The Cistercian Way
Starting from Grange-over-Sands, the Cistercian Way is an exceptionally interesting 35 mile long foot path, exploring the Cartmel and Furness peninsulas before ending at Roa Island, and taking in, quite naturally, a number of Cistercian sites on route.
The ivy-clad walls, old shops and pubs of Cartmel, surround the pretty village square, with its 18th century market cross. The village is dominated by Cartmel Priory, or what remains of it. Founded in 1188, the Priory was eventually disbanded in 1537, during the Dissolution. What remains to us is the 12th century Gatehouse and the Priory Church, with its glorious stained glass east window, richly carved black oak screens, and choir stalls carved with strange creatures. Of further interest is the unique church tower, set diagonally on the tower stage.
Ulverston is a fine old market town and port, with cobbled streets and a market square dating from the 12th century, when Stephen, King of England and Earl of Boulogne, owned the manor. The Church of St Mary dates in part from 1111, though restored and rebuilt in later centuries - it contains a splendid Norman door, and some magnificent stained glass. Ulverston Canal, built in 1794, at one mile in length, remains the shortest canal in England. A huge stone tower, on the summit of nearby Hoad Hill, is a replica of the Eddystone Lighthouse. The world famous Laurel and Hardy Museum is located in Stan Laurel's birthplace, in the town centre. The 16th century Swarthmoor Hall, once the home of George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, is open to the public.
Great Urswick, with its mellow stone houses set in a maze of lanes, is an ancient village, watching over the placid waters of Urswick Tarn. Its great age is borne witness by the 9th century wooden cross, carved with Nordic runic inscriptions.
Dalton-in-Furness was at one time the leading town in the area. Its 14th century pele tower, Dalton Castle, was designed as a place of refuge for monks from Furness Abbey, fleeing Scottish raiders. Dalton was established as a market town in 13th century, when the Cistercians held fairs and markets in the town. The influence of the monks, during this period, was very evident, as it was the Abbot who held court and administered justice here.
Furness Abbey is a magnificent ruin of eroded, red sandstone. It stands amidst the woods in the Vale of Deadly Nightshade, and is the focal point of South Cumbria's monastic heritage. Founded in 1123, by King Stephen, Furness became the second wealthiest monastery in Britain, after Fountains in Yorkshire. The Abbey's magnificent Norman arches are still intact, supporting the remaining cloister walls, and provides a romantic and evocative image set in the wooded idyll.