Things to do nearby The Retreat (Ravenglass)
The lovely village of Ravenglass is ideally placed to make the most of all the stunning scenery and rich history of this quiet area of the Lake District. A walk from the village could see you on top of Muncaster Fell with a stunning panorama of the highest peaks, at ancient Muncaster Castle with its glorious grounds, enjoying a coastal sunset with a pint of real ale or exploring Roman history at some wonderfully preserved ancient buildings.
Ravenglass is the only coastal village within the Lake District National Park. It's a much-loved place, which seems to have a special kind of light all of its own and giving visitors the feeling of a gentle, old-fashioned way of life. Three rivers meet at Ravenglass (Esk, Irt, and Mite) to form an estuary and natural harbour. 2000 years ago, it was the location for an important Roman port and military fort and later became a bustling fishing town. Today, Ravenglass is better known as the starting point for the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway (La’al Ratty). There are several eateries in the village where you can get locally sourced and home cooked food and real ales. There's also a cafe and play park at the station to while away a sunny afternoon. Why not take a bike and explore either the 11-mile Eskdale trail or follow some of the Hadrian's Cycleway along the coastline?
Taking a trip on the famous Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, more popularly known as the La’al Ratty couldn't be easier. This magical narrow gauge steam railway makes a leisurely seven-mile journey from Ravenglass to Boot taking in some staggering scenery along the way. With prior arrangement you can put your bikes on the train at either end of the line and cycle back via the Eskdale Trail. There's even a marvellous new museum showcasing the history of the line and offering lots of interactive displays to interest all age groups. Railway enthusiasts are well catered for all round as Ravenglass also has a mainline station and the line occasionally plays host to visiting large steam locomotives.
Muncaster Castle makes a great day out and guests at cottages in Ravenglass are virtually on its doorstep. The Castle sits high above the estuary where the river Esk meets the Irish Sea and has a well-deserved reputation as one of Cumbria’s most popular attractions. The Castle itself makes a great rainy day visit where you can learn more about its colourful history. The original foundations of the building itself date back as far as 79AD - construction of the castle that you see today was started in 1258. As you can imagine with a castle in such an incredible position on the very edges of the country, it is steeped in history, with tales of kings and queens, of murder and intrigue and ghostly presences everywhere! Throughout the year there are events taking place including outdoor cinema, theatre and light shows as well as the world renowned Festival of Fools. The grounds at Muncaster are just as much of a delight as you can watch stunning bird of prey displays, explore a meadow vole maze, enjoy the play park, café and shop as well as seeing the most stunning displays of bluebells, rhododendrons and azaleas when in season. There's also a beautiful small church on the castle's grounds, which is worth a visit for a moment's quiet reflection.
Wonderful Wasdale (less than 10 miles away), is justifiably famous for many reasons. Boasting England’s highest mountain, deepest lake, smallest church, biggest liar and also laying claim to the title of Britain's Favourite View, the valley still has an unspoilt tranquillity that belies its majestic grandeur. The valley has hardly changed in hundreds of years, and the natural splendour of the fells and lakes has been preserved in all of its glory. It is the most mountainous of the Lake District Valleys, indeed several of the Lake District's classic fell walks can be scaled from the valley floor including Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Pillar and Kirk Fell. Wastwater itself is a crystal clear gem, much beloved of divers and wild swimmers, why not dip a toe on your visit?
Mighty Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, is about a 40-minute drive from Ravenglass. At 3,209 feet, it is England's highest mountain and one of the most popular climbs in the Lakes. The views from the top have inspired writers such as Wainwright, Wordsworth and Coleridge and on a clear day the views stretch to Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man. Of course not everybody is so hardy, and closer to the village there are plenty of family walks and gentler strolls that take a few hours yet will lead you to secluded spots all of your own.
At Ravenglass you are also at the gateway to another magical western Lake District valley; Eskdale. As with Wasdale you have access to big hikes to the highest fells as well as some lovely walks on the valley floor and along the beautiful river Esk. Why not take a walk up from Eskdale Green to the wonderfully named Giggle Alley, from here you can head to the Japanese Garden a beautifully tranquil spot. Further up the valley as you head up the steep switchback road that is Hardknott Pass (not for the faint hearted driver or passenger!) you’ll come to the staggering setting of Hardknott Roman Fort. The fort was built under Hadrian’s rule in the 2nd century. It guarded the pass on the road from Ravenglass to Ambleside and was policed by troops from the eastern Adriatic. Today visitors can explore remains including the barracks, commandant’s house, parade ground and bathhouse. Or you can sit and take in the view imagining what life was like here nearly 2,000 years ago.
As for the Cycling opportunities in the area, well, where to begin? For mountain biking the area offers trails to suit all abilities with low-level forest trails (such as the 11-mile Eskdale Trail) and more technical bridleways. For roadies you have one of England’s steepest roads at the head of the Eskdale valley to challenge you as well as wonderfully rewarding quiet roads up Corney Fell and Birker Moor. Indeed many of the Lake Districts most challenging cycling events pass nearby. If hills aren’t to your taste there are some lovely rides out on the coast with beautiful views.
Golfers are well catered for with Muncaster's own 9-hole course just over a mile down the road as well as popular links courses at nearby Seascale (7 miles) and Silecroft (12 miles). If you would like your outdoor adventures taken care of by experts then Westlakes Adventure is a company based in Boot providing outdoor activities for individuals, couples, families and groups. Their activities include rock climbing, ghyll scrambling, paddle boarding and kayaking. Alternatively for something different why not head to "Horse and Husky" nearby where you could find yourself splashing along the coast on horseback or sledding behind a team of huskies!
Instead of heading inland to the fells why not explore more of the culture of this coastline? Whitehaven is a Georgian Harbour town 18 miles up the coast with a colourful history involving rum, sugar and piracy! The Rum Story makes a great place to start your visit and from there you can follow their ‘Quest’ around the town’s historical landmarks. It is also the start to the 140-mile long C2C cycle route. Closer by is Egremont where you can find the remains of a Norman Castle and just south of the town is Florence Mine, the last working iron ore mine in Europe, and part of the rich mining history of West Cumbria.
Alternatively take a walk or bike along the coastline nearby and enjoy the natural surroundings of the beautiful sand dunes at Drigg and Eskmeals Dunes Nature Reserve. There's a profusion of wading birds to see as well as a fabulous array of other flora and fauna. You could take a walk along to Seascale and reward yourself with a delicious locally made ice cream or fish and chips on the seafront!
In August nearby Gosforth has a large agricultural show, which makes a great day out, there's something for all the family to enjoy from the children's races to the big attractions in the main show ring. As summer draws to its close Wasdale and Eskdale both play host to agricultural shows. The Eskdale Show takes place on the last weekend of September. This is a famous Lakeland agricultural show of Herdwick Sheep, which are bred and reared on the surrounding fells by local farmers. The show also has competition classes for hound dogs, terriers, sheep dogs, poultry and shepherds crooks. There are also stalls full of Cumbrian goods, sporting events for children, fell racing, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling events and hound trailing. It’s an excellent window into local farming life and a great day out. The Wasdale Head Show and Shepherds Meet takes place in early October is a great opportunity to mingle with the locals in stunning surroundings. Watch the fell runners making light work of Lingmell, sample the local ale and food stalls and browse the crafts.