Cumbrian Cistercian Way

NW England, 2 day, 3 day, English Heritage

Cumbrian Cistercian Way – 25 miles – 2-3 days – Piel Castle to Cartmel Priory (or Grange-over-Sands). A pilgrimage through the calming landscape of South Cumbria, in the footsteps of the Cistercian monks. Start your journey by boarding the tiny ferry to Piel Island, whose castle was built in this remote place to store and protect the grain, wine and wool of the monks of Furness Abbey. From there you ferry back to the shore of Roa Island and walk inland to Furness Abbey – a colossal red sandstone masterpiece, and once the second wealthiest and most powerful Cistercian monastery in England. After the Vale of Nightshade, via Dalton-in-Furness, you come to Great Urswick church, with its Arts and Crafts wooden carvings and Saxon ‘Tunwini Cross’. Now follow the BPT’s diversion from the original route over the brow of Birkrigg Common, to where its stone circle overlooks Morecambe Bay, which you then descend to, and walk along its shore to the modern Buddhist temple at the medieval site of Conishead Priory. From Swarthmoor Hall, the birthplace of Quakerism, catch the train from Ulverston across the bay to Cark, and from there walk the stretch to culminate at the magnificent 12th-century Cartmel Priory. If you walk 2.5 miles further to the train station at Grange-over-Sands you can experience the panoramic views of Hampsfell looking south over Morecambe Bay and north towards the Lake District.

Low-cost hostels along route – Witherslack, Humphrey Head (both near Grange-over-Sands) and others nearby.

*NB The orange-coloured route is a modified version of the now out-of-print guide by Ian Brodie, ‘The Cistercian Way: A South Lakeland Walk’. The blue route on the Google Map is what appears in Brodie’s guide.*

Scroll down to bottom of page for advice on logistics, and see Google Map waypoint descriptions more info for each holy place.

More Info on The Cumbrian Cistercian Way

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Roa Island Ferry Pier

Piel Castle

Roa Island Causeway

Rampside Church and Windmill

Rampside Churchyard

Medieval Bow Bridge

Furness Abbey

Dalton Font

Little Urswick Crags

Priapus Stone, Great Urswick

Saxon ‘Tunwini’ Cross in St Mary and Michael Church, Great Urswick

Great Urswick Churchyard

Birkrigg Stone Circle

Bardsea Churchyard

Morecambe Bay Sands (mid-tide)

Chapel Island, Morecambe Bay (high tide)

Cartmel Priory

Sheep in Cartmel Priory Graveyard

Cartmel Priory from East End

Hampsfell Hospice

Morecambe Sands from Hampsfell

Train to the start at Roose station, then taxi to Roa Island Ferry. Park car in Grange-over-Sands (or Cartmel), then train to Roose, OR park car at Roa Island and make way back to start from destination at end of pilgrimage.

Dalton-in-Furness, Great Urswick, Bardsea, Ulverston/Swarthmoor, Cartmel (in order of distance from start). Break at Urswick if doing 2-day version, or Dalton (1st night) and Ulverston (2nd night) if doing 3-day version.

Available from Amazon (but out-of-print…).

Footpaths, fields and small sections of road.

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  1. Val

    I walked the opposite way, from Grange over Sands to Roa and Piel Island. I had a copy of the 1980’s guide which had interesting info but very poor maps!, although enough description to transcribe the route to an OS map
    A solo pilgrimage for me, taking in Cistercian and Augustinian Abbeys, historic village churches and a Tibetan Buddhist centre.
    Delightful, very quiet paths in varied scenery, away from the hustle and bustle of the main Lakes area. Piel Island seems a splendid ending, although it was too windy for the ferry to run when I was there.


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