An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

54.063841, -3.173918
Distance: 1.1 km
Difficulty: Easy
Method: Walk
Wow Factor: 9 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: Cumbria, near Barrow-in-Furness
  • Size: 20 ha
  • Terrain: Grass path
  • Access: Island ferry from Roa
  • Height gain: 8.8 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer OL6
  • Starting point: Piel Island Slipway GR 233 638
  • Accommodation/food:

    Food

    The Ship Inn, Piel Island – you’ll find a great selection of real ales; a menu of local line caught fish, fresh game and local Cumbrian meat; a pirate’s menu for the kids; and a whole load of fun in this traditional island pub. Try and visit during one of the knighting ceremonies – check the facebook page for the latest details. There are also speciality weekends during the winter including Murder Mystery, learning to cook with guest chefs, and gourmet dining.

    Barrow-in-Furness has a full range of food supplies.

    Accommodation

    The Ship Inn – rents the whole house out. Call 07516 453784

    Island Camping is available at the Ship Inn for £5 per tent and must be pre-booked on 07516 453784

  • Island Summary:

    With a traditional inn, a short row of houses, a beach, lake, great wildlife, medieval castle ruins and a short boat trip or walk from the mainland Piel Island is a near perfect island. Add to that the views that stretch from Barrow, the peak of the Old Man of Coniston in the lake District, to the vast stretch of the Fylde coastline to the Blackpool Tower – all of which can be seen from the island’s beautiful coastal walk.

    Piel Island has a long and interesting history and is of considerable importance in the local area both because of its links to Furness Abbey and as a major deep water harbour. There is evidence of human occupation spanning at least the last 3000 years and was probably visited by the Celts and later by the Romans during their conquest of Britain. Piel Island is the site of the last invasion of Britain

    The current motte and bailey “castle” with its defence ditches was built in the early part of the 14th century and likely intended to be used as a fortified warehouse built by monks under the Abbot of Furness to keep cargoes safe from pirates and other raiders. It didn’t just keep the pirates out though, it also kept the King’s customs men at a distance and it was widely known time that, under the ownership of the Furness Abbey, was active in the smuggling business. Today the ruins are cared for by English Heritage.

    The fun tradition of crowning the landlord of the Ship Inn is thought to be a nod to when Colonel Martin Swartz and his German mercenaries landed on the island in 1487 as part of an attempt by Lambert Simnel to seize the English Crown. Simnel claimed that he was the Earl of Warwick and therefore was the rightful King of England – he ended up a prisoner of Henry VII. To commemorate this pretender to the throne each new landlord of the Ship is sat on a wooden throne, wearing ceremonial helmets and a sword, and a large quantity of beer is poured over him as he is proclaimed king. The island also has a Queen, a Princess and a number of knights (and ‘knightesses’) – and the ‘knighting’ ceremony at the Ship Inn is a real hoot.

    The island is also a haven for wildlife with many different species of seabird to be found and a pond in the centre of the island now attracts many other types of bird.

  • Look out for:
    • Incredible views of Lakes and coast
    • Atmosphere and fun at the Ship Inn
    • Camp on an island fit for a King
    • Poke around in castle ruins
  • Route description:

    Piel Island coast walk starts at the island slipway and simply follows the island path. Walking in an anti-clockwise direction the route heads to the north tip of the island where there are fabulous views of the fells of the Lake District, the shipping yard and clock tower of barrow-in-Furness.  The west coast is more of a pebbly foreshore with great views across to Walney Island,  inland the pond is a haven for bird life. The castle ruins can be explored at the southern tip of the island and there are also good views across to Southend Lighthouse on Walney Island before walking through the camping area to return to the Ship Inn.

  • Getting there:

    The Piel Island Ferry runs in high season (April to Sept), backwards and forwards daily Monday to Sunday 11am – 4.30pm (weather permitting) and costs £5.00 return per adult, £3.00 return per child and under 5’s are free. To check if it’s running call John Cleasby on 07798 794550

    You can reach the ferry slipway on Roa Island by:

    Car: Enter the postcode LA13 0QN on your Sat Nav which will take you to Roa Island where you can catch the ferry. There is a free car park situated by Roa Island Boat Club.

    Rail – closest train station at Roose (4 miles from Roa Island) on the Barrow-in-Furness to Lancaster line.

To see this map cookies and javascript must be enabled. If you are still having trouble after having checked both of these please contact us using the link at the top of the page

Welcome new readers

Take a look around the site. Learn about islands you may never have heard of. Take up the islandeering challenge and find a pioneering route, or simply see what each island has to offer for a more chilled out visit. Go to ‘islands’ and find something that inspires you.


Piel Island Camping

Piel island campsite

Learn More

Gallery