Wednesday, 5 August 2009
A week in Barrow-in-Furness. Which sounds like the punch line of a northern music hall joke, but in fact this industrial town has much of interest to the Unmitigated Tourist once you get over the fact that every view is blocked by a simply gargantuan submarine factory. It started off as a tiny village in Lancashire, grew into an mid-Victorian iron and steel port that in turn got into shipbuilding before going underwater as it were, leaving a town that even Cumbria (the county it's now in) appears to forget. To the north of the town are empty beautiful beaches with cloud-topped fells as a backdrop, to the south the joy of a salty ferry trip to Piel Castle, sharing its tiny island with a row of atmospheric coastguard cottages. To the north east and east is of course some of the most stunning scenery in the country. But it is possible to avoid the more obvious tourist traps of the Lake District, and my personal preferences are for quiet Eskdale, running up from the tiny lost port of Ravenglass to the Hardknott Roman Fort; the Cartmel Peninsular, and the country that opens up above the delightful little town of Broughton-in-Furness. It's all here. Rusting street signs, Unmitigated railway carriages and corrugated barns. Big sands, big seas, big skies. And not a stick of rock to be seen, unless it's a shard of home-grown slate.