15 Best Things to do in Ravenglass (Lake District)
Ravenglass is a small coastal village and harbor located in Cumbria, England which dates back to the second century and is part of the famous Lakes District.
During Roman times, Ravenglass was a naval base for Romans who had occupied the region for three centuries where it was known as Glannoventa. This area is home to two of the most beautiful, deepest, and largest natural lakes in England – Wast Water and Windermere respectively.
There are loads of things to do in Ravenglass including scenic hiking trails, haunted castles to visit, railway museums, Roman baths, forts, and other sites of historical and archaeological significance. You can even see the beginning of Hadrian’s Wall in this picturesque location.
Ravenglass is part of the Lake District National Park covering a vast area of 2,362 square kilometers (or 1,467 miles). The Lake District National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.
There are many places to visit in Ravenglass and loads of activities for all members of the family.
Fun fact: Ravenglass was reputed to be the birthplace of St Patrick. Novelist Mary Stewart’s Merlin novels were set here using its Roman name Glannoventa. Because Ravenglass is a genuine archeological site and periodic excavations take place in the region, the use of metal detectors by “unauthorized persons” is forbidden in the Muncaster area.
1 – Visit a Haunted Castle
Heritage-listed Muncaster Castle is a privately owned castle that has been owned by the Pennington Family for over 800 years. The Castle is home to beautiful artworks and antiques as well as some ghosts supposedly. It overlooks the picturesque River Esk.
On your walk around the Castle, you can take an audio tour (in English or Japanese) which has been narrated by members of the Pennington family. You will learn about the Castle’s colorful history and former residents such as 16th century court jester, Tom Fool (also known as Tom Skelton). He was said to have inspired the Fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear. The Castle is said to have been built upon Roman foundations of what was a Roman fort.
The grounds around the Castle are huge and fun to explore. A tour of Muncaster Castle is one of the great things to do in Ravenglass for kids as the grounds include a children’s playground and maze.
Muncaster Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area, and it usually attracts more than 90,000 visitors per year. Plus, it is supposedly haunted by the court jester (Tom Fool) and other deceased members of the Pennington family, adding another great reason to visit it. Some guests have even reported seeing apparitions in the Tapestry Room.
There are even haunted tours and ghost vigils for the stout-hearted family. After you finish traipsing around the majestic Muncaster Castle, your next stop is to visit the Owl Sanctuary within the grounds of the Castle.
2 – Check out the Owl Sanctuary
Located within the gardens of Muncaster Castle, the Hawk and Owl Center are open daily from Easter to early November, and a visit here is one of the fun things to do in Ravenglass for kids. You will get to see a wide range of birds of all shapes and sizes. During different times of the day, you can even see some impressive flying displays.
You can grab a snack and coffee at the Owl Garden Tearoom, and there is a gift shop for souvenir hunters with your purchases helping support the Owl Sanctuary.
3 – Visit the Roman Baths
A visit to the Roman Baths is one of the things to do in Ravenglass if you have a historical bent. The Roman Bath House (built in AD 130) are also some of the tallest Roman structures surviving in this part of Northern Britain. The walls are 13-feet high, and kids will love to explore the ruins.
The Roman Baths are also known as Walls Castle, and this structure was part of a second-century Roman ford and naval base. The area was called Glannoventa (by the Romans). Roman soldiers who would have been stationed here would have served in Hadrian’s fleet.
You can reach the site from the village of Ravenglass by following a private road which runs parallel to the railway.
A visit to the Roman Bath house is also one of the better things to do in Ravenglass if you are traveling with kids as they can see parts of the actual fort. In its original form, this site would have included warm rooms, a hot bath, and a cold plunge pool.
4 – Go on a Historical Railway Tour – Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway
One of the coolest things to do in Ravenglass is to catch the steam train from Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway and travel 7 miles from Dalegarth to Boot Station.
The steam railway which has been operating since 1875, is also known as “La’al Ratty”, and this rail line is a narrow-gauge track (15 inches/or 381 mm). The trains themselves are quite small. The train line only runs for seven miles, and the line terminates at Ravenglass railway station.
This station is heritage listed, and the trains were used to transport iron ore, granite, and copper to the estuary. The oldest train is called River Irt (dating from 1894) and the newest is the diesel-hydraulic Douglas Ferreira (built in 2005).
After your seven-mile steam train ride, you can take the family through the railway museum and learn all about narrow gauge trains of that period.
5 – Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Museum
After experiencing what it is like to ride on a steam train, you should take some time to check out the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Museum with free entry.
The Ravenglass Railway Museum first opened in 1978, and it has a collection of over 3,000 artefacts of every size and shape all the way up to actual locomotives. It includes a photographic archive of over 25,000 images which would appeal to railway historical buffs. The museum even featured on the BBC program, Antiques Roadshow, in 2017.
History and steam train geeks will love this museum and entry is free. The types of artefacts housed here include parts of actual steam trains, railway gauges, old posters, train timetables, clocks, memorabilia, dinnerware, menus, and teapots from the period when these trains were in operation.
6 – Visit the War Memorial
The Muncaster War Memorial, made of Lakeland granite and designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, is another one of those activities you can choose to do on a rainy day in Ravenglass. The War Memorial, which was first opened in 1922, is located on the junction of A595 between Barrow-in-Furnesss and Gosforth and is at the top of the road to the village in Ravenglass via the West Coast.
This attraction, which, unsurprisingly, is also heritage-listed, is regarded as one of the famous Sir Edwin Lutyen’s War memorials in England which were revered as being part of a national collection.
7 – Western Lake Full-Day Tour with Get Your Guide
One of the best things to do in Ravenglass when it is raining is to take the entire family on a full day mini-coach tour through the Western Lakes District. Lasting around hours hours, this tour includes a bus trip to Wrynose and Hardknott Passes which are some of the steepest in England and are quite breathtaking.
This tour also includes audio commentary on the bus and your admission to Muncaster Castle and grounds. You can also enjoy the spectacular views of the Wastwater Lakes.
On this tour, you might get to see some of the varied wildlife in the area including the famous red squirrels of the Lake District.
8 – Hike Hardknott Pass and see a Roman Fort
Situated between Eskdale and the Duddon Valley in the Lake District National Park, Hardknott Pass is one of the steepest hill passes in England. The road is tarmac-surfaced and is the most direct route from the central Lake District to Cumbria. When you finish this very challenging hike, it is time to check out the Roman Fort, Hardknott Fort.
9 – Check out a Roman Fort – Hardknott Fort
Hardknott Roman Fort is an archaeological site and part of the remains of the Roman fort Mediobogdum. The fort was built between 120 and 138 AD. Even though it is not the highest fort in England, Hardknott Pass sits at an altitude of 800 feet. When you visit it, you will see the amazing views over the River Esk.
The fort is square with rounded corners and some parts were restored some years ago. It was home to a Roman garrison, and it was abandoned by the Romans at some time during the third century.
10 – Actually Visit the Lakes – Wast Water and Windermere
The Wast Water or Wastwater lake is located in the Wasdale valley. This lake is almost three miles long and more than one mile wide. It is a glacial lake and one of the deepest in England at 258 feet. Wast Water is owned by England’s National Trust.
This is a really scenic place to visit and one of the best things to do in Ravenglass. However, be careful driving the windy roads to get to your destination as they can be quite narrow and treacherous.
Fun fact: a “gnome garden” complete with a picket fence had been planted in the lake for divers to explore some years ago, and this was later removed after several divers perished while exploring the icy depths trying to find it.
11 – Cycle Hadrian’s Cycleway
One of the things you can do in Ravenglass if you really want to experience history with a difference is you can cycle Hadrian’s Wall starting from Ravenglass. The cycleway is also known as National Route 72, and it covers a distance of 171 miles (272 kilometers). This cycleway is a fun coast to coast ride where you can actually see the living history of Hadrian’s Wall.
This cycleway starts in Ravenglass and travels up the west coast all the way to the inlet of the Solway Firth to Bowness on Solway (which is the start of Hadrian’s Wall) to Carlisle and onwards eastward. If you choose to ride the entire distance, your cycle journey may take anywhere between three to seven days depending upon your level of fitness.
12 – Take a ramble along the Cumbrian Coastal Way
If you love long walks in the countryside, then taking a ramble along the Cumbria Coastal Way is one of the best things to do in Ravenglass for the entire family.
The Cumbria Coastal Way is a long-distance path running 185 miles following the Cumbria Coast from Silverdale on Morecambe Bay at the southern boundary of Cumbria, to the estuary of the River Esk which marks the boundary between England and Scotland. You don’t need to walk the entire 185 miles to enjoy the majestic views.
13 – Hike Muncaster Fell
There are endless walking trails around this part of England, but it is worth checking out Muncaster Fell which lies at the western portion of the Lake District National Park. Views here are spectacular of the River Mite to the north and the River Esk to the south.
The vegetation and landscape here is typical of what you see in any Cumbrian fell, and the area is covered in moss, gorse, and bracken although it may have a spooky feel if you visit these moors on a foggy day.
14 – Play a round of Golf at Eskdale Golf Course
Outside of Ravenglass you can find the Eskdale 18-hole golf course which is situated on the beautiful banks of the River Elk. This course is currently closed during the pandemic, but it’s rumored to be reopening later in the year.
15 – Have a Cold Ale at the Ratty Arms
Finally, after all your adventurous things to do in Ravenglass and surrounds, you should finish up with a traditional meal at the Ratty Arms which is a traditional English pub located close to Eskdale Railway Station.
This hotel is marketed as being very family and dog-friendly, and they serve reasonably priced pub food and a wide range of beers and wines. They also have some activities for children, and they give out free doggy treats to their guests. The Ratty Arms is located right in the heart of Ravenglass.