Walney Island to Piel Island

Name of walk Walney Island to Piel Island
Date of walk 2011-04-24
So far in April I have climbed 21 fells and walked 60 miles. Today I was going to do something a bit more sedate for Easter Sunday. Brendan and I joined John Murphy`s walk from Snab Point on Walney Island (where I live) to neighbouring Piel Island. John is a Labour councillor like Brendan and runs weekly Sunday walks within Furness. Care needs to be taken with the tides. Bill, our nextdoor neighbour, was just saying that he knows three people that have been drowned walking to or back from Piel Island in recent years.

The walk across the sands takes about 45 minutes. We set off about 10am. We let the ponies go first.


There must have been over 100 walkers. John Murphy is in front in black.


Centre is Piel Island, to the right is Sheep Island. Far left is the Life boat Station on Roa Island.


A close up of Piel, Piel Castle on the right


Cars (4x4) can drive across at low tide. What can happen if you don`t keep to the right track, or don`t own a 4x4!!!



Roa Island where you can catch the small ferry boat across. Life Boat Station on the end. Dave Myers (one half of the Hairy Bikers) lives here.


From one of the Island signs.


The island is owned by the people of Barrow-in-Furness. Gifted to the people by the Duke of Buccleuch in the early 20th century, the island is kept in order by the Borough Council, whose duties also include the selection of the "King" of Piel, who is the landlord of the island's public house, the Ship Inn. Normally, the only permanent residents are the landlord of the Ship Inn and his family. The island's known history dates from the time of King Stephen who, in 1127 gave the island to the Savignac monks as part of a land grant for an abbey. When the Savignacs became part of the Cistercian order later in the 12th century, the island came under the control of the Cistercians at nearby Furness Abbey. In the early 13th century the Cistercians used Piel as a safe harbour and built a warehouse for the storage of grain, wine and wool. Some of these commodities were shipped over from Ireland. In 1212 the monks were granted a licence by King John to land one cargo of "wheat, flour and other provisions" to stave off a famine caused by the failure of the local harvest. Later in the century an unlimited cargo licence was granted and in 1258 ships owned by the abbey were placed under royal protection. The monks fortified the island, firstly with a wooden tower surrounded by a ditch with palisades, and then in 1327 they commenced the building of a motte and bailey fort. This structure was, at the time, the largest of its kind in North West England. It was probably built as a fortified warehouse to repel pirates and raiders, but it would appear to have had a measure of success in keeping the customs men at bay as well; smuggling was widespread at the time and the abbey was known to have been involved. The entrance to the three storey Keep is accessed via steps at the front entrance. It is usually locked but today it was open but you had to climb in and up as the usual ladders were not there!


View to the Ship Inn and Roa Island from the Keep.



Looking across Barrow to Blackcombe.


View over to Walney Lighthouse



Taking the spiral steps back down.



Looking back out the entrance.


I took a walk on the beach. Brendan is at the top left of the castle.



Castle reflection.


We walked out to meet the water in order to do some seal spotting. There were some but too far away to photograph.





Grey Seals at a distance.


Plenty of Eider Ducks.


Pigs back at the pub getting some rays


I`m not surprised this turkey looks worried given that it is Easter Sunday!


The King of Piel`s throne. If you sit in it you become a Knight of Piel and will be able to get food and shelter if you become shipwrecked on the island. The downside is that you have to buy drinks for everyone present at the time that you sit in the chair!.......So maybe not today!!! The current King of Piel is the landlord Steve Chattaway who was crowned in 2008. The previous King of 20 years was Rod Scarr.


We have a drink at the pub after our walk around the castle.


The usual route on and off the island.


The small group of terraced houses.


After an hour and a half we need to head back to Walney Island before the tide comes back in.


A last look back.

An excellent morning. Back home in time for lunch!