Island, Piel Island, Barrow and Morecambe Bay.

Nearby the small but pretty Piel Island can be visited by boat trip from Roa Island. The early monks of Furness Abbey used Piel Island for storage of provisions and defence purposes. They built Piel Castle in the 14th century and you can still visit the impressive ruins. The Ship Inn is one of the few buildings on the island and the landlord is known as the ĎKing of Pielí following historic tradition. There is a regular ferry boat from Roa Island to Piel Island between Easter and September, but call 07516 453784 to check.

Back on Roa Island, there is an impressive lifeboat station at the tip of the island and the nearby Bosunís Locker cafe provides refreshments. Roadside parking is free but limited. There is a formal free car park as you enter the island on the right with nearby toilet facilities.


Head back across the causeway, past Rampside, to the roundabout with the A5087 where you take the first exit towards Barrow. The road continues through open countryside for approx 2 miles to enter Barrow-in-Furness and soon meets another roundabout. Take the first exit to continue on the A5087 through the Barrow suburbs for approx 1.3 miles to pass St George's Church on the right overlooking the docks. The road bears right and as you pass Morrisons supermarket on the left, get in the right lane to turn right towards the town centre. Heading towards the Town Hall clock tower, soon meet a roundabout containing a statue of Henry Schneider who was instrumental in the development of Barrow's steel industry in the mid-19th century. Take the second exit and the road bears left to Market Street car park on the right, directly behind the Town Hall.

Distance: 22.8 miles         Location: Barrow-in-Furness, Market Street car park         Coordinates: N 54.11078, W 3.22846

Barrow Town Hall
The large industrial town of Barrow-in-Furness stands in an isolated but attractive location at the tip of the Furness peninsula. Shipbuilding is the main industry which boomed during the late 19th century following an earlier boom in steel manufacture and export. The settlement was transformed from a small fishing port to a huge industrial town, all within the 19th century. Although not as busy as they once were, the huge shipbuilding works still dominate the town and now specialise in submarine production. The town itself isnít the prettiest but is worth some exploring. The majority of the town centre was planned and built during the boom period and the grid structured wide streets are testament to this. There are some impressive Victorian buildings including the large town hall adjacent to the car park. There is also a good selection of shops, refreshments and a large indoor market. Pay and display car park.


Turn left out of the car park and retrace your steps to the Henry Schnieder roundabout where you take the third exit. The wide road soon crosses a bridge over the dock area and enters Barrow Island which is home to Barrow Shipyard and many old tenement properties that were originally built for the booming shipyard population. Shortly meet a roundabout and take the third exit continuing past more shipyard buildings to meet a further roundabout where you take the first exit to Walney. The road then crosses the impressive Jubilee Bridge to enter Walney Island. Turn right at the traffic lights, passing The Ferry Hotel, to follow the Promenade alongside Walney Channel which is mostly mud if the tide is out. Continue for approx 0.6 miles to take a left turn signposted to Earnse Bay. In a further 0.3 miles take the first right turn and continue approx 0.8 miles to Earnse Bay car park on the left.

Distance: 25.9 miles         Location: Walney Island, Earnse Bay          Coordinates: N 54.11871, W 3.26999

Earnse Bay, Walney Island
With over 11,000 residents, Walney Island is one of the most populated islands in the UK. The settlement mostly dates from the boom days of the shipyard and is basically an extension of Barrow town. The long thin island often takes a battering from the Irish Sea but has some wonderful coastal scenery and can easily be reached from Barrow via Jubilee Bridge. At over 10 miles in length, much of the island remains undeveloped and there are numerous coastal access points but Earnse Bay is one of the more scenic and popular. The long beach is pebble/stone with vast amounts of hard sand at low tide. There is a large free car park with adjacent toilet facilities. There are some good coastal walks from the car park including nearby North Walney Nature Reserve which has some spectacular wild habitats to admire. The southern end of Walney Island is several miles away but can be accessed by car and there you will find the South Walney Nature Reserve which is popular for bird watching.


Retrace your steps to cross back over Jubilee Bridge towards Barrow town. At the roundabout beyond the bridge, take the first exit and continue for approx 0.2 miles to Barrow Dock Museum car park on the left.

Distance: 28.2 miles         Location: Barrow Dock Museum          Coordinates: N 54.11129, W 3.24026

Barrow Dock Museum & Devonshire Dock Hall
Situated over an old dry dock and in the shadow of the massive Devonshire Dock Hall indoor shipbuilding facility is Barrow Dock Museum. This impressive free museum is a great place to discover the interesting history of the local area, including the meteoric rise of Barrow due to shipbuilding during the 19th century. There are various exhibitions, displays and films telling the story and the modern facility makes it an enjoyable experience. Outside there is a landscaped waterfront area with walks alongside Walney Channel. Open all year, Wednesday to Sunday. There is free car parking, a cafe and toilet facilities for visitors.


Turn left out of the car park and get in the right lane to continue straight ahead for town centre. Soon meet a roundabout and take the third exit to pass retail parks on either side of the road. Shortly, take the first exit at the next roundabout to meet yet another roundabout with a statue in the centre. The statue is James Ramsden who was instrumental in the development of Barrow and the Furness Railway in the mid-19th century. Take the second exit at this roundabout and continue on the wide Abbey Road, passing some grand Victorian properties along its length. This road used to be the main route to and from the town before the early 1990ís when the A590 bypass was built. Just before the main railway station on the left is a statue of former Liverpool and England footballer Emlyn Hughes who was born locally. Once over the railway bridge on the right is Barrow Park which is a very pleasant parkland area. Continue beyond the park on Abbey Road for approx 1 mile to take a right turn signposted to Furness Abbey. Very shortly take the next left turn which soon brings you to a T junction overlooking the Abbey. If you turn left, the Abbey visitor centre and entrance are a short distance on the right. Alternatively, turn right at the T junction and a free car park on the right offers some good external views of the Abbey.

Distance: 31.1 miles         Location: Furness Abbey          Coordinates: N 54.13708, W 3.19887

Furness Abbey
The impressive ruins of Furness Abbey stand in a picturesque peaceful valley on the outskirts of Barrow. Founded in the 12th century, the Abbey was once one of the richest Cistercian monasteries in England and owned massive amounts of land in the local area and further afield. Much of the huge red sandstone structure has disappeared but there is still plenty to see and English Heritage provides guides telling you more as you wonder around. There is an entrance fee (free for English Heritage members) although a good external view can be had from the public road and from the nearby Abbey Mill cafe which provides refreshments. Behind the cafe, a short path leads to the 15th century Bow Bridge which carried an old packhorse route to the Abbey. The Abbey itself has a visitor centre, toilets and car park. It is open daily Easter-November, otherwise weekends only.


From the Abbey visitor centre, turn right on the minor road and soon meet a T junction where you turn right. In a short distance meet a mini-roundabout and take the first exit. Continue approx 1 mile to a roundabout and take the first exit which is the main A590 towards Barrow. Almost immediately turn right towards Roanhead and shortly meet a T junction where you turn left. Continue approx 0.8 miles down the narrow lane to Sandscale Haws car park at the end of the lane.

Distance: 34.0 miles         Location: Sandscale Haws          Coordinates: N 54.16996, W 3.22642

Sandscale Haws
Sandscale Haws is a beautiful National Trust Nature Reserve featuring a sandy beach backed by a huge area of sand dune grasslands overlooking the Duddon Estuary. Apart from the beach and dunes the reserve is well known for its population of rare Natterjack Toads and various flora. From the car park, boardwalks lead to the nearby beach or in to the dunes. There are lovely views across the Duddon Estuary towards Black Combe mountain and the Dunnerdale Fells. As you walk away from the car park, around the headland, you can also see the nearby northern end of Walney Island. National Trust pay and display car park which can be busy. There are also toilet facilities and seasonal refreshments.


Retrace your steps back up the lane and turn left on the main A590. Immediately take the first exit at the roundabout and continue approx 1 mile to another roundabout where you take the third exit towards Dalton. The road soon enters the town of Dalton-in-Furness and as it begins to descend, Dalton Castle is on the right with various roadside parking places in the vicinity.

Distance: 37.0 miles         Location: Dalton-in-Furness          Coordinates: N 54.15568, W 3.18620

Dalton Castle
The ancient market town of Dalton-in-Furness was once the major town of the Furness area. Its development owed much to the nearby Furness Abbey and the monks who used the settlement as a centre for administration and justice. The 14th century Dalton Castle was built as a compact Pele Tower for protection against raiders and is now owned by the National Trust. The castle houses a small free museum but is only open Saturday afternoons from Easter to September. In front of the castle is the old market place with an impressive Victorian drinking fountain and stone cross. Behind the castle is the attractive red sandstone St Maryís Church. Market Street leads down the hill towards the pleasant town centre which is worth some exploring with its interesting buildings and different shops. Parking at the castle is free.


From the castle area, continue down the hill on Market Street and onwards through Dalton-in-Furness. Just beyond the town meet a roundabout where you take the second exit on the A590 towards Ulverston. Shortly, take the first left turn following the 'Elephant' sign and soon arrive at South Lakes Safari Zoo car park on the left.

Distance: 38.9 miles         Location: South Lakes Safari Zoo          Coordinates: N 54.16791, W 3.16209

Rhino at South Lakes Safari Zoo
South Lakes Safari Zoo is a popular wildlife attraction for all the family. The zoo is quite well hidden and most unwary drivers only realise its existence by the sight of a giraffe in the adjacent field as they speed along the main A590! The zoo has greatly extended since it began in 1994 and has a huge variety of wildlife for all interests including lions, tigers, rhinos, monkeys and South American birds. In some areas of the zoo you can actually mingle with the less dangerous wildlife. The zoo is open daily all year and there are many facilities including a restaurant, gift shop and toilets. Entrance fee applies.


Retrace your steps to the A590 and turn left towards Ulverston. Soon pass through the village of Lindal in Furness which has a pleasant village green if you turn left at the first cross roads. Continue on the A590 for approx 1.5 miles to enter the village of Swarthmoor. Passing through the village, take the first proper right turn immediately before the Miners Arms pub. The minor road soon leaves the village and enters open countryside. Pass a farm on the left and soon Swarthmoor Hall car park is also on the left.

Distance: 41.9 miles         Location: Swarthmoor Hall          Coordinates: N 54.18578, W 3.10244

Swarthmoor Hall
Swarthmoor Hall is an Elizabethan country house owned by the Quaker movement and famous for its strong connections to the early Quakers. Built around 1586, the house soon became the headquarters for the movement as its owners offered protection and hospitality to the early Quakers including the founder member, George Fox. You can find out more with an audio tour of the well preserved house which includes mullioned windows, oak panelling, 17th century furniture and an interesting staircase. Adjacent to the house is a cafe and some attractive and peaceful gardens where you are free to wonder. There is an entrance fee to the house which is open daily from February school holidays to end of October. The gardens and cafe are open all year with free entry. Free parking and toilet facilities.


Exit the car park and turn left. The road bears right and soon meets a T junction where you turn left. Enter the residential outskirts of Ulverston town and proceed to another T junction where you turn left again. The road continues through a dip, past a school and Ulverston railway station to a T junction with traffic lights where you turn right, back on the main A590. Stay in the left lane for the town centre and continue through more traffic lights to meet a roundabout. Take the first exit and Brewery Street car park is immediately on the left.

Distance: 43.3 miles         Location: Ulverston, Brewery Street car park         Coordinates: N 54.19605, W 3.09245

Laurel & Hardy statue, Ulverston
Return to start point.