Delicious drives in the UK:

Cartmel Peninsula to the Lake District, via Furness

by Paul Johnson - 15 May 2017

Piel Island is a fascinating place – despite having a population of just four people currently, it has its own castle and pub.

On day 2 of my Delicious Drive with Hertz, I continued along the A590 in my sporty Volvo XC60 to the historic market town of Ulverston – the birthplace of Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy fame – before taking a left-hand turn to follow the coast road towards Barrow-in-Furness. It was a great chance to see what the car could do on those open coastal roads!

I was heading for Piel Island but first had to catch the ferry from Roa Island on the southern tip of the Furness Peninsula. The ferry is a modest vessel capable of holding just a handful of foot passengers and the crossing takes around 10 minutes.

Piel Island is a fascinating place – despite having a population of just four people currently, it has its own castle and pub. The landlord of the pub is the King of Piel – a tradition that dates back to 1487 when Lambert Simnel and his army landed on Piel in a failed bid to overthrow Henry VII. At the time of the current king’s coronation, there were reportedly as many as 2,500 people present on the island, so the tradition is a big deal to the local community.

Indeed, you don’t have to go so far back in the history books – maybe 150 years or so – to find that Piel Island had a partliament with a Prime Minister, Chancellor and more. Even today, the current King has the power to ‘knight’ people – such a knighthood does cost you a round of drinks for everyone present at the pub, but does give you the right to free board and lodging should you ever find yourself shipwrecked on the island.

Currently, there is a king and queen, in fact. Steve and Sheila Chattaway are very welcoming to visitors to the island. Sheila deals with ‘front of house’ at The Ship Inn, taking orders at the bar, whilst Steve, a trained chef, works behind-the-scenes in the kitchen, but there’s still a good chance you’ll see him too.

The food is actually surprisingly good given that there is little competition for the pub to worry about. I enjoyed the bucket of mussels from the menu but was equally tempted by King Steve’s steak pudding.

Chatting to them both will give you some interesting insights and quirks of life on the island – for instance, I learnt from Steve that, despite only being on the island for 10 years, they are already on their 28th vehicle – such are the effects of the sand and salt that they are lucky if a vehicle lasts them 6 months!

After my time on Piel, I continued on my car journey to the small village of Waberthwaite, home to RB Woodall Ltd. which, in addition to doubling up as the village Post Office, continues to produce the famous Waberthwaite traditional Cumberland sausage using the same recipe and techniques that their ancestors have used for the past 180 years.

I was donned in suitable overalls so that I could see the sausage-making process first-hand. After pork shoulder and back fat had been minced and mixed with spices, it was all placed into a machine, before being extruded into a casing and made into Cumberland sausage.

The end result is delicious and The Volvo I was driving for this journey had a really spacious boot so I made sure I bought a couple of kilos to take home.

After Waberthwaite, I wanted to head to the heart of the Lake District, and there were a number of routes I could have taken – the fastest is to Broughton-in-Furness and then up the western side of Coniston Water, but I opted instead for going via Birker Fell and Wrynose Pass, knowing this would give me a chance to enjoy a scenic drive in the Volvo, and a chance to play with my drone.

This is one of the Lake District’s most spectacular roads and eventually brings you out at Ambleside. From there, I drove a few miles to The Forest Side, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Grasmere. Grasmere is home to one of the UK’s best locations for red squirrels, but the reds are threatened by the invasive, non-native grey squirrels. The culling of grey squirrels goes a small way towards helping the reds survive.

And here was my planned route:

Stop one: Lancaster – Hertz Caton Road

Stop two: Kendal – Quiggins Mint Cake Factory

Stop three: Sizergh – Low Sizergh Barn

Stop four: Furness & Cartmel Peninsulas – Yew Tree Barn

Stop five: Cartmel – Cartmel Priory

Stop six: Flookburgh – Flookburgh vishing village

Stop seven: Ulverston – Ulverston market town

Stop eight: Piel Island – Piel Island

Stop nine: Waberthwaite – RB Woodall Ltd sausage factory

Stop ten: Birker Fell – Birker Fell route

Stop eleven: Wrynose Pass – Wrynose Pass route

Stop twelve: Grasmere – The Forest Side

Stop thirteen: Kirkstone Pass – Kirkstone Pass Inn

Stop fourteen: Martindale – Martindale route

Stop fifteen: Greystoke – Bunkers Hill Dairy

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