On 18th September 2011 I blogged about Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire, the eastern end of the 182-mile Coast To Coast walking route dreamt up by Alfred Wainwright. Now, just over two years later, here we are at the western end of the route, St Bees. Walkers generally start at St Bees and end in Robin Hood's Bay, although there is nothing to stop you doing it the other way around if you feel so inclined. It is customary to pick up a pebble at St Bees and keep it safe during the walk, then throw it in the sea at Robin Hood's Bay, and Wainwright also dictated that walkers should dip their boots in the Irish Sea before setting off. There is a stone pillar behind the beach that marks the start of the walk with a map and a photograph of Wainwright, and the boat ramp is the place where the boot dipping takes place. This scene is overlooked by South Head, which is the first of many uphill stretches along the walk.
The name St Bees derives from the Irish princess, St Bega, who founded a nunnery here in the 7th century AD. The nunnery was destroyed by incoming Vikings, but in 1120 it was resurrected as a Benedictine priory by the Lord of Egremont William Meschin. The Priory was dissolved in 1539, but the priory church still stands today and is used as the parish church of St Bees. Across the way from the priory church is the venerable old St BeesSchool, which was founded in 1583. The railway arrived at St Bees in the mid-19th century, and it facilitated the exploitation of the local sandstone, which was transported to Barrow-in-Furness for use as a building material. The railway also brought the first tourists, who continue to flock to the village today, no doubt attracted as much by its proximity to the wonders of the Lake District as by the charms of the village itself. Meanwhile, back to that beach, a long sweep of a beach which at low tide exposes an expanse of red sand and rock pools, while at high tide only the shingle part, with a huge variety of rock types, is accessible. The beach was last year declared one of the two cleanest beaches in Cumbria, and this year received a Quality Coast Award.
Map of the area.
|Photo by Doug Sim, via Wikimedia Commons|