A guide to the Cumbrian coast holiday cottages

A guide to the Cumbrian coast

Kim 17 March 2024

When you think of the Lake District, you think of mountains, water, fells and woodland. Yet just outside the National Park (and partly with its south-western border) you’ll discover a very different coastal landscape of beaches, bays and salt marshes.

Cumbria actually has more than 100 miles of coastline that stretches from the Solway Firth in the north to Morecambe Bay in the south, made up of villages, towns and traditional seaside resorts. 

So, if you fancy discovering the beaches, bays and salt marshes that are just outside of the Lake District, take a look at our range of cosy cottages on the Cumbrian Coast.  

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Discover the other side of the Lake District

Arnside beach and viaduct

Many of the places on the Cumbrian coast started life as fishing villages and then grew with industrialisation and the reliance on coal mining and ship building. With the decline of heavy industry however, they have rediscovered their natural beauty while honouring their industrial past, welcoming visitors to their museums, coastal walks, and sandy beaches.

One way to discover this coastal route is to take a train along the Cumbrian Coast Line, a rail journey that begins at Maryport and reveals the other side of the Lake District, with stops peppered along the way including the former mining port of Whitehaven, the pretty village of St Bees, the Victorian resort of Seascale and Edwardian seaside favourite, Grange-over-Sands.


The sand dunes at sunset behind Silloth beach

Silloth sits within the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which stretches from Cumbria to Scotland, affording views across the Solway Firth to Dumfries and Galloway.The sand and shingle beach is popular with families as is the town itself, which has a mini water park for youngsters, seaside amusements and a summer fun fair. Outdoor events are held on Silloth Green, a large expanse of grass that stretches to the three-mile-long promenade. 

Walk along the prom and you can’t fail to notice the ‘Big Fella’ sculpture, a huge steel statue of a man and his dog sitting on a bench and enjoying the view across the firth. For the more actively inclined, windsurfing and canoeing are popular here, while for cyclists, Hadrian’s Cycleway (National Route 72) runs through the town.


Sunsey across the beach at Allonby

South of Silloth you’ll find Allonby, with its wide crescent bay so popular with windsurfers, swimmers and fishers, as well as its sandy dunes and beach, which are a great draw for families. The views across the bay are also pretty impressive, stretching to Scotland and even to the Isle of Man when the weather’s clear. Turn to face east and you should also be able to make out the Lake District fells.

What’s a trip to the seaside without an ice cream? Twentymans has been making ice cream in Allonby since 1920 and it’s still going strong. Get there early to beat the queues that can be seen outside during the hottest months!


Fishing harbour full of boats at Maryport

The town was a Roman port in the 5th century and a nearby fort at Alauna was part of a number of strategic installations in the region that included Hadrian’s Wall. Maryport’s history has continued to be linked to the sea, through fishing, shipbuilding and coal mining, and the town’s tiny Maritime Museum is an excellent place to find out more.  

For information about the Roman occupation of the area, head to the Senhouse Roman Museum for a fascinating glimpse at ancient history, with artefacts including military altar stones, sculptures, pottery and bronze artefacts. It’s also located next to a Roman fort.

For an insight into the animals and plants that live beneath the waves off Cumbria’s shores, The Lake District Coast Aquarium offers fresh and saltwater displays with more than 150 species of sea creatures, including dog fish, lobster, jellyfish, flounder, perch, trout, whiting, sharks and rays. 


The Whitehaven harbour lit up in evening

Once one of the UK’s largest ports, a favourite among smugglers and a centre for coal mining, Whitehaven today marries history with modernity, it’s 17th century harbour still very much alive and enhanced by a lovely marina.

This Georgian town is said to have been the template for New York’s expansion in the 18th century and in its heyday it was a prosperous place. It was designated as one of Britain’s 51 gem towns in 1964, which were described at the time as “particularly splendid and precious” and it has more than 170 listed buildings.

Today, regeneration is restoring Whitehaven’s Georgian buildings and upgrading footpaths and cycleways, while visitor attractions such as The Rum Story and The Beacon Museum celebrate its illustrious past.

St Bees

Seabird soaring above the beach at St Bees

The red sandstone cliffs of St Bees rise above the beach, providing a home for thousands of sea birds, including England’s only colony of black guillemots. An RSPB nature reserve, the cliff tops also provide a home to a variety of wildlife, as well as birds, and it’s Cumbria’s most westerly point. Look eastwards from the headland for picturesque views towards the Lake District fells.

Below, the beach is a mix of sand with rock pools, so great for kids to explore and a favourite with families. See if you can find the remains of the old outdoor swimming pool in the rocks, once used by students at the local school.

Take a walk along the prom and breath in the sea air, brave a paddle in the cold waters, or relax in the village cafe with a cup of tea. The promenade is also the start of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast Walk, a long-distance route of 190 miles that ends at Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. 


Looking across to the town of Seascale from the beach

Credit: Brian Sherwen

A favourite among Victorian holidaymakers Seascale was once a bustling resort. Today it boasts a beautiful golden beach that stretches for miles when the tide is out, affording views across to the Isle of Man and beyond. 

The long sandy beach is perfect for walking with dogs, and kids can enjoy the free play area in town as well as paddling in the sea. There’s a wooden jetty stretching into the sea and this is a popular spot for fishing and Seascale is also a great choice for catching a Cumbrian coast sunset.   


Colourful plants framing the sandy beach at Haverigg

Haverigg is worth mentioning for its beautiful sandy beach, popular with kite flyers and dog-walkers.

The RSPB reserve at Hodbarrow Lagoon is bordered by the sea wall and overlooks Duddon estuary. Walk around the wall and, from the hide, view residents including Great Crested Grebes Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Ringed Plovers as well as Common, Little and Sandwich Terns that breed there. 

For children, there’s a play area in the village and a floating playground in the water – The Lakes Aqua Park offers inflatable slides, jumps, seesaws and bridges all connected in a freshwater lagoon.


Old lighthouse and Black Combe near Millom

A couple of miles from Haverigg, Millom beach is backed by dunes and swathed with sand and shingle. The Hodbarrow RSPB reserve is just a few minutes’ drive  (or a 15-minute walk) from the beach so look out for all sorts of seabirds. 

The town was once an important hub for iron ore mining and this is remembered in the Millom Heritage and Arts Centre, located in the town’s restored former railway station. Exhibits include an early 20th century miner’s cottage, mining equipment and clothing, a post-war shop, interactive displays and a model railway. The centre also celebrates the writing of local poet Norman Nicholson.


View across parkland to Grange-over-Sands

An Edwardian seaside town, Grange-over-Sands was immensely popular with 19th century holidaymakers and boasts ornamental gardens along the prom. Today there’s also crazy golf, cafes, fish and chips to eat on the sea front and a variety of shops to keep visitors entertained. 

Its once busy lido, though long closed, can still be seen, lying at the edge of the salt marshes that lead to the sea. The Art Deco lido – or outdoor swimming pool – first opened in 1932 and shut its doors for the last time in 1993. However, a local group, Save Grange Lido, is working with the local council and raising funds to restore and reopen the pool.

Grange-over-Sands is also the end point for the famous Morecambe Bay Cross-Bay Walk, a popular event taking place throughout the years, where walkers traverse the perilous sands, expertly guided by a King’s Guide.


View across the River Mite estuary to Ravenglass

Though it’s on the coast, Ravenglass also lies within the Lake District National Park – the only coastal village to do so. 

Once an important Roman naval base, the village is now more known for its heritage railway, the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway or La’al Ratty (little railway in the local dialect). This travels a picturesque route through the Lake District fells to Dalegarth Station, a seven-mile journey that takes around 40 minutes. 

The beach at Ravenglass is a mixture of sand and mud, so perhaps better for walking with dogs than picnicking with family, but the sea is always worth a paddle. After exploring, why not stop of for a drink or something to eat at one of the village’s three pubs: the Ratty Arms, The Inn at Ravenglass or The Pennington Hotel.

Map of the Cumbrian coast:

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Cottages on the Cumbrian coast

Drone view of Allonby village

If you have been inspired to visit the Cumbrian coast, you’ll find a range of holiday cottages in lovely locations like Ravenglass, Maryport and Grange-over-Sands. Explore the Cumbrian coast on foot or by train then come home to one of our seaside cottages to relax and ready yourself for another day of exciting discovery.


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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