See the work of the Colourful Coast project
Experience wild, secluded beaches and discover a series of hidden gems such as Saltom Pit, the Haig Pit and Fleswick Bay. Wander through flower rich open access grasslands near Whitehaven managed by the National Trust in partnership.
Total steps: 5
Total steps: 5
The Beacon, Whitehaven
Start by Wellington Terrace at Whitehaven Harbour (just past the Beacon Museum). Follow waymarkers up to The Candlestick (Wellington Pit's imposing chimney), then continue to the Haig Pit. On the clifftop you'll join the wagon way where trucks full of coal used to be shunted down to the harbour.
With Georgian alabaster mines, sandstone quarries, a 12th-century priory, England's first under-sea coal mine and even the site of a top-secret Second World War radar station, this coastline has fascinating stories to tell. The Beacon, Haig Pit and St Bees' Priory all tell them well, and are well worth stopping at to find out more.
Just after Haig Pit, follow the side path to the right to a board above Saltom Pit. There was once a path here which led to the ruined winding house. Continue along the cliff path.
Saltom Pit was the first under-sea coal mine in England. It stands just 20ft (6m) above the beach, and the shaft was dug by hand in 1725.
Follow the path for a short distance to come to another junction. Here, the wagon way continues on to the left, while the narrower footpath runs along the clifftop to the right. Follow the cliff edge path beyond the fields up the heathery slopes ahead onto St Bees Head. You will join an incline sloping up the cliffside towards the sandstone quarry. Here you can choose to drop down to Barrowmouth Bay.
Stones and caves
Barrowmouth Bay is wild and tranquil and worth a bit of a scramble to get down to it where you can see the remains of an old Alabaster mine complex, now a Scheduled ancient monument.
At the quarry follow the waymarked path on the seaward side of the quarry gates for stunning precipitous cliff top views of the coastline to the North all the way to Workington.
We've been working with partners to improve access and conservation along this coast. Here you can see old sandstone quarry workings along the cliff tops and inscriptions into the stone, out to sea you might catch a glimpse of cetaceans or in summer large jellyfish. This stretch of water is now designated as a Marine conservation zone. There is a wealth of wildlife along the cliffs where humans have had less impact which have been designated a SSSI for their cliff ledge plant and animal communities. You can also spot a whole host of wildflowers growing on the cliffs and beside the path.
This path brings you to the lighthouse, RSPB viewing points, Fleswick Bay and eventually to the beach at St Bees. To reach the railway station next to St Bees Priory, take the road running out of the car park behind the beach. When the main road curves to the left, turn right onto a side-road and then onto a footpath which crosses a field towards the Priory. The station is 220yd (200m) to the right of the Priory.
Guillemots, puffins and chough
St Bees Head is a Heritage coast, SSSI, and an RSPB nature reserve featuring three secure viewing areas on the cliffs near the lighthouse. From May to July, it's possible to get stunning views of the nesting sea birds. The cliffs of St Bees provide the only nesting site in England for the black guillemot. Although rarely seen, ten pairs of puffins are also believed to nest here. Fleswick bay is well worth a visit. Said to have semi-precious stones hiding among the shingle and sea caves which we’ve been told were used by smugglers.
The Beacon, Whitehaven
Easy terrain although some uneven and narrow sections with short but steep climbs. Clifftop route, so steep drops. Permissive access routes across farmland allow you to avoid the cliff edge on much of the headland. During the wetter months, some sections of the trail can get muddy and may be slippery. Good walking boots are recommended.
The Beacon, Whitehaven, Cumbria. CA28 7LY
Whitehaven station 0.1 mile (0.2km) from the harbour. St Bees' station 0.7 miles (1.1km) from the beach.
600 from Cockermouth, X6 from Barrow, 570 from Kendal, Grasmere and Keswick.
Hadrian’s Cycleway route 72 goes through Whitehaven, and the Coast to Coast route 71 starts from Whitehaven, as does Reivers’ cycle route 10. See Sustrans website for more information on all these routes.
Whitehaven 26 miles (42km) west of Keswick and 10 miles (16.1km) south of Workington on A595. There is plenty of free parking at Haig Pit where you can start your walk from step 2. If you don't want to retrace your steps to walk back, you can take the train back from St-Bees to Whitehaven and follow along the harbour to the beacon museum, taking in step 1 as you return to the car park.
Dogs welcome under close control due to grazing livestock. Please do not allow your dog to foul on paths or around picnic areas. No bins provided - please take all litter, including dog waste, home.
Toilets available in Buttermere village.
Cafe's available in Buttermere village.
Pubs available in Buttermere village.
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