I’ve often joked that this is the route where Hadrian’s Wall isn’t – there’s no wall to follow even though it’s on the Hadrian’s Wall Path. But that’s not entirely accurate – the wall is there, just not in wall form any longer – look closely and you’ll spot the stones in local churches and buildings like Drumburgh Castle near the start of the route.
The name is a little misleading as it’s not a classic castle, but rather a fortified house with its origins dating back to an original piel tower built there in 1307.
I’ve also added a zigzag into the route to allow for a visit to Dumburgh Moss, which is owned and managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust and is home to one of the loveliest information boards I’ve seen.
This is a low level nature reserve with stunning views over the Solway to the north and down to the fells in the south.
During the spring there are tufts of cotton grass bobbing around in the sunshine and all year round it’s a haven for birds such as curlew, skylark and reed bunting.
At Port Carlisle you’ll spot the remains of an old harbour – this was once a port and the plan was to create a canal from a village along the coast, known as Fisher’s Cove, to move people and goods into the city of Carlisle from the coast. The canal was cut from 1819-1823 at a cost of over £90,000 (the equivalent of over £7.5m in today’s terms) and the village renamed Port Carlisle.
Sadly the canal never managed to pay its way and the canal was eventually filled in and turned into a railway line – the route marked on the OS map as “Dismantled Railway” is the route of the old canal. Between Drumburgh and Port Carlisle the ‘trains’ were coaches with converted wheels pulled by horses but the last of these “Horse Drawn Dandy’s” ran on 14th April 1914. After that steam took over and the line remained open until 1932.
In Bowness-on-Solway it’s worth paying a visit to St Michael’s Church, another building built with stones from Hadrian’s Wall. The original church bells were stolen by Scots raiders in 1626 but, as they were being chased, they dumped them into the Solway in attempt to lighten their load and escape and the bells were lost forever in the sands. In retaliation a group of local men mounted a raid into Scotland and stole bells from churches in Dornock and Middlebie just across the water. Tradition has it that each time the town of Annan receives a new vicar they must request the return of the bells from Bowness, but for four centuries, all these requests have been ignored and the bells still sit at the back of St Michael’s.
When you reach the carpark at the end of the walk in Bowness-on-Solway, look west, down to he estuary, and you’ll spot a small headland which was one the starting point of a bridge across the Solway.
The bridge was over 1 mile long and was used by iron ore carrying trains to avoid the busy junction at Carlisle. It was badly damaged by icebergs in 1881 after the rivers Esk & Eden froze – as they thawed ice broke off and demolished a third of the bridge. It was rebuilt but eventually closed in 1921. At that time you couldn’t buy alcohol in Scotland on a Sunday so, each Sunday a number of our Scottish friends crossed the bridge to enjoy a “relaxing sweet sherry” after dinner. Unfortunately they were prone to having one too many and, after a few folks sadly fell from the bridge and drown as they staggered home, the bridge was demolished in 1933.
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