Many of us want somewhere to take our campervan that is away from the crowds, has plenty of footpaths, lovely views and a few attractions. If this is what you are looking for then the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the north Lancashire south Cumbria border is a great choice. This small area bounded by the stunning Morecambe Bay and the River Kent has been a favourite destination of ours for the last 30-plus years. When we lived in Preston and were enjoying a car-free existence it was a lovely area that was accessible by train for walks. Once we had a campervan it became a go-to destination for a few days away on our own and with friends. Although only a small area it is packed with variety.
The area’s big draw for wildlife lovers is the RSPB’s reserve at Leighton Moss but there are also historic and heritage attractions and some marvellous and varied walking. Where else can you be pottering along a craggy coast in the morning and after lunch be sauntering through pretty woodland or following the shores of a small lake to a limestone pavement? This is truly a diverse landscape, with so much to offer.
I have lost count of the number of holidays we have had in this area, in good and bad weather but I always return home loving it more. If you’ve never been to Arnside and Silverdale think about planning a few days or even a week or so in this wonderful area.
Here are some ideas to help you make the most of a camping trip to this area:
Most recently we stayed at Hawes Villa Camping, a small reasonably priced site with some basic facilities and great walking right from the step of your campervan with Hawes Water just ten minutes away.
If you want a site with full facilities then the more expensive Holgates Silverdale site might suit you. The large site has a pool, bar/restaurant, shop and play area. It is also in a beautiful position on the edge of the village. Holgates Hollins Farm site is nearer to Arnside Crag and is quieter but still has an excellent sanitary block.
We have walked by Gibraltar Farm campsite many times but never camped here. I do know it has plenty of fans and as it sells its own ice-cream I will get there soon!
You can find a few quiet wild camping spots too.
Walking is the best way to get to know this area
To get the most out of walks an OS map or the Cicerone walking guide are both helpful.
The Fairy Steps – You can walk to this limestone escarpment either from Arnside or from Hawes Villa Camping. Climbing up the path through the woodland from Hazelslack you will come to a limestone escarpment that at first glance is impregnable. Look carefully and you will find a narrow gash through the limestone and a series of steps to the top. Popping out onto a grassy ledge you have a splendid view over to the Kent estuary. As you squeeze up the gash in the steps you can try and climb without touching the sides so that the fairies will grant you a wish. Good luck with that!
Arnside Knott – Arnside nestles on the slopes of Arnside Knott, a limestone hill with tree-covered slopes that reveals stunning views over the Kent Estuary and Morecambe Bay. It is a straightforward but steep walk, either from Arnside or from either of the Holgates campsites.
The coast – There are footpaths around pretty much all of the coast here. Highlights include the old tall chimney at Jenny Brown’s Point and the lime kiln near to Gibraltar Farm campsite, the pretty and sheltered cove at Silverdale, the stunning mixture of craggy coast, bays and woodland around Arnside Knott and the dyke and salt marshes from Arnside to Storth.
Eaves Wood – Meander through this lovely wood and climb to the viewpoint where you will find the Pepperpot, a monument built to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Silverdale Holgates campsite is on the edge of Eaves Wood and the paths can be easily accessed from the site.
Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve and limestone pavement – From Hawes Villa Camping walk by Hawes Water and you come to Gait Barrow, an expanse of grey limestone pavement cut with grykes and dotted with low-growing trees. No dogs are allowed on the pavement.
Dallam Tower Deer Park and Beetham – A longer walk from Hawes Villa Camping could take you to the pretty village of Beetham. The path from Heron Mill at Beetham takes you uphill over pasture. As you walk look out for the herd of fallow deer that are kept here. Walking down the hill, with the stately Georgian Dallam Tower on your left, you reach a pretty section of the River Bela before it runs into the Kent. Cross the river and you will be in Milnthorpe.
Things to see and do
RSPB Leighton Moss – Open all year, the expansive reed bed is home to a wide range of wildlife; as well as fantastic wildfowl and marsh harriers there are otters and red deer. There are trails to walk, hides and amazing views from the Sky Tower.
Leighton Hall – Open limited days from the beginning of May to the end of September, this historic house has links with the Gillow furniture makers.
Heron Mill, Beetham – This restored and working corn mill in normal times [BC] is open Wednesday to Sunday for most of the year. There are tours when you can see the waterwheel working.
The train from Arnside or Silverdale to Grange-over-Sands – On the railway line from Arnside you cross the 505 m long viaduct over the River Kent. Grange-over-Sands has a lovely railway station, a pleasant park and a selection of good cafes and interesting shops.
Carnforth – The black and white film, Brief Encounter was filmed in Carnforth. Take the train or drive to Carnforth Station Heritage Centre and The Brief Encounter tea room. Afterwards spend some time browsing the rambling bookshop across the road; I have never walked out of this wonderful shop without at least one great book.
Warton Old Rectory – This ruined 14th century house is in the pleasant village of Warton and is free to explore. Afterwards visit the church and find out why this small village has links to George Washington, the US President. From the village you can also walk over Warton Crag.
An Arnside teashop – Everyone has their favourites; the Old Bakehouse is justifiably popular, Posh Sardine is recommended, there is a chip shop and on a sunny day you can enjoy a pint with a view at The Albion.
A cross bay walk – Check out the Guide Over the Sands events page for dates of the planned cross bay walks. In the summer this is an exceptional way to enjoy the beauty of Morecambe Bay. Led across the sands and mudflats by the Queen’s Official Guide, the walk is about eight miles, takes three to four hours and will involve wading through water that is at least knee deep. During the coronavirus pandemic these guided walks have been cancelled but they will hopefully return in the future.