A trip on a train uphill then a cycle back down again sounded good to us so to the Lake District we headed direction Ravenglass. The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway is a miniature steam railway on a scenic heritage trail – views, exercise and steam trains – a great combination. Ravenglass, a coastal port on the Irish Sea was our starting point quite pretty with a nice beach and interesting too, it dates back to Roman times. Trains and time pressures though were upon us so a walk along the beach was not an option.
We made for the station to wait for La’al Ratty – the nickname of England’s first narrow guage railway. Looking at the little brightly coloured trains that chug up and down the Esk Valley, you can hardly believe this was once an industrial railway. It took iron ore from the Upper Eskdale mines down to Ravenglass. Now quarrying has ceased and all traces of it are gone but the little train still chugs up and down carrying tourists instead. The railway is maintained by enthusiasts – lovely, helpful, friendly people who are justly proud of the railway. The little station is very quaint – an old-fashioned vibe and plenty to look at while you wait.
We had pre-booked our bikes on the train (you have to do this at least 24 hours in advance) but they were the only ones on board. When the train pulled into the station it was full of coach tourists but our timing was spot on and the journey back up wasn’t at all busy. Husband bought a cycle map with our tickets – it cost £1.80 but if you bought it you saved £3.00 on the ticket price (how does that work) but it was a life-saver. Research suggested the trail was well signposted – not so. Without the trail map we would probably still be there.
The little locomotive that hauled us on the seven mile route up the Esk Valley to Dalegarth was very cute. Steam driven, there was a mixture of closed carriages, some with roofs and open sides and some completely open. The half-way house was our choice – a roof but open either side, a pleasant ride and not too windy although you would find this hard to believe looking at one of the passengers.
The journey took about 45 minutes, lovely views which got lovelier the higher we climbed. Lots of curious animals watched as we passed but Son was more interested in his scratch card (all children get one with their ticket) and fantasised about the prize he would collect at the station (it was a badge but a prize nonetheless, he was thrilled).
Dalegarth was another great little station with loads of kid friendly stuff going on – horse and carriage rides, a man with owls and a marquee teaching circus skills but Son couldn’t go past these beauties and a husky carriage ride.
We dragged him away from all the fun to start the torture that was the cycle ride (his words). The route was supposedly suitable for all ages and fitness levels – a bit of an exaggeration, moderate fitness at a minimum was essential, it was not all easy going and there was one monster hill to tackle. Stunning scenery though more than made up for the effort required. We rode from the foot of Scafell via riverside pastures, meadows and oak woods – all gorgeous.
A stop by a river meant a break for us and a chance for Son to explore, climb and skim stones and get his feet more than a bit wet.
The cycle was nine miles in total but it took us around three hours. It was not easy pedalling apart from the last stretch and was along a mixture of country lanes, stony and earthy tracks and grassy fields. Gates galore to pass through too and numerous photo stops.
Chapel Hill was described as a “challenging climb” – I could think of more appropriate adjectives but basically it went on and on and on, even Husband who normally relishes these things was grumbling and groaning. I just focussed on dragging my bike uphill and staying alive. Just when we thought we couldn’t take any more, the top was reached and it was downhill (almost) all the way.
We glanced at the Roman bath house on the outskirts of Ravenglass, that would normally have merited a stop, but concern was mounting if we did this we would never get started again. So, we carried on. We made it to the Ratty Arms, a gorgeous old pub next to the station for well earned refreshments. Quaint inside, you feel as if you’ve been dropped back into the 1950’s. I loved it, the perfect spot for R&R after all that exercise.