Barrow-in-Furness is an industrial town and seaport in Cumbria, at the tip of the Furness peninsula.
Until 1974 Barrow was an exclave of the county of Lancashire, separated by Morecambe Bay. Historically that came about because stagecoaches going north couldn't climb the Lakeland hills, so they crossed the sands of the bay and wound around via Ulverston to Furness then on up the Cumbria coast. Then in the 19th century iron ore was discovered in the area. This led to mining, steel-making and shipbuilding industries, the railway was built, and Barrow became forged economically to the metal-bashing cities of Lancashire. It was an important base for navy ship-building, especially submarines. Those shipyards are still there, but much of the other industry has departed.
Joined to the town by a causeway is Walney Island (Barrow itself was an island until Norse times, then the channel filled up.) When the Rev W Awdry needed a railway network for Thomas the Tank Engine to chuff around, he thought of Walney Island and expanded it into the fictional "Sodor".
Trains run hourly from Preston to Barrow via Lancaster, Carnforth, Arnside, Grange-over-Sands and Ulverston; some stop at other halts in the Cartmel and Furness peninsulas. The journey is scenic, sweeping round Morecambe Bay and crossing the Kent and Leven estuaries on viaducts. Change at Preston or Lancaster for fast trains to London, the Midlands and Scotland; these never stop at Carnforth.
An hourly train winds north from Barrow along the Cumbrian coast to Carlisle, via some two dozen small places such as Ravenglass, Sellafield, St Bees, Whitehaven, Workington and Wigton. For Carlisle it's quicker to go to Lancaster and change.
1 Barrow railway station is central, on Abbey Road.
By bus: Stagecoach Bus X6 runs between Barrow and Kendal (M-Sat hourly, Sun every 2 hours, taking 2 hours) via Dalton, Ulverston, Haverthwaite, Grange-over-Sands and Levens.
National Express and Megabus don't serve Barrow.
By car leave M6 at junction 36 and follow A590 all the way west into town.
The town centre is easily accessible on foot from the railway station. Buses run to all areas of town.
- 1 Dock Museum, North Road, LA14 2PW, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. W-Su 11:00-16:00. Local history from Roman to industrial times. Free.
- 2 Piel Island has a ruined medieval castle, beaches and birdlife. The pretender Lambert Simnel (1477-1530?) landed here in his campaign to supplant Henry VII; his rebellion was crushed but he was spared and given a menial court job. The other Man Who Would Be King (yet still keep his head) is the publican of the Ship Inn here - the town traditionally dubs him the King of Piel Island. The island is reached by summer ferry from Roa Island (itself connected by causeway to the mainland); or at low tide you can walk across from Walney Island but seek local advice before attempting this.
- 3 Furness Abbey, Manor Road LA13 0PJ (Bus 6 past hospital), ☏ . April-Oct daily, Nov-Mar Sa Su, 10:00-16:00. Founded in 1127 under the Savigniac order but later became one of the grandest of Cistercian abbeys. Like others, it was ruined in 1536 during the dissolution of the monasteries. It's now in the care of English Heritage. Adult £6, child £3.60, concs £5.40.
- 4 Dalton is a village five miles north of Barrow. It has a small castle, a 14th century peel tower managed by the National Trust. There are eating and lodging places in the village, which is on the railway line between Barrow and Lancaster and bus route to Kendal. But the main reason to come to this area is the zoo.
- 5 South Lakes Safari Zoo, Melton Terrace, Lindal-in-Furness, Ulverston, LA12 0LU (bus X6 to Melton Top), ☏ , fax: . Daily Apr-Oct 10:00-17:00, Nov-March 10:30-16:00. The previous owners managed their staff as badly as their animals: keeper being eaten by tiger is in neither party's interests. In 2017 the place was taken over by Cumbria Zoo Company and the standard of welfare has much improved. It's a walk through park past various enclosures, you pay an extra £3 for feeding sessions. They also organise children's parties here. My, those big cats look hungry. Adult £17, child £12, cheaper online.
- Beaches: the best are at Roanhead and Walney. Roanhead has magnificent views over the Duddon Estuary and Western Lakeland fells. Its unspoilt beach tretches for a couple of miles, with sandhills and a nature reserve. Walney Island also has impressive views and sandy beaches. At the southern end is a bird sanctuary with a large herring and black-backed gull colony, and a light house. The north end has another nature reserve, home to the endangered natterjack toad, and sandhills.
- Hawcoat Park Sports Club, Hawcoat Park LA14 4HF (A mile north of station), ☏ . M-F 08:30-16:00. Community sports club hosting archery, crown bowls, cricket, soccer, rifle & pistol, rugby union and table tennis.
- Barrow & Furness Striders have fun runs at 19:30 Tuesday and Thursday evenings from Holker Old Boys football club, Rakesmoor Lane.
- Watch football (ie soccer) at Barrow AFC, who play in the the National League, the fifth tier of English football. Their home ground is Holker Street (capacity 5000, 1000 seated) half a mile north of the railway station.
- Drive or cycle the coast road from Barrow to Ulverston. Hugs the northern shore of Morecambe Bay, with magnificent views, sandy beaches, frequent picnic spots and watering holes.
- Portland Walk in town centre has the usual high street chains.
- Edge of the centre are Tesco, Morrison's and ASDA.
Pies. Local delicacy baked on premises at local outlets.
- Diggles, Dalton Road. Locally renowned pies.
Drinking in Barrow is a drouthy but laid-back northern experience, where locals mingle with out-of-town contractors and navy dockyard workers.
- The Furness Railway is a JD Wetherspoon at 76 Abbey Rd, 200 yards from the station.
- Robin Hood is at the corner of School St and Crellin St.
- Brewers Fayre is on North Rd near the Premier Inn and Devonshire Dock.
- Prince of Wales is an excellent pub at Foxfield, 8 miles north of Barrow. It's next to Foxfield railway station, served by the hourly trains along the coast to Carlisle, day-return fare £4.50.
- The clubs in Barrow are along Cornwallis St and usually open 21:00-03:00.
- Travelodge on Walney Rd and Premier Inn off Ironworks Rd are the mid-range chains in town.
- Coniston and Windermere in the Lake District are within 20 mins drive north. But from Barrow consider heading to the western part of the Lakes, eg Muncaster Castle and Wastwater - they're a bit far for day-trippers from the cities to the south so they'll be quieter.
- Arnside and Silverdale is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the border between Cumbria and Lancashire.