There’s lots of suggestions here for family days out and explorers. The Wall itself stopped at Bowness-on-Solway but a string of forts, fortlets and signal stations continued the frontier down the coast to Ravenglass. In addition to the Roman sites there are sandy beaches, lovely seaside towns, local attractions and stunning views across the Solway to Scotland and to the Isle of Man.
How long does it take?
You will need full day to visit by car or by train. It’s around two hours from Carlisle to Ravenglass by car and an hour by train. If you’re making an overnight trip, simply split the attractions up over two days and spend some time in Ravenglass, Maryport or Silloth. Muncaster castle is a great day out near Ravenglass and there’s a clip and climb centre and aquarium in Maryport as well as the Senhouse Roman Museum.
What do we need?
Take the car, or travel on a train pulled by heritage diesel locomotives. Pack your own lunch or treat the family to a meal at one of the cafes in Ravenglass, Maryport or Silloth.
What’s the plan?
Ravenglass and Harkdnott Roman forts
This day trip includes travelling on a heritage railway line along the Cumbrian coast, a journey on the Ravenglass and Eskdale narrow gauge railway and a medium length walk to one of the most spectacular forts in the whole of the Roman Empire. Catch a train from Carlisle to Ravenglass (one hour). Enjoy the stunning coastal views. Once at Ravenglass, catch ‘Lal Ratty’ (the narrow gauge railway) to Dalegarth (40 minutes) then walk 3 miles to Hardknott Fort at the head of Eskdale. It’s a steep climb up the famous Hardknott Pass so be prepared – but the views are stunning!
On your return to Ravenglass, follow the signs at the station to the remains of the former bath house of the Roman fort at Ravenglass (Glannoventa). It’s a half mile walk. The remains are among the tallest Roman structures surviving in northern Britain, standing almost four metres high. The fort at Ravenglass guarded what was probably a useful harbour, and there is evidence that soldiers stationed here served in Hadrian’s fleet. Ravenglass is an attractive sea side town with harbour, beaches, pubs and cafes.
Maryport and the Senhouse Roman Museum
This day trip takes you to the attractive sea-side town of Maryport where there’s lots for the family to do and explore. Catch the train from Carlisle to Maryport (40 minutes). Walk from the station to the harbour (1.5 miles). From the harbour area, follow the signs up to the Senhouse Roman Museum at the top of the hill to the north – it’s about half a mile. The Museum displays some amazing finds from the adjacent Roman fort of Alauna. The museum is run mainly by volunteers and there are lots of interactive activities for children. The collection of Roman altars is acclaimed worldwide and reveals the fascinating career stories of the Commanders of the regiment here in Roman times – they came from as far away as North Africa and the Danube to command the regiment for four years then move on to other postings.
Once you have visited the Roman museum, you can return to the harbour to enjoy the attractions and have something to eat – there’s a great fish and chip shop by the bridge and several cafes and pubs. The aquarium by the harbour is great fun for the children and if you are looking for a bit of adventure, then the clip and climb centre at The Wave might be just for you. The children can experience the thrill of climbing in complete safety.
If you would like a longer walk by the sea, then you might like to visit the remains of a Roman milefortlet at Swarth Hill, just 3 miles north of Maryport along an easy, flat path. Follow the signs for the coastal promenade and cycle route northwards from the Harbour, or from beside the Senhouse Roman Museum. The outline of the fortlet is very well preserved at the top of a line of higher ground above the coastal sand dunes. The coastal views are spectacular.