The view from Arnside Knott
The view from Arnside Knott

Arnside and Silverdale is a unique countryside area on the verge of Morecambe Bay, stretching from northern Lancashire into southern Cumbria. The entire area is preserved as an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Within the AONB are several National Trust administered areas worth mentioning, including Arnside Knott, a low hill that has proved to be enormously successful as a home to butterflies.

The top of Arnside Summit gives excellent views north into the Lake District National Park, and out across Morecambe Bay.

Near Arnside Knott is Eaves Wood, an area of woodland that features several areas of exposed limestone pavement. This type of geological feature occurs when glaciers retreat, leaving behind slabs of limestone, called clints, split by deep fissures, or grikes.

If the clints are square or rectangular, as they often are, the resemblance to manmade paving is quite remarkable. Eaves Wood has a network of paths making for enjoyable walks, and there is a Jubilee monument at the top.

Just outside Arnside village is Arnside Tower, a 15th-century pele, or fortified tower house. A terrible storm in 1884 split the tower into two sections, one standing five storeys high, the other section just four storeys. Though the remains are probably not safe to enter, you can get very good views from a footpath that runs directly past the tower.

The Lots, near Silverdale village, is grassland running down to the shore. There are views out over Morecambe Bay from a network of paths. The grasslands provide the perfect setting for spring displays of wildflowers. Jack Scout is a cliff on the Lancashire shore of Morecambe Bay. The geology here is limestone grassland, and it provides habitat for a variety of local songbirds and migratory birds.

Heron Mill, Beetham
Heron Mill, Beetham

Heald Brow is a mix of woodland, grassland, pasture, and scrub. There are good views from the top of the Brow and a rather odd-looking field of hummocks made by large ant nests.

The pretty village of Beetham lies in the north-east corner of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB. The village boasts a medieval parish church on Saxon foundations. Highlights include the tomb of Sir Robert Middleton of Leighton Hall and his wife Anne, circa 1490.

A short walk from the church leads you to picturesque Heron Mill, a restored 18th-century corn mill preserved by the local community. There has been a mill on this site since at least 1220.

The Fairy Steps, near Beetham
The Fairy Steps, near Beetham

If you walk up the road from Beetham to the hamlet of Slack Head you come to a shrine to St Lioba, an 8th-century missionary and the patron saint of Beetham church. From Slack Head, a footpath leads over Whin Scar. Here you will find the Fairy Steps, where the footpath goes through a narrow cleft in a limestone outcrop. According to legend, if you can pass through the Fairy Steps without touching the sides of the passage, a fairy will appear and grant you a wish.

I tried, and failed, to go up the steps without touching the sides of the absurdly narrow cleft, so no fairy appeared and I remained wishless - perhaps you will be more fortunate!

In the south-east corner of the AONB is Warton, where the remains of the 13th-century Old Rectory are preserved by English Heritage. The medieval great hall survives as a roofless ruin, with a porch, service chambers and remains of the drainage system.

Set in glorious parkland near Warton is Leighton Hall, a beautiful Victorian Gothic house with a history going back to the 13th century. Leighton Hall was owned for many years by the Gillows, the famous family of furniture-makers. You can take excellent guided tours of the house, explore the walled gardens, and watch birds of prey in action.

If birds are your cup of tea you'll enjoy visiting Leighton Moss RSPB reserve, which features the largest area of reed beds in the north-west of England. It is an internationally important wetland habitat and is home to a large population of bitterns. Avocets are also common, and there is a native herd of red deer.

Arnside and Silverdale is criss-crossed by footpaths, making it an excellent area for walking holidays.

A footpath near Arnside
A footpath near Arnside

Arnside and Silverdale AONB
Arnside and Silverdale - National Trust
Arnside Knott map - OS: SD450774
Eaves Wood map - OS: SD465763
The Lots map - OS: SD460749
Jack Scout map - OS: SD458737
Heald Brow map - OS: SD468742.