If you want to be close to the Lake District but get more for your money, head for Barrow-in-Furness.
Barrow-in-Furness is at the tip of the Furness peninsula in the north west of England. It’s bordered by the Irish Sea and only a stone’s throw from the wilderness of the Lake District National Park.
Once a large industrial town, Barrow-in-Furness suffered as its lifeblood – the steel industry – faded away. However, the town has a lively entertainment and nightlife scene and grand regeneration projects have recently resumed after a long hiatus.
One of the biggest draws is the affordable price of houses. On average, a home costs just £132,000, which means even a small budget can snap up a comfortable family house. This is especially favourable in contrast to Cumbria overall, where the average is £191,000. You can check the latest prices here.
Living in Barrow-in-Furness: what to expect
The town’s former steel industry is still evident. Not only does it have an extensive dockland and ship-building bay but it also has rows of tightly knit terraces that once housed steel workers.
Many of the buildings in the centre testify to its wealth in the 19th century. A particular focal point is the Town Hall, which is built from local red sandstone and whose tower punctuates the local skyline.
But Barrow-in-Furness is also looking to the future. Multi-million-pound regeneration of the docklands has just re-started after grinding to a halt in 2010. It will eventually create a new business park, marina and a ‘village’ packed with shops, homes and restaurants.
If a rural escape is needed, residents can explore the coastline or make the short journey to the lakes and mountains of the national park. A trip to one of the nearby islands can also open-up wildlife-spotting opportunities.
Where to start your property search
In town: A booming workforce in the Victorian period has left Barrow-in-Furness with an excellent choice of Victorian terraces laid out in neat grids. Flat-fronted versions with two bedrooms can be found on roads such as Granville Street, Monk Street, Andover Street and Silverdale Street.
Larger three-bedroom terraces with arched doorways and galley-style kitchens are available on Mount Pleasant, or if you want an extra room, search the three-storey homes on Ramsden Street.
The most desirable housing, however, is found near the hospital, to the north of the town. Abbey Road is particularly sought after and has some grand properties, including six-bedroom Victorian detached homes with high ceilings and large gardens.
Fairfield Lane has 19th-century semis, some of which have been extended, whereas leafy Thorncliffe Road has attractive semi-detached properties with gabled roofs, bay windows and off-road parking.
More modern housing is also on the market. Roads such as Friars Lane have comfortable family homes in the form of post-war semis with decent gardens. Crosslands Park Road also has a good mix of later 20th-century houses, as does Silloth Crescent, which has 1950s semis and terraces with two to three bedrooms.
On the outskirts of the town is The Crescent, which has modern four- and five-bedroom detached properties that boast manicured front gardens and large driveways. For more new-build homes, search developments such as the one on Thorncliffe Road. Here you will find four- and five-bedroom houses with attached garages.
For those with smaller budgets, look out for the occasional flat. Studio apartments are available in Egerton Court and purpose-built blocks with one bedroom can be found in areas such as Schooner Street.
Walney: If you want more choice and coastal views, you may want to look at Walney Island. It’s attached to the mainland by the A590 and has its own schools.
Vickerstown is the main area of habitation – take a look at roads such as Avon Street for the ubiquitous three-bedroom terrace, or search Maryport Avenue for post-war semis with rendered outsides, bay windows and driveways.
Getting around Barrow-in-Furness
By rail: Barrow-in-Furness station has daily trains to Manchester as well as connections to Carlisle, Grange-over-Sands, Lancaster, Whitehaven and Workington. A train journey to Manchester takes two hours and 15 minutes.
There’s also a small station in nearby Roose, which has daily services to Carlisle and Lancaster.
By car: The principle road in the area is the A590, which runs to the town from the M6 via Ulverston. Barrow-in-Furness is linked to the rest of west Cumbria by the A595, which is to the north of the town.
By air: The closest airport is Manchester Airport, which offers both domestic and international flights. Destinations include Beijing, Paris and New York as well as Aberdeen, Jersey and London. Flight operators include budget airlines easyJet, Flybe and Ryanair.
Things to do in Barrow-in-Furness
History: The Dock Museum tracks the town’s 19th-century past as a booming town of industry as well as its current shipyard work. It also has displays and exhibits that include a Viking hoard. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday and admission is free of charge, although they do appreciate donations.
Piel Castle is a 14th-century fortress constructed by the Abbot of Furness in order to guard the town against pirates and raiders. Its ruined keep, baileys and walls still stand and can be reached by a small ferry in the summer months.
Impressive ruins are all that remain of Furness Abbey, which was once hugely wealthy. Visitors can tour its ruins at weekends and see a host of medieval treasures, including a valuable gemstone ring.
Cultural: Arts and culture can be found at The Forum. Its main theatre has 529 seats and it hosts international performers, local dance groups and amateur companies, film screenings, and commedians.
The Derby Music Bar is one of the town’s go-to places for live music. Top local acts and hand-picked artists from around the country perform every weekend and cater for every taste.
Outdoors: Barrow-in-Furness has access to rugged coastline that is perfect for kite-surfing and wind-surfing. Visit beaches such as Earnse Bay on Walney Island for open sands, or go to Roan Head Beach to explore its nature reserve.
Walney Island is home to two nature reserves. North Walney National Nature Reserve is a windy and wild coastal site with wide mountain and sea views. Look out for birds and the natterjack toad, one of the UK’s rarest amphibians. South Walney Nature Reserve offers views across Morecambe Bay and is home to the only grey seal colony in Cumbria.
Within the town itself is Barrow Public Park, which covers 45 acres. In addition to decorative flowerbeds the park also has areas for bowling, putting and boating as well as a new skating facility. Children can burn off energy in the play area or watch enthusiasts at work on the miniature railway.
Shopping: Most major shops are located on Portland Walk, Scott Street, Crellin Street and Cavendish Street. Portland Shopping Centre is one of the north west’s largest open-air malls and has high-street favourites such as Debenhams, WH Smith, Boots and Topshop.
Barrow-in-Furness also has a surprising number of retail parks, including Cornmill Crossing Retail Park, Cornerhouse Retail Park and Walney Road Retail Park, which have large stores such as B&Q.
The town has large indoor and outdoor markets too. The indoor version is one of the largest in Cumbria and has more than 60 traders selling meat, cheese, preserves, clothing and furniture.
Food and drink: As a legacy to its former workforce, Barrow-in-Furness still has a wide choice of pubs and working men’s clubs. But new venues, such as The Drawing Room, have also opened up. It serves beers, wines, spirits and cocktails and celebrates craft beer. Cocktails include unusual choices such as Ginger Rogers Cucumber Number and Rum Runner.
Oscar’s is a sophisticated eatery that uses seasonal, local ingredients. Enjoy dishes such as venison loin with beetroot and chocolate sauce or chicken and rabbit with braised potato, cabbage and winter ratatouille.
If you’d prefer something more traditional, try a pie from Greens, which is said to be one of the best pie shops in the country.
Visit the Ship Inn on Piel Island to meet the King of Piel. Each new landlord of the pub is crowned by locals in a mock homage to the landing of Lambert Simnel in 1487. The landlord has to wear a helmet and sit on a special chair while alcohol is poured over his head in order to be crowned.
5 reasons to live in Barrow-in-Furness
- Within easy reach of the Lake District National Park
- Very affordable housing
- Attractive coastline to explore
- Lively cultural scene and nightlife
- Big regeneration projects
Has this persuaded you to move to Barrow-in-Furness? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below…