Traffic-Free Coastal Cycling

Season:Any
Duration:2 hours or less
Activity:Cycling

Starting at the Beacon in Whitehaven you've a couple of options:

Option 1

The first is a level route which takes you north along the Hadrian's cycleway Sustrans route 72. Firstly, negotiate the harbour, either crossing the lock gates across the old Quay or around the marina. On the opposite side to the Beacon join the road to pass Tesco's car park and follow the small blue signs which lead up behind the petrol station.

The route leads you past the skate park and the former site of William pit. Beyond this you are separated from the shore by the railway lines but you still get a great view across the Solway firth to the Scottish coast of Dumfries and Galloway. Past the houses the route is entirely traffic-free all the way to Parton.

The route is known locally as the 'wagon road' as it used to carry coal wagons, it was - so I am told - a covered route until its collapse. On the right hand side the characteristic red sandstone rises sharply and at their base are the remnants of industry, with raised platforms for unloading wagons. Now fenced off this is a haven for wildlife with slow worms basking in the sun.

When you arrive in Parton you can either turn around or follow the road into town, on the left hand side is a car park with a tunnel under the railway which leads to the site of an old pub - the beach comber, here marked on its car park is a track ideal for cycling around. There is also a slipway down to the shore.

On the return trip you get great views along the coast onto St Bees head and what I regard as the best approach onto Whitehaven town.

Option 2

The Second option is heading south and begins with a climb; follow the road around from the Beacon Museum to the cannon (Long Tom), one of the guns spoilt by John Paul Jones's raid. Then climb up to the Candlestick, Whitehaven's iconic vent for the explosive gases found in the undersea coal mines. From here keep heading up the hill past the house on your right, known locally as Jonathan Swift house because the author lived there as a boy, then the route levels off and you can enjoy a good distance of flat track, this time known as the 'wagon way' as again it carried coal trucks between the many pits along the way.

First is King Pit, the deepest man made hole in the world in its day, then Haig, the last to close in 1986 reaching 4.5 miles under the Irish sea, then Saltom pit, the first undersea coal mine in England and hub of industrial innovation.

After those the route leads towards St Bees head passing the old mining cottages and on to the back of the former chemical plant, this is the end of the line, literally where in living memory steam engines would have had their coal washed before returning it down the wagon way back to the harbour for sale.

As you head back to Whitehaven keep an eye out for wildlife, the former industrial activity has made a nutrient poor area which is awash with wildflowers, insects and birds during the summer.

Further Information

Further information on this formerly industrial, yet beautifully wild area can be found at Colourful Coast

By Chris Gomersall

Whitehaven and Ennerdale Ranger. The best thing about my job is how different my two work places are, from mountain top to rocky shores the people inbetween are so helpful. I work on the north western edge of the Lake District National Park and my role is very varied,from finance spreadsheets to hedgelaying and events. I manage the Whitehaven coast project, part of a larger partnership project called the colourful coast, see our website www.colourfulcoast.org.uk here our aim is to engage the community in the conservation of natural and built heritage. In Ennerdale I represent the NT to our tenants and neighbours as well as the usual countryside tasks, here too is a partnership project called Wild Ennerdale, see the website at www.wildennerdale.co.uk

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How to get here

The Beacon, Whitehaven

street
Whitehaven
CA28 7

NX 968 181

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