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Barrow-in-Furness, commonly known as Barrow, is a town and port in Cumbria, situated at the tip of the Furness peninsula. With views out over Morecambe Bay and just a few miles south of the Lake District National Park, Barrow is a perfect destination for anyone looking to combine the glorious scenery of Cumbria with the best amenities a large coastal town can offer.
The history of Barrow-in-Furness
While many parts of Cumbria have history dating back to the Roman era, no conclusive evidence has been found (so far) that the Romans settled on the Furness peninsula. There were certainly Norsemen in the area from around the 9th century, and in the Middle Ages the Furness peninsula was controlled by the Cistercian monks of Furness Abbey, built on the orders of King Stephen in 1123.
Several still-standing cottages and farmhouses in Barrow date back to the early 17th century, though the settlement remained very small until a sudden explosion of population and trade in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, due to a huge push for iron ore mining, and later shipbuilding. In 1846 Barrow had a population of just 150 but by the end of the century it had grown to over 4,000, earning it the nickname the ‘English Chicago’ after the similarly expansive American city.
Today Barrow is undergoing a massive regeneration process, including the development of the large Waterfront development of houses, restaurants, shops and hotels, due for completion by 2020.
Things to do in Barrow-in-Furness
One of Barrow's most popular tourist attractions is the Dock Museum. The museum contains galleries focused on the town's history and its involvement in the Second World War. Part of the museum is housed in a former dry dock, opened in 1872, with three floors containing models of ships and submarines built in Barrow. Other exhibits include the Viking Gallery, two historic, locally built vessels as well as a film show illustrating the town's past and present.
The historic ruins of Furness Abbey and Piel Castle, both managed by English Heritage, are also popular tourist destinations. The ruins of the Abbey lie on the Cistercian Way, an ancient walk that used to link the Abbey with the nearby town of Dalton-in-Furness. Famous visitors to the Abbey include Queen Victoria in 1848, and future US President Teddy Roosevelt 21 years later.
Piel Castle is also now a ruin, but equally popular with tourists. Built in the early 14th century by the Abbot of Furness Abbey, it was used to oversee the trade through the local harbour and to protect against Scottish raids. It was also used as a base by the young pretender to the throne Lambert Simnel in 1487, during the attempt to overthrow King Henry VII.
One of the largest markets in Cumbria, Barrow Indoor Market has over 60 independent traders offering local meat and produce, arts, crafts and luxuries, plus everyday items you may need to stock up on.
Visiting the surrounding area
Barrow has been referred to as a 'gateway to the lakes' and 'where the lakes meets the sea'. The Lake District is 10 miles to the north east, and there are plenty of options to drive, take a guided your or make your own way via public transport to the National Park.
Closer to Barrow itself, North Walney is a National Nature Reserve on Walney Island just across the Walney Channel from the town. North Walney is a wild and windy coastal site featuring some nationally rare and important habitats such as sand dunes, dune heath, hay meadows, inter-tidal mud flats and salt marsh.
A short distance to the north lies another nature reserve, Sandscale Haws. The reserve's sand dunes support a population of natterjack toads, a rare and threatened species now protected by the national Biodiversity Action Plan.