The Abbey of St. Mary of Furness is a magnificent ruin of a
vast and imposing building constructed in the distinctive local red
sandstone and set in the deep, wooded valley of Bekansgill.
The Abbey was founded in 1127 on land granted by King Stephen
to the Abbot of Savigny in Normandy. The governing monastic order
was originally Savigniac, but by order of the Abbot of Savigny the
Abbey became Cistercian in 1148. Benefiting from the architectural
and agricultural abilities of the Cistercian monks, the power and
wealth of the Abbey grew and by the 12th Century was unchallenged
Barrow's impressive Town Hall is at the heart of the town and
its clock tower can be viewed from almost anywhere in the vicinity.
Built from local red sandstone, it was formally opened in 1887 and
represents the height of Barrow's Victorian development. The
building was designed by W.H. Lynn in the style known as modern
Gothic. The richest detail of the interior can be found in the oak
panelled Council Chamber and the Queen's Hall, with its dazzling
The building is still at the centre of the everyday running of
the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness (Tel (01229) 876543 Customer
Services). Group tours can be arranged in advance by
phoning Committee Administration (01229) 876322.
A leaflet detailing the history of
the Town Hall is available from Barrow Tourist Information Centre,
or a version can be downloaded as a pdf file
Once the last bastion of defence from the marauding Scots,
Piel Castle is now in ruins, with only the King of the island and
inquisitive visitors for company. Built around 1327 it was mainly
used as a fortified warehouse for the storage of grain and wool. In
1487 it was invaded by Lambert Simnel and over 2,000 of his
followers on the start of their abortive attempt to seize the crown
from Henry VII.
The only means of access is via the Roa Island ferry service
or by taking a guided walk across the sands at low tide. The castle
has recently undergone extensive restoration and is well worth a
The Dock Museum
This exciting and innovative Museum
opened in 1994. Built over an original Victorian Graving Dock, it
traces the history of Barrow from a tiny 19th Century hamlet to the
world's largest producer of iron and steel and then to a major
ship-building force, within 40 years. The story of the people who
brought about such change is both unique and extraordinary.
A spectacular new permanent
exhibition 'Shipbuilders to the World' includes the museum's
collection of fine ship models and exciting computerised
interactive displays using images from the Vickers Photographic
Archive. Films about Barrow are shown in
the museum’s custom-built auditorium.
A Gallery for temporary exhibitions
hosts a full and varied exhibitions programme.
The landscaped dockside site has an
adventure playground and walkways linking to the Cumbria Coastal
Way, a long distance coastal footpath from Milnthorpe to Carlisle.
Admission is free.
Facilities include a coffee shop; a
souvenir shop; passenger lift; ample free car and coach
All areas of the Museum are
Group bookings are welcomed and
guided tours are available on request.
The Dock Museum is open all year
round from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am - 4 pm and last admission
is 3.30 pm.
Dalton-in-Furness is an old
settlement mentioned in the Doomsday Book as Daltune. The original
town was almost hidden in a narrow valley out of the convenient
reach of the sea and ship borne raiders. For a considerable time in
the Furness history, Dalton was the chief town and administrative
Dalton Castle stands above the town,
built to defend the people of Dalton and the approaches to Furness
Abbey. Dalton Castle is a
National Trust property
The castle was built in stages
between the 1330's and 1350's, perhaps in response to a series of
Scottish raids earlier that Century. There was a great raid in 1322
under the leadership of Robert the Bruce when much of Furness was
The castle was changed several
times before undergoing its most radical alteration in
1856. It served as a courthouse and dungeon for Furness Abbey.
After the dissolution of the monastery in 1537 the Castle passed
through several hands, eventually resting with the Dukes of
It was the 8th Duke who presented
the Castle to the National Trust in 1965. A National Trust
guidebook is available and there is an exhibition celebrating the
life and work of George Romney, the renowned portrait artist, who
is buried in nearby Dalton Church.
From Easter to the end of September
between 2pm and 5pm, Dalton Castle is open to the public on
Saturdays, free of charge (Donations welcome). For
enquiries telephone Mrs A V McCreith (01229) 463293
Walney Nature Reserves
South Walney Nature
Reserve is situated on the south end of Walney Island, on
land granted by King Stephen to the Abbot. It contains the largest,
mixed ground nesting of herring and lesser black-back gulls in
Europe (almost 30,000 pairs altogether) and the most southerly
eider duck breeding colony in Britain.
Other breeding species of birds
include the greater black-back gull, common tern, little tern,
oyster-catcher, ringed plover, shell duck, mallard and moor
The area has considerable ecological
interest arising from the many habitats present, including mud
flats, pebble ridges, salt marshes, sand dune, rough pasture,
freshwater and brackish pools. It contains an excellent range of
both the common and rare flowers of the coast.
Facilities include car parking,
toilets (disabled access), information kiosk, six bird-watching
hides and three nature trails. Tel (01229) 471066.
North Walney National Nature
Reserve is a haven for natterjack toads, Britain's rarest
amphibian. There are only about 40 remaining sites, and one of
their main strongholds is the Cumbrian coastline. The calling of
males in the breeding season is very impressive. Visitors are
reminded that it is illegal to capture or keep natterjack toads
without a licence.
Additionally, over 130 species of
birds have been recorded on and around the reserve including a
large number of kestrels, sparrow hawks, merlins, peregrines and
hen harriers. Short-eared owls are also frequent visitors, to be
seen hunting before dusk. The area is very rich in flora, with a
staggering 300 different species having been recorded.
Public access is permitted at all
times on foot only. Please observe any notices and keep all dogs
under strict control, especially during the breeding season
(April-July). Please note that land south of the NNR boundary is
part of an operational airfield. Visitors are not allowed to walk
through the airfield without the air authority's permission.
Residents' Pass Scheme
This Summer, why not visit Furness
Abbey, and South Walney Nature Reserve free of charge?
Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council run a Pass Scheme for Borough
residents so that they and their family can visit these wonderful
local attractions without paying the admission charge.
To join the scheme residents should
take their Council Tax Statement to Customer Services in the Town
Hall, Cornwallis Street entrance, Barrow, where, a single or family
pass for both attractions will be issued. Take the pass along to
Furness Abbey and the Nature Reserve at South Walney, and enter for
The extensive remains are open for
visitors between 10.00am and 6.00pm every day through the
For pass information, contact:
Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council.
Direct line: (01229) 876543.
Information on Barrow District Towns