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Ed Peppitt (aka The Beacon Bike)

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100 days 3,500 miles 327 lighthouses

Day 72: Morecambe to Barrow-in-Furness

by | Jan 23, 2023

Sir John Barrow Monument in Ulverston

A hill start

An hour or so beyond Morecambe, I realised that I’d had it pretty easy since my final day in Wales. Any suggestion that my increasing daily mileage was down to improved fitness was soon dismissed the moment I left the shore surrounding Morecambe Bay near Heversham and began to climb. The stretch between Mill Side and High Newton was particularly punishing, so The Crown at the top of the hill was extremely welcome, and an early lunch, washed down with a couple of pints of Hawkshead, put me straight.

At Newby Bridge I was so relieved that the roads were flattening out again that I failed to appreciate that I was less than a mile from the southern shores of Lake Windemere. I crossed the River Leven twice, following an enchanting former railway line that meanders through fields and woodland. A narrow modern footbridge at Greennod took me briefly onto an unexpected dual carriageway, but I quickly found my way onto a delightful narrow lane that took me all the way to Ulverston.


Ulverston is a lovely market town with a labyrinth of cobbled streets and side alleys, with many of the old buildings colourfully rendered in pastel shades. It is a town of some renown, too. In the latter half of the seventeenth century, it was a centre of religious activity when George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, lived here. It is also the birthplace of Stan Laurel, and home to the world’s only Laurel and Hardy Museum.

Ulverston Tower

Ulverston Tower

My interest was in Sir John Barrow, a founding member of the Royal Geographical Society and an intrepid explorer, who was born in the town. In his honour, a prominent memorial was built on Hoad Hill in 1850, which is very similar in appearance to the third Eddystone lighthouse designed by John Smeaton. Its tower is 100 feet tall, and is built from locally quarried limestone.

It has a lantern room, which was originally open to the elements, but is now glazed. However, it isn’t a lighthouse, and has never had a functioning light. What makes it different from the faux lighthouse in Hoylake, the work of ‘Mad Dave the Brickie’, is that Trinity House contributed £100 towards the monument’s construction cost, on the condition that it had the capability to be used as a real lighthouse if deemed necessary at some future time.

Its official name is the Sir John Barrow Monument, but almost everyone calls it The Hoad Monument. Whether you choose to count it as a lighthouse or not, it’s worth the steep climb up the hill, because the views of Morecambe Bay and across the Lake District fells will take your breath away.

I could have dawdled in Ulverston for the rest of the day, but I needed to press on towards Barrow, where I hoped to see the lights along the Walney Channel before the day ended.

In the late nineteenth century, Barrow-in-Furness had the largest steelworks in the world, and the port here was the main route used to transport the steel produced in the town. With the abundance of steel, Barrow established a thriving trade in shipbuilding, and has played a vital role in global ship and submarine construction for 150 years.

Rampside Walney Channel

Rampside Walney Channel

Entrance to the port at Barrow is via the Walney Channel, a narrow body of water running between the mainland and Walney Island. My route took me first to Rampside, where the Rampside leading light is also known as ‘The Needle’. There were once thirteen such range lights, built between 1850 and 1870, that together guided vessels into the port. Today this is the only one of the original lights that has survived.

It was built in 1875, and is a sixty-six-foot tall, slender square tower constructed from red and yellow bricks. From a distance, the arrangement of the bricks gives the tower a red and white vertical stripe effect. The top of the tower is shaped like a pyramid, with a window near the top. A white light is displayed through the window, which is visible for six miles.

Foulney Island

Foulney Island

Beyond the Rampside light I continued towards Roa Island, where the road ended at the water’s edge alongside Barrow’s Lifeboat Station. From the road, a shingle bank leads onto the Foulney Island Nature Reserve, where the original front range light has been replaced with a modern, futuristic looking white tower known as the Foulney Island Light. It’s thirty-six feet tall, and displays a quick-flashing white light that is visible for ten miles.

Although the Rampside light is the only one of the nineteenth-century lights remaining, there are several pairs of modern range lights, mainly pile structures, at strategic points on the mainland alongside the Walney Channel. I found the pair at Rampside Sands, and another right at the entrance to the channel. My guidebook also referred to a number of simple pole lights, but after my experience along the Avon and Severn rivers, I took a strategic decision to discount them as bona fide lighthouses.

With the northern bank of the Walney Channel conquered, I coasted the last couple of miles into Barrow itself, where I was content to retire to bed earlier than I had for nearly two months.


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