Hadrian In West Cumbria - Driving The Way

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John's contribution as a driver

It's entirely possible that anyone reading Eastern, without knowing West Cumbria and its pitiful transport infrastructure, would get the impression that the author is expecting the reader to walk the complete route, eschewing all other forms of transport. I assure you, even getting to and from Ravenglass using public transport, especially on a Sunday, is not easy.

There are three practical difficulties with walking the complete route:

So, if you're either on holiday, or live locally, and want to walk selected parts of the Way using a car, this is the page for you.

Driving the Passes

Let's be clear about this, very clear. The Passes, and Hard Knott in particular, are the hardest roads to drive in the UK. They only exist as roads by accident - they were tarmaced by bureaucratic mistake. (actually an accident of history - blame Hadrian in the first place!)

Rule 1 - give way to anyone behind you - pull in at the next passing place. There are plenty of passing places, some labelled, mostly not. Don't forget if you're a tourist, that this a living, working, community that your're driving through. Where you only feel safe at 15 mph, locals who know the roads will be equally safe at 40 mph, and very frustrated at 15mph.

Providing you're capable of working a chariot on a significant slope, the hardest part of the journey in either direction is between the Three Shires Inn and Fell Foot Farm in Little Langdale. The road is very narrow and twisting, the hedges are high and passing places are infrequent. Encounter someone in the wrong place and you've got a 200 yard reverse in prospect. (And then someone comes up behind you who can't reverse!)

The approaches aren't too bad.

If you hurt or kill an animal (dog or sheep) you must report it to the police.

Wrynose Pass

Wrynose (pronunced Rye-nuss) isn't too bad. The scariest part is the long, straight slope on the the easten side. Western travellers have a very large drop on their left. I've personally seen someone drive down this road at about 60 mph. Not sensible.

Much of the Wrynose Pass route follows the Roman road.

Be careful at Fell Foot Farm. (Eastern side before the pass road starts.) Sylvia's relatives like to keep traffic as well as sheep in order.

First timers should take time to stop at the Three Shires Stone. What's this all about then? Before Ted Heath's disastrous government of the early 1970's, Cumbria consisted of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and, (most poetically) Lancashire North of the Sands (and I think perhaps a bit of Yorkshire). Another part of our heritage destroyed. Sorry, to use Blair's phrase, "modernised". (I'm trying to be non partisan with the politics on this page.) The morons took out Rutland too in this process. The Three Shires Stone marks the boundary where all three shires met. The original was stolen several years ago - someone trying too hard to preserve our northern heritage perhaps. The current stone is a modern replacement.

Don't know why but the driving on Cockley Beck bottom is always an absolute pleasure. Ckeck in Eastern about the route. I'm one of the drivers who can tell where the Roman road is purely from road feel. From the west, the original Roman road runs north of the beck and eventually crosses it and joins the modern road about half way along the bottom. Clifford made me do extensive checks to prove where the crossing point from south to north is. You can actually see from the north side of the beck where the road stops being Roman.

HardKnott Pass

Don't do this. It should never have been laid down as tarmac.

Rule 2- Give way when you're descending.

East to West

West to East

I've mentioned the very sharp corner on the west side of the pass a couple of times. A few years ago one of the locals wickedly misdirected a 20ft van as the shortest way to ABC. The van stuck at this corner and it was two days before an effective recovery strategy was put in place. You have been warned!

Suitable Parking Places

Stay safe and enjoy the totallity of the experience!