Cumbrian Coast: Allonby
With history and fun, all-in-one, Paul McGuirk explores why Allonby is a must-visit for tourists .
Despite its diminutive stature, the coastal village of Allonby proves that size isn’t everything. With its rich history, multitude of attractions and picturesque sea views, this often-overlooked Cumbrian community has plenty to offer visitors of all ages.
The village is thought to have been developed between 55BC and 122AD by the Romans, as a defence outpost during the construction of Hadrian’s Wall. Milefortlet 21, a World Heritage Site just south of the village, provides evidence of the Roman occupation of the area. However, the first permanent settlers to Allonby are believed to have been Anglo Saxons, who are estimated to have arrived in the 5th century following the demise of the Roman Empire.
Some 400 years later, Viking settlers sailed to the area after being expelled from Dublin and made Allonby their home. However, it would be 1274 before the existence of the village was recorded as “Alenby” – an amalgamation of the Anglo-Norman “Aguillon”, meaning spur, and “byr” – the Old Norse term for a farm.
It was around this time that locals began to extract salt from the sea water along the Solway coast – an enterprise which continued for some 700 years. Saltpans dating back to 1650 can still be seen just south of the village at Crosscanonby to this day.
Today, Allonby is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, boasting a beach of fine sand which offers stunning views across the Solway Estuary. From here, it’s possible to gaze at the mountains of Southern Scotland and take in the fresh sea air – the perfect opportunity for everyone from dog-walkers to families with young children to relax.
A renowned long-distance walk, The Cumbrian Coastal Way, runs through the village, whereby keen walkers can enjoy numerous open miles of green-sea banks during the stretch between Allonby and Beckfoot.
The village is home to various historic Georgian and Victorian buildings including the Reading Room, a Quaker alms house for widows and spinsters. The building, which has recently been transformed into a residential property, was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, a Victorian architect of note who also developed Manchester’s famous Town Hall and the Natural History Museum in London.
Elsewhere, the Old Baths, which are now also private residences, serve as a timely reminder as to when Allonby was famed as a sea-bathing resort. 18th century visitors would come from all over England to soak up and even drink the sea water as a curative measure.
It appears that the tradition for relaxation has never left Allonby, as it is now home to the Spring Lea Leisure Centre, which offers holidaymakers a chance to unwind with a heated jacuzzi, indoor leisure pool and sauna. Children can enjoy a soft play area and a games room with pool tables, while outdoor swimmers can even enjoy a bracing dip in the sea on a beach which has won awards for cleanliness and safety – weather permitting, of course.
It’s easy to build up a hunger after an afternoon taking in the fresh sea air, and thankfully Allonby is home to numerous tea rooms, hotels and traditional pubs offering home-cooked food and cask ales.
Those with a sweet tooth can do worse than enjoy a famous Twentyman’s ice cream, which is a highly-regarded, locally-produced treat that is not to be missed.
With a host of exciting attractions and facilities nearby – including indoor karting, sea fishing, kite surfing and more – and as a gateway to the Lake District, Allonby makes a great base for families to enjoy a much-needed break away from the hustle-and-bustle of modern life. It’s an affordable, enjoyable means to enjoy the beauty of Cumbria without having to break the bank, and it’s easy to see why it’s becoming increasingly popular with tourists looking to enjoy something different from a UK getaway.