Ulverston, Cumbria

Ulverston, Cumbria

Ulverston is a lovely example of how the Lake District used to be. Compared to the bright lights of Kendal and Keswick it has twice the charm and half the tourists. When we arrived at 10am it was still stirring awake and didn't seem to make it far beyond dozing for the rest of the day. Traditional shops jostle with one or two designer boutiques and fancy delis but apart from Greggs and Boots it is relatively chain-store free, and thankfully there isn’t a cut price fleece in sight.

The town is full of unexpected fragments of a more genteel time. The Glaxo Social Club proclaims to be "Licensed in pursuance of act of parliament for public dancing, singing, music and other public entertainments of the like kind".
At the top of the high street there's an ancient chemist and opposite the Oxfam shop street spreads over 3 floors with the non-fiction laid out in Dewey Decimal order. Amazingly, the charity shops here still have something you might want to buy.

Round the corner just off King Street there's a museum devoted to Stan Laurel, Ulverston’s most famous son who was born here in 1890. It's a gloriously ramshackle affair. Not so much a museum as a collection of anything Laurel (or Hardy) related crammed into two rooms. In a third, complete with old red velvet cinema seats, you can watch Laurel & Hardy films in period style. When we arrive the proprietor, himself a bit of a character, is just nipping out for fish and chips so he leaves us to look around the place. Even the souvenirs are fantastically old school – thimbles, mugs in two different sizes and stylish leather bookmarks.

The Laurel & Hardy Museum, Ulverston

At the end of the King Street cross over at the stately Kings Arms pub with its distinctive Hartley's lettering, walk past the Darby and Joan Club (yes, really) towards the hill with what looks like a lighthouse on top. This is the Barrow Monument, a memorial to another famous Ulverstonian, Sir John Barrow, explorer and founder of the Royal Geographic Society. Known locally as "Hoad" it is a recreation of the third Eddystone Lighthouse. It has a lighthouse keeper and usually opens a few days each year although it is closed at the moment awaiting restoration. It's an easy climb and the view out to Morecambe Bay from the top is stunning. When you get there rest a while and enjoy the view before heading back to the town for fish and chips.

How to get there

Ulverston is on the A590, the main road to Barrow-in-Furness. Google map.

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Comments

I loved Ulverston on our visit. We were there for a wedding, and every pub and shop we went into seemed to have folk talking excitedly about the couple about to be married. We stayed in a fantastic B&B run by a fruity old couple of semi-retired theatre set designers who kept mentioning their "London friends". I kept expecting Alan Bennett to walk in holding a clapperboard.

By the way your phrase of 'Cut-price fleeces' speaks volumes about the 21st century Lake District, lovely as it is.

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