Green Travel Guide to Arnside & Silverdale
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Words by Jo Keeling.
Artwork for Green Traveller's Guides by Tina Smith and Mark Edwards.

Foreword by Lucy Barron, AONB Manager

The Arnside & Silverdale AONB is an extraordinary
lace, famous for its amazing wildlife, stunning
scenery, and superb walks. From the simple beauty
of the lady's-slipper orchid to the shining sands
of Morecambe Bay, the area is just awe-inspiring - full
f natural spectacles and a surprise around every corner. 

The area’s network of narrow lanes and paths, open spaces, viewpoints and nature reserves, offer wonderful opportunities to enjoy walking, cycling and wildlife watching. The AONB villages all offer something unique from historic buildings to friendly pubs and cafes and some great places to stay. And the area is very accessible by public transport – perfect for exploring in a truly sustainable way.

The AONB Partnership is working together with communities, farmers and landowners to conserve and enhance this outstanding landscape now and for the future. You’re sure to get a warm friendly welcome here, whether you’re a first time visitor or one of many who loves the area and returns again and again.

We hope this Greentraveller Guide will inspire you to get the most out of your stay in ways that keep the area special and bring benefits to local communities.

What our writers discovered in Arnside & Silverdale
Nestled between the foothills of the Lake District and the upper reaches of Morecambe Bay, the Arnside & Silverdale AONB is a surprisingly diverse landscape; in just one day you can gaze over salt-marsh, watch avocets preening in the estuary shallows, dip into green wooded valleys and stride up to the summit of rocky outcrops.

The villages offer a chance to enjoy simple pleasures: eat fish and chips on the pier, amble along the promenade at sunset, watch herons gingerly stepping in the shallows and read a book overlooking an ever-changing web of shimmering channels. But it’s the opportunity to explore the glorious countryside on foot and get up close to nature that brings visitors back. Watch peregrine falcons nesting on sheer limestone crags, seek out rare butterflies in wildflower-rich grasslands and listen to bitterns booming over the largest reed bed in the north of England. There's so much to explore both in the AONB and in the wider Morecambe Bay area. 

The Wild Side of Arnside & Silverdale

Birds, butterflies, bramble and birch... Jo Keeling enjoys the wildlife of the varied, beautiful landscape of the Arnside & Silverdale Ar
Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve is one of the best spots to really explore the limestone pavement that makes this area of the country unique. Lowland limestone has an entirely different character to its upland counterpart. At Malham Cove and Ingleborough, it’s epic and exposed, while here it’s otherworldly and hidden within woodland, creating a moonscape of clints and grykes. Stunted ash and hazel trees push up through the gaps (many of which are 100s of years old, although they still look like saplings), while rare limestone-loving plants such as the rigid buckler fern, dark-red helleborine and limestone fern find homes within the sheltered grykes. If you could explore deeper, you’d find liverworts and mosses thriving in the deeper fissures. This unique wilderness is home to an array of woodland birds, rare butterflies and wildflowers. Look out for brimstone, high brown fritillary and the elegantly named Duke of Burgundy butterflies, which thrive in the sheltered conditions, while marsh harriers display mid-air acrobatics over Hawes Water. If you visit in spring, you might even be lucky enough to spot the Lady’s slipper orchid – Britain’s rarest flower. Seeking out butterflies at Arnside Knott The Knott is a popular spot with locals and visitors, but with a vast web of footpaths, it’s possible to enjoy its solitude and never walk the same route twice. It’s a fascinating landscape. Sculpted by glaciers in the last Ice Age, then skimmed with thin limestone soil, the hillside supports a mosaic of shrub, wind-sculpted yew and juniper and tussocks of grassland. Look among the clumps of distinctive blue moor-grass and you might spot tormentil, tiny yellow four-petalled flowers, which were once used in folk medicine as a cure-all remedy. The area is renowned for butterflies – too many to list here so pick up an ID guide from the AONB office at Arnside station if you’d like to find out more. You should keep an eye out for a few species of note, however: the Scotch argus, one of only two colonies in England, is on the wing late July and early August; while the Knott is also a stronghold of the rare high brown fritillary, which has suffered the swiftest decline of any British butterfly. If you miss the first two, the bright yellow brimstone should be easier to spot – they hibernate in the ivy and will be on the wing in early spring. Look out for roe deer and other mammals in the lower woodland – a tangle of bramble, bracken, dog rose and grown-out coppiced hazel and oak. This is also an ideal place to just stop and listen to woodland bird song: listen out for the calls of marsh tits, wrens, nuthatches, willow warblers, chiffchaffs, blackbirds and blackcaps. Watching nesting peregrine falcons at Warton Crag At 163m, Warton Crag is the highest point in the AONB and walkers are rewarded with impressive views over a patchwork of farmers’ fields and salt marsh, before the shining intertidal expanse of Morecambe Bay. Inland, you might be able to pick out Clougha and Hawthornthwaite in the Forest of Bowland, and Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. The reserve offers a sharp contrast to the lowland pavements at Gait Barrows; here the limestone has been eroded to form natural cliffs, scars and outcrops. Many birds make the crag their home: peregrine falcons nest on the quarried crag face, while kestrels hover in search of small prey. In the woodlands, you might see (or at least hear) green warblers, willow warblers, blackcaps, and bullfinch and marsh tit. Between spring and autumn, wildflowers add colour to the grassland and shrub: look out for the rich yellows of kidney vetch (small clusters of yellow flowers atop little woolly cushions) and Bird’s Foot Trefoil (yolk-coloured flowers with reddish buds and claw-like seed pods), purple mats of thyme and bluebells, primroses and wood anemones in the woodlands.     
Warton Crag is also another important breeding ground for moths and butterflies. Seek out the warm, sunny corners and you could spot such rarities as the nationally threatened high brown fritillary – their caterpillars feed on the leaves of violets beneath the shade of the bracken. You never know, those sunny spots might reveal the odd slow worm as well, so keep your eyes peeled. == Words by Jo Keeling...

Stay, Eat, See & Do

Our pick of places across Arnside & Silverdale

Google Map Key:
Click on the coloured icons for more information about each listing
Green = Places to stay; Blue = Places to eat; Yellow = Attractions; Purple = Activities

Click on the square brackets top right of map to reveal expanded map

  • The Arnside & Silverdale AONB covers 75 sq km and is one of the smallest of the AONB family

  • More than half of the flowering plant species of the British Isles can be found here

  • Morecambe Bay, an integral part of the AONB, is the largest intertidal area in the UK and is a vital feeding ground in winter for over a quarter of a million wading birds, ducks and geese.

  • The Bittern, which features in the AONB logo, is one of Britain’s rarest birds and can be found in the reedbeds of RSPB Leighton Moss

  • With over 100km of well maintained footpaths, walking is a great way to see the AONB

Image credits:
All photos in this guide are by Diana Jarvis/Greentraveller except for the following: 

Windswept moor grass at Arnside Knott: Adam Donaldson

Pair of avocets, Arnside & Silverdale: Mike Redman

Trowbarrow: Tony Riden

Duke of Burgundy butterfly: David Morris

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