The Lake District Guide


From Romans to Railways

This ancient port was sheltered by the sand spits of the Rivers Esk, Irt and Mite. 1600 years after the Romans left their fort, its Bath House walls still stand tall. Following many invasions, Ravenglass was a busy town in the Middle Ages with Muncaster Castle nearby.

In 1208 King John signed a Charter for a market in Main Street and the Fair, a great event until the 1800s. But trade lost out to smuggling as the harbour silted up. Few boats put in after George Stephenson's main line railway opened. By 1875 England's first narrow gauge trains started to carry iron ore here from Eskdale. When La'al Ratty closed it was revived as the Smallest Public Railway in the World and preserved by enthusiasts.

After two millennia, the estuary of the three rivers remains a sanctuary for sailors and seabirds. Ravenglass is a historic community in a wonderful setting.

Rambles Around Ravenglass

1 To the old village and shore

From the main line railway footbridge skirt the village car park on the former medieval Town Field. Across the road, go down the steps past The Old Butcher's Shop. With pushchairs go along the pavement and turn left past Holly House Hotel.

Main Street widens where the market and fair were held from 1209. Watch for date stones of 1689,1762 and 1763 on old houses and the site of the Village Cross.

By the old Reading Room, go into the new Millennium Garden to view the pebble mosaic and look across the estuary. Where Main Street narrows again, steel gates keep back the storm tides.

If tides permit walk along the foreshore: either go left to the Roman Bath House or right past smugglers' haunts onto the Village Green. Here a smithy and cottages once overlooked the Ford across the River Mite. This was the old Coach Road before the main line railway came. Return to the starting point via the village car park.

2 To the Roman Bath House

From the railway footbridge, go through a gate opposite the Play Area. Cross grass and woodland to reach a narrow tarmac road. Turn right. Continue for 200 metres to the Bath House at the site of the Roman Fort.

Return by the same route or continue - bear right, then right again under the mainline railway bridge to the shore. Go right if tide permits, along the Old Coach Road and through the floodgates into Main Street. Turn right after the Post Office to return to the start.

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