Barrow in Furness

Barrow in Furness has some excellent areas to visit. Furness Abbey and the Dock museum are a couple of the best attractions in the area. Furness Abbey is one of the best Abbeys around the country and is in an area that is quiet and peaceful, there is an excellent gift shop and just down the road overlooking the Abbey is a café where you can sit outside and look across to the Abbey.

When visiting the Furness area of Cumbria try stopping at some of the sandy beaches or having a trip over to Walney Island.

Barrow in Furness is a large industrial town on the tip of the Furness peninsula. In the middle ages Barrow, was only a small hamlet in the parish of Dalton in Furness. Furness Abbey is part of what is now the outskirts of the modern larger town and did originally control the local economy before its dissolution in 1537. Until the early 1850s, Barrow was only the size of a small hamlet with little fewer than 32 dwellings, but after large haematite deposits were found, factories were built for smelting and exporting steel and Barrow became home to the largest steel works in the world by the start of the 19th century and grew to accommodate this rapidly expanding industry.


Barrow soon became a producer of Naval vessels and production was accelerated in World War 1 and soon the yard specialised in the production of submarines. The steel and iron declined after World War II leaving Vickers shipyard as the main employer and industry. Ships built here were HMS Hermes, HMS Invincible and HMS Albion and all 4 Vanguard class submarines. From the 1960s the shipyard specialised in nuclear powered submarines and remains the only submarine production facility in the UK building the latest Astute class submarines. This site is now managed by BAE SYSTEMS.

The Dock Museum

What to do in Barrow

There is plenty to do in the Barrow area from exploring the local and shipbuilding history at the Dock Museum to strolling along the foreshore at Walney, to shopping in the big name stores in Dalton Road. A short drive to the outskirts of the bustling town will take you to Furness Abbey, Roanhead beach and Rampside where you can take a small ferry (or walk at low tide) to Piel Island to explore the ruins of the medieval castle and perhaps visit The Ship Inn and meet the King of Piel. For those wanting a bit more activity, visit the Park Leisure Centre for swimming and recreational sports, kite surf at Earnse Bay or play golf at one of the local courses.

Furness Abbey

Furness Abbey

The Abbey of St Mary of Furness is set in the beautiful Vale of Nightshade. Surrounded by woodland in a deep valley in the southern part of the Furness peninsula in Cumbria, it is one of the most impressive religious monuments in the care of English Heritage. It was a well chosen site as the valley provided good shelter for the Abbey, a good supply of timber, and stone for the building. The roads to the north through the town of Dalton, and low-tide tracks to the east across the estuaries of the rivers Kent and Leven, provided means of inland communication. The haven enclosed by Walney Island provided access by sea and communications with the Isle of Man and Ireland.


Founded by Stephen, later King of England, the Abbey first belonged to  the order of Savigny and then to the Cistercians. Furness Abbey at the time of Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s was the second richest Cistercian monastery in England after Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire. For over 400 years the Abbey enjoyed great privileges, possessions and wealth and had a major influence on both regional and national affairs. The importance and wealth of the Abbey is reflected in the quality of the upstanding remains.

Pilgrimage Of Grace

Recent Find In The Abbey

Early in 1536 Parliament passed an Act for suppressing the smaller monasteries. This was one of a series of Henry VIIIs measures to bring the Church under state control. When the protests against the suppression, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, broke out, the monks of Furness were implicated. The last Abbot, Roger Pyle, seemed to have capitulated. Rather than face trial for treason he offered to give up the Abbey and its possessions to the King. Furness was thus the first of the major monasteries to be dissolved. The deed of surrender was signed by the Abbot, the Prior, (the Abbots deputy) and twenty eight monks on 9th April 1537.

During recent excavations, the grave of a prosperous medieval Abbot and his treasures were discovered. A crozier, the first excavated in Britain in over 50 years and an impressive gemstone ring. The grave was that of an Abbot, one of the heads of the monastery and is said to have died at about 40 to 50 years old. The grave could be as far back as the 1150s and was situated in the presbytery, the most prestigious position in the church and usually reserved for the richest benefactors. Most Cistercian  Abbots were buried in the chapter house.

For the nature lover why not visit North and South Walney to see seals, migrating and breeding birds, and special plants not seen anywhere else. Kestrels and barn owls have been known to frequent Ormsgill Quarry and Reservoir flying in and out of the sycamore woodland.  Sandscale Haws is home to the natterjack toad and flowers abound in the sand dunes.

South Walney reserve is a wonderful place to visit any time of the year. There are several walks around the reserve and good hides along the way, see the website for further information on the reserve. There are more than 450 species of flowering plants on the Island including the Walney Geranium, wild pansies, sea aster, several species of orchids and burnet rose. The bird list is immense look at the website for more information, You will find lots of information on the reserves and other Cumbrian items. South Walney has very dedicated and knowledgeable staff working to keep the reserve as it is and they are always there to help with any information you may need about the reserve.

South Walney also has a working lighthouse on the Island and can be seen lit up at night from various parts of the Island and coastal roads around the area.


Nature In The Barrow Area

Oyster Catchers on South Walney Reserve.

South Walney Nature Reserve with abundant wildlife and close views of Piel Castle.

Walney Island Lighthouse

At the other end of the Island is North Walney Reserve & Beach. The reserve is a habitat for the Natterjack Toad and this is only found in 40 places in Britain. The Island also has nationally important rare habitats like the un-grazed salt marsh, vegetated shingle and dunes.

Walney Island Beaches

North Walney is also home to one of the best beaches around with vast sand areas, shingle edges and view across the sea and to the mountains. This is a great place for all the family with all kinds of interests. This part of the Island is also famous for the kite surfing and wind surfing, the BKSA championships have been held here and the participants love the coast line for their sport. Fishermen also line the coast sea fishing which is also popular on North Walney.

Kite surfers gather and take part in the BKSA championships on North Walney beach.

North Walney beach

The Dock Museum

Piel Island & Rampside

Roa Island

Roa Island

The Dock Museum

Closer into Barrow in Furness is the Dock Museum which is free to explore and has been awarded the Quality Assured Visitor Attraction. The museum has been built over an historic graving dock and is home to hundreds of interesting objects and information. There is also a landscaped site attached and a channel side walk linking the Cumbria Coastal Way.

Piel Island

A little further out of town is Rampside where you can get the ferry to Piel Island and experience the history of Piel Castle and meet the King of Piel Island in the Ship Inn.

Ferries to Piel Island run from Roa Island but there is no scheduled ferry service in the winter months and ferries cannot operate in high winds.  Please go to the Island website for details and ferry times.

The RNLI run from Roa Island so please park responsibly ensuring access for the crew and local residents. Check out the


Travel up the A590 going out of Barrow and on the left is Cocken Tunnel. Park in the car park and walk under the railway  bridge and be ready for a fantastic view. Follow the paths around and you will see views of the mountains across the sea and in the spring more wild flowers than you can imagine. Also near to here is Sandscale Hawes which is managed by the National Trust. For more information on Sandscale Hawes visit the website.

Barrow area has a lot to offer the tourist whether they are interested in history, art, photography, sport, sightseeing, walking, shopping or just relaxing on the beach. It’s all here so come and look round, the locals will make you feel welcome and all the family will have a good time.

Cocken Tunnel and the views beyond

Roanhead beach is about 3 miles north of Barrow in Furness; the sea is unsuitable for swimming due to the strong currents but the views are breathtaking and the sand is wonderful. The picture here shows the view from Roanhead beach across to Askam in Furness and the mountains beyond.

Roanhead Beach

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