|Location Map ( geo)|
|To:||Thornhill (S) (NY016080)|
|Distance:||8.4 miles (13.5 km)|
|Route outline (key)|
The B5345 is a back road leading south from Whitehaven to the seaside village of St Bees before winding inland to join the A595 at Ironbridge Junction. It was originally unclassified but gained its number in the late 1920s.
The route starts in two places on the A5094 owing to the existence of a one-way system in Whitehaven. The two sections join in the south part of the town centre at a set of traffic signals. After passing straight on at a mini-roundabout we have the chance to turn left, signposted to Egremont, Barrow and the A595. Following this is a stretch with cars permanently parked on the right-hand side, causing as serious a bottle-neck as this part of a remote county experiences.
Our road next takes the left-most way at a three-pronged fork and climbs a hill whose summit used to be graced by NSL signs, but these have now moved a quarter of a mile south to beyond the staggered junction with roads leading to Kells in the west and Mirehouse and the A595 in the east. The move was made to make it easier for trucks from the chemical plants near Kells to cross and reach the A595. Once past the NSL signs, we encounter a short, but steep, section of hill with a sharp left-hand bend close to the top, sadly known locally for the number of serious and fatal accidents as drivers coming in the other direction lose control on the adverse camber of the bend.
The next mile and a half are at national speed limit as we cross the high ground behind St Bees Head, the westernmost point of Cumberland, although we are about a mile inland of the headland itself. Another off-camber left-right bend leads to a straight drop down to the 30 signs at the corner marking the entrance to the pretty village of St Bees. Views to the left over the valley and ahead over the Irish Sea make this a popular stopping point for tourists to take photographs.
Once in the village we are faced by three 90-degree bends, left-right-left, as we pass the Priory Church on the right and St Bees school on the left. Near-misses are common on these bends, especially the first as it also has a local road leading to the beach on its right-hand apex. Crossing the beck and level crossing for the Cumbrian Coast Line we pass in quick succession three pubs, the pedestrian access to the local primary school, the inland route to Egremont, another pub and then a hill to the NSL signs.
South of the village the B5345 runs between fields separated from the road by high banks. After passing through a steep-sided but short valley and dog-legging past another turn for Egremont, we TOTSO sharp left onto Kersey Bridge, which carries us over the River Ehen. After zigzagging between more fields we come to a T-junction: the right-hand turn leads to Beckermet (emphasis on the KER); our road turns sharp left to end, almost immediately, on the A595 at the junction known locally as Ironbridge. There hasn't, however, been any bridge here in the last 20 years (it once carried a branch railway serving the Beckermet Mines), and the remaining buttress on the far side of the junction was removed in 2009.
In all, the B5345 is a nice little coastal route, sometimes used by traffic trying to get to Sellafield, but generally quiet. There are good views inland to the Lake District National Park and fells and seaward, although the Isle of Man can be seen only when heading north.