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10 Best Things to Do in Whitehaven (Cumbria, England)

The 17th century was when, the Lowther family was the coalminers’ governing family in Cumberland began building ports at Whitehaven to expand the coal mining industry.

Over the next several decades the Lowthers would utilize their wealth to create an early post-medieval planned towns in the country.

Whitehaven is an Georgian town that was influenced to Sir Christopher’s designs for the rebuilding of London following the Great Fire and looking a similar to cities in that of the “New World”. This is not a coincidence since by the 1750s, Whitehaven was the second busiest port, with goods being unloaded like sugar and rum from colonies.

Lakeland’s first peak is few miles from the coast near Dent Fell, while down to the coast, you can see the cliffs with sky-scraping views that make up St Bees Head, a crucial nesting area for seabirds.

1. Walk Around Town

Whitehaven, Cumbria, England

It’s difficult to find yourself within the center of Whitehaven because Whitehaven was laid out in a wide right-angled grid. The roads that lead to the harbour include the grand and wide main streets, Duke Street and Lowther Street. The latter route ran starting from Lowther family’s home at Whitehaven Castle straight to the waterfront.

There is a belief that the urban layout, dating in the 1680s was modeled after cities built by colonial settlers located in the Americas.

There are more than 250 heritage buildings listed in the space of some streets, including townhouses, warehouses and shops, mostly from the 1700s and the early 1800s.

The second addition is the Neo-Baroque Market Hall, which went up in 1880, and is the Whitehaven’s Tourist Information Centre. A market has been trading in the old street the front on Saturdays and Thursdays since 1660.

2. The Harbour

The Harbour

The MP and landowner, Sir Christopher Lowther set about building Whitehaven’s harbour around the mid 17th century in order to trade coal.

It is the Old Quay here, a stone pier which was constructed in 1631-34, is one of the oldest coal wharves.

The harbour was expanded throughout the course of the 200th century to the present layout of moles and piers that extend out towards the sea.

Along the West Strand you can walk through The Beacon Museum and out along the Old Quay, facing back towards the town.

There is there’s a Georgian circular lighthouse, with an engraved sundial with the date 1730. In addition sugar from the West Indies would arrive on the Sugar Tongue Quay, completed in 1809, and until 1992, the calcium phosphate that came from Africa was removed from Queens Dock. Queens Dock for a local chemical plant.

3. The Beacon Museum

The Beacon Museum

Between Whitehaven’s harbour and its old mines, there is a museum that will tell you everything you must be aware of the town and the larger Copeland region. The museum blends interactive stations and artifacts such as Viking silver, as well as Victorian technologies for maritime.

A new exhibit located on the 2nd floor will be dedicated to Sellafield and West Cumbria’s nuclear industry that was the result of the post-war weapons program when the UK sought to develop nuclear weapons in the Cold War. On the upper floor, you will be immersed in the sights and smells of the harbour, inside an Georgian warehouse or aboard an interactive vessel.

The kids can also find Roman artefacts , and then solve the puzzle using the view from above of Whitehaven.

The upper floor offers an expansive panorama of the harbour which can be observed with telescopes. You can also take an experience that takes you back to the last 20 years, with old toys as well as a brand new Chopper bicycle.

4. The Rum Story

The Rum Story

The 18th century Whitehaven was the principal port of the UK’s rum trade. The large Georgian wine merchant’s store located on Lowther Street chronicles the country’s intense and often darkly romantic relationship to this spirit.

The shopfront of the 18th century is preserved, as are the warehouse and cellars as well as the original clerk’s office has undergone a meticulous reconstruction.

The first part of the museum trail , you’ll be immersed in an arid Antiguan rainforest. From there you’ll be able to explore the fascinating history of slave trade and sugar plantations. Find out about the significance of rum for The Royal Navy and discover how the beverage was made and shipped.

There are fascinating details regarding the Jefferson family who operated in this building for over 200 years prior until 1998.

5. St James’ Church

St James' Church

Out of the ordinary on the outside The exterior is a bit shabby, but this Neoclassical church located on High Street is graced with lavish interiors with a Rococo style. The renowned architect scholar Nikolaus Pevsner described it as “the finest Georgian church interior in the country”. The St. James’s Church was erected in 1753 and features gallery galleries along three sides. They are which are supported by Doric columns and topped with a the Doric triglyph frieze on the capitals.

The second set of Ionic columns rises up to the ceiling, and is decorated with stucco roundels depicting Cherubs, the Annunciation, and Ascension.

The most impressive to be noted is the Baroque painting in the background of the altar, which depicts the Transfiguration painted by Guilio Cesare Procaccini (1574-1625). It is believed that this painting was displayed in El Escorial palace outside Madrid and was looted by French soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars.

6. St Nicholas’ Church and Gardens

St Nicholas' Church and Gardens

In a rectangular, long park within the grid system of Whitehaven is St Nicholas’s Church tower. The portal, as well as the portal which is the only remnant of a Neo-Gothic church that dates back to 1883and destroyed by a fire in the year 1971. There was a 17th century church before that but the most famous burial site is Mildred Gale (1671-1701) the mother of George Washington, the first president of the United States.

The graveyard was changed times before turning into a garden after the fire. Therefore, the exact location of her burial is not known.

You can climb the spiral staircase in the tower to see the mechanism of the clock and also see a an exhibit of family members of the Gale family.

The garden is stunning in the shadow of the church’s ruins and if you go toward Duke Street on the Duke Street side at the north end , you will be able to see some of the gravestones from the past mostly for famous seafarers.

7. Castle Park

St Nicholas' Church and Gardens

There’s a beautiful spot of greenery along the east end of town. Here you’ll discover a stone bandstand and a playground that has been updated for the little ones. The grounds are located at Whitehaven Castle, founded by Sir John Lowther in the 17th century. It was later transformed into the Georgian Gothic Revival design.

The Lowthers lived there until 1924 when the property was sold to the council, to create an hospital, and later apartments.

As you walk along the park’s curving trail, you may spot the vents for the railway tunnel of 1,219 metres which was excavated in 1852, connecting Whithaven (Bransty) as well as Corkickle stations.

8. St Bees Head

Castle Park

Near Whitehaven is the sole piece in the Heritage Coast on the north-western English coastline that runs between Wales between Wales and Scotland.

The cliffs of St Bees Head are up to 90m in height and provide stunning panoramic views over The Irish Sea and back to the pikes and fells that make up the Lake District.

First St Bees Lighthouse went up in 1718, and was the last lighthouse powered by coal in Britain before it was destroyed in 1822. The lighthouse was first illuminated in 1867 before being automated in 1987 and boasting an area that was 18.2 nautical miles.

There’s also an abandoned fog horn station along the cliff edge that is occasionally open for public viewing through The National Trust.

The south-facing end of Bees Head can be described as an RSPB Reserve which is an area of nesting for seabirds including puffins, fulmars and kittiwakes razorbills, herringgulls and herringgulls as well as the only breeding ground for the black Guillemot.

9. Whitehaven Coastal Walk

St Bees Head

The National Trust has drawn up seven-mile walking trails that are marked along the coast, starting with the port in Whitehaven and bringing you to the trailhead of the entire 192 miles Coast to Coast Walk in St Bees.

As you start the walk, you’ll be acquainted with the mining history of Whitehaven through The Haig as well as Saltom pits, as well as the wagon way, which is a cart route that runs down to the harbour.

There are remote beaches that are whipped in the breeze, an historic Sandstone quarry, and a secret radar station dating from WWII along with places on this list such as St Bees Head and St Bees Priory Church.

10. St Bees Priory Church

Whitehaven Coastal Walk

The mysterious saintly Bega (St Bees) is believed to be the name of an Irish princess, who was able to escape from an wedding arranged for the son of a Viking in the mid-9th century to lead a religious life along the Cumbrian coast.

St Bees Priory, founded by the Normans between 1120 and 1135, was a major center of Christianity throughout the region until it was destroyed during the Reformation.

The domestic structures were completely destroyed however, the church of the priory has been preserved since the 16th century, and is full of history. Look out for the Romanesque design of zigzags in the archivolts of the portal, and also the vivd lintel from the 12th century within the West courtyard, which depicts St Michael fighting an eagle.

Additionally, outside is an elongated shaft from a 10th century cross that bears an image of Vikings.

Its “history area” in the church is a deep dive into the excavating of a demolished 14th-century chapel that revealed the well-preserved corpse of an aristocratic knight, who perished in 1368.

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