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Piel Island 

4 mins read

If you’re looking for a place to spend the day just a little bit out of the ordinary, Piel Island is your spot. Piel Island is a 20-minute ferry ride from Roa Island, with two ferries running each day from April to September. This little island is steeped in history and natural beauty, with several pebble beaches to explore, a ruined motte and bailey castle, and a traditional pub called The Ship Inn. The landlord of The Ship is otherwise known as the King of Piel. If you want even more adventure, you can walk across to the island at low tide, but this must be with a local guide. It is also possible to camp on Piel Island for £5 per tent per night; there is no vehicle access on the island, so no camper vans or trailers. There are some toilets for the campers which lock at night.

History of the Island

The fortification of Piel Castle was approved by Edward III in 1327 as a place for the Monks of Furness to trade and keep goods safe from marauding Scots. Trade and cargo passing through Piel Harbour could also be monitored from this post. The Monks benefited by not only keeping the Scots away but also the King, thus making way for them to smuggle goods such as wool without paying taxes. This small island certainly saw its fair share of action over the years, and notably, in 1487, an army of 8000 mercenaries landed with their leader Lambert Simnel from Ireland. Lambert claimed to be the Earl of Warwick and therefor rightful heir to the throne. Henry Vii squashed these claims by capturing and imprisoning him on his way to London. As a result, Piel Castle fell into ruins around the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. The castle had become Henry’s property, and with the closure of catholic properties such as Furness Abbey in 1537, Piel castle was no longer in use. 

The Ship Inn

The Ship inn dated back to the 17th Century and was previously the ship’s chandlery, providing equipment and supplies to ships. The Innkeeper of 1746, Edward Postlethwaite, was granted a lease over the land known as the castle ditch. A long-standing tradition of the landlord becoming the King of Piel has formed and is still going strong to this day. When a new landlord is appointed, the coronation ceremony involves them sitting in an ancient wooden chair, with a sword and helmet, whilst alcohol is tipped over their heads. The Ship Inn serves food and drink, giving the general public a chance to meet some royalty. 

The trip on the Ferry is an adventure in itself; with very fast-moving tides and a small wooden ferry, the journey certainly feels very rustic. The boat holds 12 people and travels to Piel Island, tide and weather permitting. You must check on the day; for more information, click here

A day trip to Piel Island is a truly unique experience for the family, suitable for children of all ages, and dogs are welcome if kept on the lead.