Review: The Bay Cycleway – 82 miles of beautiful coastline

Meeting at the start of the Bay Cycleway on Walney Island
Meeting at the start of the Bay Cycleway on Walney Island

It all began on Walney Island on a warm, sunny Saturday morning.

A finger of land connected to the Furness Peninsular by an iron bridge, with a handy pub just over the road that serves an all you can eat breakfast for less than a fiver.

The ferry crossing at Roa Island

The ferry crossing at Roa Island

Set up for the day on this most English of meals, the four of us gathered at the start of the Bay Cycleway route at Sandy Gap Lane, where panniers carrying sleeping and wet weather gear were fastened and checked, photos were taken, and goodbyes were said to our drivers.

A lateish start of around 10.30am meant we were all raring to go and we launched into an enthusiastic and high spirited start of the 82-mile waymarked route around Morecambe Bay.

None of us are “experienced cyclists”, although I did do the Coast to Coast from Workington to Whitley Bay over two days a few years back.

There was no lycra in sight, and we aimed for a steady paced, relaxed ride with a few pub stops and time to take in the stunning surroundings of Morecambe Bay.

Looking out over Morecambe Bay from Warton Crag

Looking out over Morecambe Bay from Warton Crag

Armed with our Bay Cycleway guidebook and printed Sustrans map of the National Cycle Route 700, our final destination was Glasson Dock.

We had planned to do the route over two days, with a camp at Staveley-in-Cartmel on the first night. This would mean around 30 miles on the first day, and up to 60 on the second. The first part of the route crosses the A590 back into Barrow-in-Furness, and passes BAE Systems, before following the coast for a while through the old dockyards.

It’s not long before you leave the industry behind and return to the countryside, and we soon made it to Roa Island, where we stopped for a break at the ferry port over to Piel Island. Well worth a detour to see this unusual and beautiful location.

It was then on to Roosebeck and Leece and then Gleaston with its medieaval castle, and then a bit of a climb up to the limestone pavements of Birkrigg Common, which offers lovely views over the valley. We came down the other side so quickly that we missed the right turn of the route into Bardsea, so we headed back, not wanting to miss out on the scenic coastal village and promenade.

From here, we followed the A5087 past the golden dome of the Majushri Kadampa Buddhist Centre and up into Ulverston where we stopped for a pint of beer and something to eat at The Sun Inn. We also met our fifth rider, who was joining us for the rest of the route.

We’d been advised there was a fairly hefty climb coming out of the town along the B5281 Town Bank Road and we were not disappointed.

It was a hot afternoon, and heavy going until Greenodd, where we found refreshment at The Ship Inn and Greenodd Brewery. A little gem of a pub that serves several of its own beers.Back in the saddle, the route took us across the A590, onto a bridge across the river Leven, and then on to quiet tracks all the way to Haverthwaite and The Anglers Arms, then Newby Bridge and one final stop at The Swan Hotel and Spa, where we sat by the pond for an hour or two and relaxed in the sunshine.

It was a short ride to our camping spot from there.

Our second day took us slightly off the route until we passed Cark, and it was then on to Grange-over-Sands where we stopped for some well earned pie, coffee and cake. We then headed north via Lindale and Meathop, with a pit stop at The Derby Arms, then on to Levens, before swapping directions and going south via the deer park, Sandside, and a fair old slog into Arnside, where everyone started feeling the strain.

It was another slog out of Arnside, and then up and down a bit as we followed the coast past Silverdale, and then over to Warton and Warton Crag. This was probably the hardest part of the route, but beautiful nonetheless.

We decided to keep going until Morecambe, and this proved to be another gruelling section along the Lancaster Canal. Again, beautiful, but the rough towpath is not the most comfortable terrain when you’re saddle sore!

We were back on home turf now though, and no longer needed the aide of the waymarkers, which had been very useful indeed.

Ice lollies and chocolate on Morecambe Prom and then it was a case of getting on the Millennium Path towards Lancaster and then joining the Lune Path at St George’s Quay all the way to Glasson Dock.

Done. Three of us made the entire journey but I won’t name any names!

There could be more made of the start and finish lines, but the Bay Cycleway is a wonderful experience along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the UK. It is a feast for the senses that mixes quiet highway, stone surface paths and woodland, forestry track, towpath and promenade with breathtaking views around every turn.

We did it over two days but it can easily be broken down into more manageable sections. Just search for National Cycle Route 700 online.

The development of the Bay Cycle Way is part of Morecambe Bay Partnership’s 700 Days Scheme with £500,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund.