The only coastal village in the Lake Districts National Park, Ravenglass is reputed to date back to the second century when it was an important navel base for the Romans. Although it's probably changed since Roman times it certainly hasn't changed a lot in the last few hundred years! Quaint would go some way to describe it with a generally neat row of small two storey cottages each side of its only main street. With only one shop, a rather rundown Post Office with a friendly owner whose cat sits on the counter and with little stock on the shelves visitors are advised to shop before they arrive for a lengthy stay but it's still worth a visit and it is the only place locally that sells newspapers!
|and the Post Office.|
One of the main tourist attractions of this small coastal town is its miniature railway that runs a seven-mile stretch of narrow gauge rail track through some spectacular Lake District countryside to Eskdale and the Dalegarth Station where you embark in the shadow of Scafell Pike. La'al Ratty, as the railway is known, has a very long history and some of it can be sampled at the railway museum that adjoins Ravenglass's main line station where regular trains run from Barrow in Furness in the south to Carlisle in the north. Also more information about the steam railways history can be obtained from their web site www.ravenglass-railway.co.uk.
Once you break your return journey at Dalegarth, the round trip takes about 2 hours in all; you have a chance to explore locally on foot. Boot Village is only a short walk and boasts a pub/restaurant and an ice cream shop but don't miss a chance to explore Eskdale Mill full of artifacts, photographs and lots of information. Visitors can actually see the water wheel in action. Go around the back of the building and see the beautiful watercourse. For further information go to www.eskdalemill.co.uk
On leaving the village follow the footpath signs to St Catherine’s Church and then across the rather precarious stepping-stones to ford the River Esk and follow the signs for Stanley Gill and the Dalegarth Falls. The walk will take a couple of hours and follows a fast flowing river up an ever-narrowing ravine with a precipitous drop. Could be quite dangerous for young children and people unsteady on their feet but the final result is a close view of the falls surrounded by its ‘Lord of the Rings’ type forest. Back to the railway station for coffee and cake and the small gauge rail journey back to Ravenglass in an open carriage accompanied by the unique smell of steam pouring out of the miniature engine.
A very strange English eccentricity took place at the station the following morning: Border Style Morris Dancing! A weird group of people perform this ‘ritual’ which is based in West Cumbria and call themselves ‘The Two Headed Sheep’. Difficult to describe their routine but it involved a dance dressed in a costume and banging sticks together, but they seemed to enjoy themselves!
Ravenglass was located at the western extremity of the Roman frontier and as I have said there's not a lot left of the Romans - except that is for the remains of a Roman bathhouse. Ravenglass's Roman occupation lasted for over 300 years, so I suppose it's only right if your away from home for that amount of time you may require a good scrub once in a while and considering there were 500 solders in the garrison it certainly had to be a large bath! It is one of the largest remaining Roman structures in England. Approximately a miles walk from the remains is Muncaster Castle and its gardens.
Rumoured to be haunted, Muncaster Castle is the ancestral home of the Pennington family who have lived there 800 years and who still live in part of the castle with the rest set a side for public gaze - at a price of course. But for £13:50 you get a fair bit for your money not only a look around the castles 'elegant rooms, historical furnishings and superb works of art' but also the grounds which displays plants, shrubs and trees from all over the world and did have the largest collection of rhododendrons in Europe (I wonder who has the biggest collection now?). Well that's not all, included in the ticket money is a visit to the hawk and owl centre, a display of various birds of pray and the 4 o’clock feeding of a flock of herons who come to the castle for a feed every day, eight birds were spotted during the feed. Which raises the age-old question how do birds tell the time?