From its abundance of wildlife and walking trails to its quirky cafés and shops, this Area of Outstanding Beauty makes for a great escape. Words: Amy Grace
Jutting out from the rocky Silverdale coast is Arnside – with its sandy shore, magnificent outlook and timeless charm. The best way to appreciate it is to approach by train from Grange-over-Sands but however you arrive, the place provides an idyllic weekend base, just off the M6. Lake District fells on the horizon, spectacular sunsets, fish so keen to appear on the menu, they wriggle and wrap around foot-fishers’ legs, and a pretty Victorian parade and pier – it is an enchanting spot. The promenade has met seaside chic head-on, while still staying true to its character as a fishing port, and walkers, cyclists, fishermen, kayakers, children and yummy-mummies are all at home here.
There are also plenty of opportunities for getting up high and feeling a sea breeze. Venturing beyond Arnside, the Silverdale Peninsula is a rare environment of deciduous woodlands, limestone grasslands and coastal saltmarshes enclosed by low limestone hills. And it’s home to more than 100 species of bird, so be sure to pack your binoculars for some breathtaking sights.
A GREAT PLACE FOR…
SATURDAY NIGHT DINNER
Locally sourced produce with wonderful views of the sea, The Albion’s menu offers traditional pub grub with a gourmet twist but reasonable prices. Booking is essential albionatarnside.co.uk
Close to both Leighton Hall and Levens Hall, No 17 Café and Restaurant serves premium local food cooked by Chef Graeme Shuttleworth. The Sunday set menu includes a homemade soup with organic bread and either Roast Loin of Pork with Duck Fat Roast Potatoes or Roast Topside of Beef with Rich Pan Gravy no17parkroad.com
FISH AND CHIPS
Within easy reach of the promenade, beach and pier, Arnside Chip Shop and the Big Chip Café might have been in business for 21 years but they’re right on trend, offering gluten-free batter and poached fish (except on Mondays – but you can ring ahead to pre-order). This is bespoke batter at its best arnsidechipshop.co.uk
BOUTIQUE SHOPS AND GOTHIC TOWERS
The Wolfhouse gallery in Silverdale is great for mooching, indulging and original gifts. Take a peep at monthly ‘pop-up shops’, from both local and British artists and makers, and visit Janice McGloine’s cosy art studio – her original paintings, giclée prints, cards and hand-painted gifts are inspired by the coastline.
Ladies, you’d be forgiven for bribing your partner with delicious English Lakes ice creams from Arnside House while you take a peek in ‘pre-owned dress agency’, Gallery H or one of the other contemporary gift shops in Arnside. If you fancy a spot of lunch, Silverdale village has three pubs and a two-mile golf course. Leighton Hall, the historic home of the world-renowned Gillow furniture-making family, is also nearby. Its intricate Gothic towers and acres of beautiful gardens are captivating and, in the summer, falconry experiences are available as gifts.
ROMANTIC RAIL JOURNEYS
The Furness Railway Line offers a wonderful and unique way of seeing the coastline. The tides lap the edge of the line in places and the views of the bay – showcasing some of the best wildlife in Britain – are stunning.
RSPB LEIGHTON MOSS NATURE RESERVE
Grown-ups can hire binoculars and children can take out Wildlife Explorer Backpacks, follow a trail, then sneak off to spend some pocket money in the RSPB gift shop. The award-winning café serves a ‘Fledgling Menu’ for little eaters and all proceeds go to looking after birds – so there’s no reason to turn down pudding! It’s free entry to the visitors’ centre but admission to hides and nature trails starts at £1 per child. It’s fully equipped for families with pushchair-friendly trails rspb.org.uk.
COME RAIN OR SHINE
If the weather is good, Silverdale and Arnside have some beaches that are ideal for anyone armed with a bucket and spade. Or you could head indoors with the whole family for a visit to Heron Corn Mill. Situated on the banks of the River Bela in Beetham, the mill is open from Wednesday to Saturday – the 14ft high waterwheel and machinery of the grain kiln will fascinate little minds.
The fast-flowing tides, ever-changing channels and quicksands in Morecambe Bay mean that walking across the estuary is a no-no without the help of the Queen’s Guide, who leads several Cross Bay walks every year.
Arnside Knott, a 520ft high flat rock owned by the National Trust, is one of the best sites in Britain for spotting rare butterflies and a wealth of birdlife. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars and a picnic – from this point, the views from the summit across the Kent Estuary and Morecambe Bay are unsurpassed, taking in Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Kentmere Pike and the Old Man of Coniston in the distance.
A National Trust wildlife walk route starts from the NT car park or you can set off for three miles from Silverdale Road in Arnside, close to Arnside Tower, which was built in around 1340.
For geologists and fossil hunters, Trowbarrow Local Nature Reserve gives a glimpse of 330 million years of geological history, and for the best sunset, why not pause for thought, or a snack, on the limestone seat on Jack Scout? Everyone has their favourite corner of the National Trust’s Eaves Wood, be it by the hidden grassy glades or beside the twisted old junipers on the open limestone pavement around the Pepperpot monument.
Alfred Wainwright mentioned the Fairy Steps – they’re a short walk through Beetham village. A flight of stone steps squeezed between two sheer rock faces is so named because, according to local legend, if you descend the steps without touching the sides, the fairies will grant your wish.
In fact, just being here, makes a visitor to this area feel as though one wish has already come true.
Cosy in the winter and the perfect place to people-watch in the summer, No 43 achieves a real mix of coastal chic à la south coast, with the feel of a Lakeland country house hotel. Spot herons and oystercatchers as you watch the sun setting over Morecambe Bay from the balcony or patio, enjoy a hearty one-pot wonder for dinner, or just indulge in glamorous, boutique surroundings. Double B&B starts from £120 no43.org.uk.
This large Edwardian house, with its own licensed restaurant, has great views of the Lake District fells and the option of family rooms or individual beds. It’s open every day of the year from 7.30-10am and 17.00-22.30pm. Membership of the YHA is not essential. Rooms from £25, beds from £13 yha.org.uk/hostel/arnside.
FISHERMAN’S COTTAGE SILVERDALE
A vision of seaside style, Fisherman’s Cottage sleeps five and you’ll fall asleep listening to the sound of waves skimming the shore. A deep, double-ended bath is the ideal place to recover from coastal walks and the attention to detail with interior design is all you’d expect from an AA Gold Award. Weekly rental from £300 fishermans-silverdale.co.uk.
WOLFHOUSE COTTAGES SILVERDALE
Two cottages form part of a 17th-century farmstead, 10 minutes’ walk from Silverdale village and backing on to the Wolfhouse Kitchen. Just a short walk from the sea, they’re an ideal base for exploring. The Coach House has spacious five-star accommodation with superb views of the coast. Short breaks and weeks available. Prices for an eight-sleeper start from £545 per week wolfhousecottages.co.uk.