It had taken us the best part of 2 seconds to make the decision to avoid the Easter Fun Day at Holker Hall – I am firmly of the opinion that if something has to tell you that it’s fun then it probably isn’t – and instead had opted to visit Piel Island as it was somewhere we had never been before.
We were staying in the exotic location of Barrow in Furness visiting relatives – it is my parents’ home town – and my cousin Alison had recommended Piel as a good place to go for the day. Barrow in fact – despite being dubbed “The Longest Dead End Road in Europe” by some – does have several worthwhile places to visit and I’ll perhaps look at some more of those in future posts.
Piel Island lies just under a mile out across Piel Channel from Roa Island which is itself reached by a causeway road and is home to the RNLI lifeboat station. The trip across lasted 10 minutes in an open boat licenced for 12 passengers and we were treated to the view of the huge section of an offshore wind turbine being towed out to sea by a couple of tugs. The return trip costs £5 per adult and leaves from the end of the causeway next to the small pier leading to the lifeboat station which is open to visitors (free but please make a donation – they are volunteers).
Whilst on the subject of Roa Island, there is a walk that leaves the road mid point between the lifeboat station and Rampside that follows a shingle beach and causeway south eastwards to Foulney Island where there is a bird sanctuary. It’s a walk of 3 miles return that I did many times as a kid and was one of my favourites in the area. The weather today was much calmer than it usually is though and Jacqui still doesn’t believe my tales of the seagulls flying backwards and the wind blowing the waves across the road.
Piel though is perhaps best known for the fact that the landlord of the pub also holds the title “King of Piel” which is probably apt for the man who controls the beer on an island with just one pub but it is the ruined castle that is the island’s biggest feature. Piel Castle dates from the fourteenth Century and is clearly visible from the mainland and it was here we headed for our picnic much to the approval of 3 year old Daniel.
I was surprised by how much of Piel Castle is still standing and steps and walkways allow the visitor to explore most of the building where there are views from the ramparts over to Walney and back across the island to the mainland over the channel. There is no additional charge to look around.
On busy days bear in mind that the last ferry leaves around 5 PM and takes only a dozen people at a time and though they will not leave you marooned like Jack Sparrow you may be waiting a short while if there is a queue at the jetty but hey – it’s by the pub and there are far worse places to sit around.