Arnside and Silverdale is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North West England on the border between Lancashire and Cumbria. It's one of the smallest AONBs, just 29 square miles between the Kent Estuary, the River Keer and the A6. The terrain is limestone crags with deciduous woodland and grassland, with salt marshes along the coast. The AONB is variously managed by the National Trust, Woodlands Trust, RSPB and other bodies. The highest point is only 159 m at Arnside Knott and you're always within half-a-mile of a road. The climate is the same as the rest of lowland Cumbria, so always expect rain. There are no entry gates or fees to use the area.
Bus: Stagecoach Bus 552 runs twice a day (M-Sat) between Kendal and Arnside, via Hincaster and Milnthorpe. It doesn't serve Silverdale, see below for Bus 51.
By car: leave M6 at Jcn 35 and turn north up A6. For Silverdale turn off through Warton; for Arnside stay on A6 to Milnthorpe then follow B5282 west through Storth.
Use OS Landranger Map 97 ("Kendal & Morecambe") for this area.
Bus 51 shuttles roughly hourly (M-Sat) between Silverdale village and the railway station, timed to meet the trains. Every couple of hours it extends via Yealand Redmayne / Conyers and Warton to Carnforth.
You can walk between Silverdale and Arnside in little over an hour. 90 mins along the Lancashire Coastal Way would get you to Carnforth.
- 1 Arnside Tower is a medieval tower house or "Pele Tower", built of limestone rubble in the 15th century. It was abandoned some time in the 18th C and is now a ruin, unsafe to enter. Admire it from the footpath by Far Arnside Farm, where there's a cafe for walkers.
- A mile south on Craigbarrow hill, the Pepperpot is a folly built to commemorate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee in 1887. It's a stumpy tower which you can't go in. There was talk of building a matching "Salt cellar" for Queen Elizabeth II but nothing has come of this.
- 2 Leighton Moss RSPB reserve, Storrs Lane, Silverdale LA5 0SW (200 yards south of Silverdale railway station). Reserve dawn to dusk, centre daily 09:30-17:00 (Dec & Jan to 16:30). This is a large area of fresh-water lagoons and wetland, now in the care of RSPB, who also manage the nearby salt marshes. Highlights are avocets (spring & summer), bearded tits (year-round, flocking in autumn), bitterns (most visible in winter), marsh harriers (year-round) and water-rail (in dry or icy conditions). The woodlands have nuthatches, bullfinches, tawny owls, long-tailed tits, tree-creepers and woodpeckers. Look out also for otters and red deer - plus a few cattle, it's their job to graze and trample down certain areas for the benefit of the birds. Adult £8, half-price if you arrive by bike or public transport.
- The tidal bore: the reason the bay is so hazardous is that a tidal rise of a just few inches is enough to send the sea racing over great tracts of sand, faster than you can move, especially when you find a channel has flooded across your line of retreat. (Thus perished the Chinese cockle-pickers in 2004.) As the tide comes into the Kent estuary, it's gathered into an upstream wave: at Spring high tides and especially under the prevailing sou'westerly wind it can form a tidal bore a couple of feet high. Sirens are sounded at Arnside when the bore is due.
- 3 Leighton Hall, Silverdale LA5 9ST (Follow signs from A6, ignore Satnav, you can't access from Storrs Lane). May-Sept Tu-F (plus Su in Aug) 14:00-17:00. The original hall was torched as retribution for supporting the Jacobites. In 1760 it was rebuilt in Georgian style, and expanded by the Gillow family who still live here. So the contents are impressive but on a domestic not palatial scale. Extensive gardens, and watch the hawks being fed around 3 pm. Adult £9.50.
- 4 Beetham is a small village on the A6, the eastern boundary of the AONB, a mile south of Milnthorpe. Here see St Michael & All Angels Church, parts of which date to the 12th century, and Heron Corn Mill, a restored 18th century water mill - it even supplies hydroelectric power to the modern paper mill across the river. Heron Theatre, in an 18th C schoolhouse, has regular music, theatre and film in winter. There's a gastro-pub in the village, The Wheatsheaf.
- From the hamlet of Slack Head above Beetham, follow the path up Whin Scar to the Fairy Steps: a flight of steps cut into the limestone, through a natural cleft that narrows to less than two feet. This path was the route for bringing coffins to church, but they couldn't fit the cleft and had to be hauled down the rocks on ropes - the rings for attaching the ropes are still there.
- Climb 1 Arnside Knott, the hill just south of Arnside village. At 159 m height (522 ft) and 150 m prominence it only just qualifies as a "Marilyn". There are multiple trails up and around. The "Knott" is named for the two trees near the summit that have been knotted together to form an arch and single trunk. They're long dead and this familiar landmark can't last much longer. Still, just to make sure, passers-by have hammered coins into every bit of the trunks.
- The National Trust manage Arnside Knott, Eaves Wood and Jack Scout on the coast. A dozen or so other areas in the AONB are managed by other bodies, with names like Coldwell Parrock, Grubbins Wood and Hyning Scout that are surely from a lost verse of Flanders & Swann's Slow Train.
- Walk across Morecambe Bay, but you must have a guide who knows the channels, the quicksands and the tides. No-one could be more experienced that the Queen's Guide, who has been piloting the stagecoaches and royal mails across this treacherous area since 1548: the present holder of the post is Cedric Robinson MBE. The walks are from Arnside to Kent's Bank, about 8 miles. It's not strenuous but you need to be reasonably fit (minimum age is 11), and you have to wade across the River Kent. Last train back from Kent's Bank to Arnside is around 21:00. Walks are May to Sept every two weeks or so, governed by the tides. They're often done as charity events and you need to register in advance. Times and contacts for 2019 are not yet available.
Posh Sardine is a gift shop on Arnside Promenade (closed Thurs) and there's a little Co-op food store in Silverdale (daily 07:00-22:00). For any proper shopping you'd leave the area, eg to Booth's supermarket in Milnthorpe or Tesco in Carnforth.
- In Arnside, Gado Gado on the Promenade does Asian food and is open M-Sat 17:30-21:30. There's fish & chip shop near the station, closed Monday.
- 1 The Royal Silverdale, 15 Emesgate Lane, Silverdale LA5 0RA, ☏ . Daily 12:00-23:00. Pub & restaurant, they also have a couple of self-catering cottages but no longer operate as a hotel.
- In Storth is the Ship Inn (open daily). A little further northeast, Kingfisher does lunch and dinner W-Sun.
- Arnside has The Albion (daily 12:00-23:00) and Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (see "Sleep").
- Silverdale has the Royal Silverdale (see "Eat") and the Silverdale Hotel (see "Sleep").
- In Warton, the George Washington is a pub with rooms.
- Lots of camping & caravan sites, including Gibraltar Point, Holgates in Silverdale, Far Arnside & Hollins Farm, Newbarns west of Arnside, and Hall More eastern edge of the area just off A6. You can't really wild-camp in this small busy stretch of countryside, and the police are likely to move on camper-vans attempting to park overnight.
- Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, Promenade, Arnside LA5 0HD, ☏ . Three-star with bar and restaurant, pets allowed in some rooms. B&B double £70.
- 1 Silverdale Hotel, Shore Rd, Silverdale LA5 0TP, ☏ . Dog-friendly 3-star with bar and restaurant. B&B double £75.
Standard precautions about weather and incoming tides, but your main risk is traffic, and theft from parked cars.
- Carnforth railway station is the well-preserved location for the film Brief Encounter.
- The Lake District is a 30-min drive north.
- Across the River Kent is the scenic Cartmel peninsula.