Ravenglass – Roman Port to Little Railway

Roman Remains Ravenglass
Roman Remains, Ravenglass
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Ravenglass was for many centuries nothing more than an obscure village on the west coast of Cumberland (we now call it West Cumbria, or the Lake District Coast) where the Rivers Irt and (the much smaller) Mite join the Esk as its channel begins to cut across the silted sands into the Irish Sea. Before those long centuries, however, it had an age of importance.

Ravenglass was in Roman times a strategic harbour in this northernmost part of the empire, a key link in the supply chain for the legions of the North at one end of the road that climbed up to the fort on Hardknott Pass, down to Ambleside and so to Brougham, by Penrith, and beyond. For three hundred years or more up to a thousand men manned the garrison here.

The fourth century harbour on the then-unsilted estuary has now disappeared, although traces of that Roman period still remain in the form of an almost vanished fort and a quite well-preserved bath house now in the care of English Heritage. No doubt as elsewhere the former stones of the military supply buildings are incorporated into many of the local farms and, one would guess, nearby Muncaster Castle.

Ravenglass, Eskdale – Two words meaning “Railway”

After something like fourteen centuries of quiet obscurity as a remote Cumberland fishing village Ravenglass once again became an important centre of transportation – at least, important on a local scale – but this time, although for some time the harbour was once again in use, the eventual means of transport was rail. The products of 19th century iron ore mining and granite quarrying, important components of the Lake District economy before 20th century tourists arrived in strength, were brought down from the hills on a narrow gauge railway track to join the main line at the coast.

Now in the 21st century the Ravenglass railway is a major Lake District tourist attraction, a collaboration since 1960 between railway company and preservation society, each year carrying many thousands of visitors the seven miles up into Eskdale and to the approaches of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike.


Video uploaded to YouTube.com by laalrattysbrother, 2008.

Ravenglass and Lake District Walking

Still thinking of routes, Ravenglass is also the end point of two long-distance walks, the Furness Way and the Cumberland Way, and a stopping-off point along the Cumbria Coastal Way. Close by, overlooking the River Esk, is also Muncaster Castle. The railway and the castle between them provide an excellent day out or, taken slowly along with some wandering to admire the splendid scenery, two or three days. So local accommodation may well be required, and there is no shortage.

Nearby for nature lovers there is a coastal reserve at Drig Dunes and Gullery, one of many reserves on the West Cumbria Coast.

Ravenglass Hotels and Holiday Accommodation

For hotels in the Ravenglass area, plus B&B and self-catering cottages click here: Ravenglass Accommodation


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