Start Your adventure through the Lake District at Ravenglass
By Matt Martella
The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is an easy, fun, and efficient way of exploration for travelers who want to journey through the Lake District of Northern England.
Open since 1915, the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is the oldest, longest, and most scenic narrow-gauge Railway in all of England. The tracks run for seven miles (11.3 km) and the journey can be completed in about forty minutes each way.
The Beautiful Lake District
Taking the railway through the Lake District of England is like taking a trip through several generations of English history. From remnants of Roman forts to castles and estates of old the old British aristocracy, much of Britain’s past still remain out in the open on the vast landscape of the Lake District. If a large number of historic sites don’t captivate you, the sprawling valleys, deep forests, and towering Scafell Pike certainly will.
Nicknamed La’al Ratty (little railway) by the Cumbrian natives, the railway begins on the coastal town of Ravenglass and ends at Dalegarth station in the Eskdale valley, which is roughly 210 feet above sea level. Before becoming a passenger-only railway, the main purpose of the Ravenglass Railway was to transport iron ore mined from the village of Boots to Ravenglass.
Now, the railway has a fleet of five steam engines and two diesel engines at its disposal. One of the steam engines, River Irt, was built in 1894 by Sir Arthur Heywood and is the oldest working steam engine of its kind in the world.
Ravenglass is the only coastal village in the Lake District National Park and is the home of several important cultural and historical sites. For lovers of ancient Roman history, Ravenglass is located around Hadrian’s Wall and is even the home of a Roman Bath House that was once part of a larger outpost built in AD 130. Although Ravenglass might appear to be a peaceful coastal village, it was once a major port for the Roman Empire during its invasion into England.
The Railway Museum in Ravenglass has plenty to offer for families with its artifacts and interactive displays. The village is located within the English Lake District National Park, so there are plenty of great walking routes to discover if you want to admire the beautiful scenery of the Lake District.
Another popular site around Ravenglass is Muncaster Castle. Owned by the Pennington family since 1208, the Muncaster Castle is open for tours inside the castle itself or walks around the Himalayan gardens, Bluebell woods, and daily Bird of Prey flying displays.
If you take a tour of the castle around Christmas time, you may also have the opportunity to eat lunch inside the Dining Hall and attend a Bird of Prey show.
The train tracks of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway may end in Dalegarth, but your journey does not. The Eskdale mill is only a quick walk from the Dalegarth station, and it is one of the oldest running mills in England dating back to 1294.
Other attractions in the area include a 60-foot-high waterfall named Stanley Ghyll Force, St. Catherine’s church, and the remnants of the Hardknott Roman Fort.
The area also offers a unique “Scrambling Water Adventures,” in which participants can climb up, slide down, and swim through the Lake Districts many ghylls and mountain streams. All equipment is provided for Ghyll scrambling and participants must be confident swimmers.
Dalegarth is located at the foot of the highest mountain in all of England, Scafell Pike. Scafell Pike offers many different routes of entry. It is accessible to walkers and climbers alike, although for walkers the trek up the mountain will take 7-8 hours to complete.
The Stops in Between
In total, there are seven stops between Ravenglass and Dalegarth station. The first stop is Muncaster Mill. Owned by the same Pennington family that owns Muncaster castle, the Muncaster Mill has been in operation since 1455 and uses 2 million gallons of water a day from the river to mill local organic wheat.
Located between the Miteside Halt and Murthwaite Halt stops along the railway, Hooker Crag on the Muncaster Fell offers a scenic view of the surrounding Lake District. Hooker Crag is the highest point of Muncaster Fell (722 feet), and the entire walk is about 5 miles long.
Irton Fell is another summit in the Lake District a bit further on the railway. Roughly 1296 meters high, this Fell is worth exploring to see a tranquil lake surrounded on all sides by rising, rocky hills. The closest stop to Irton Fell is Murthwaite Halt.
The Japanese garden in Eskdale is one of the least expected, but most memorable sights in all of the Lake district. Located in Giggle Alley, a small woodland beside the Eskdale Green village, the garden is rather unique and has integrated itself with the local English culture. The garden is currently in a rebuilding stage, but it is open to tourists and natives alike. The whole Giggle Alley, although small,
is rich with wildlife worth exploring while on your stop.
How to get to the Railway
There is an estimated 60-minute drive by coach to Ravenglass from the main M6 motorway junctions 36 and 40.
The railway is about a 3.5-hour drive (150 miles) from Glasgow and Edinburgh, a 3 hours drive (130 miles) from Manchester and Liverpool, and a 6-hour drive (300 miles) from London. There is free coach parking at Ravenglass station and a minibus drop-off at Dalegarth.