St Patrick's Chapel

St Patrick's Chapel

 

Heysham Coast is a beautiful sandstone headland renowned for its eighth-century chapel and rock hewn graves; a wonderful urban green space. This sandstone headland, south of Morecambe and north of Heysham port, rises majestically above the sea. There you will find the remains of St Patrick's Chapel, built in the early Medieval period and now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The eight body-shaped, rock-cut graves here are believed to be unique. Enjoy a walk in the wide open spaces of the Barrows, an area of coastal grassland and peaceful woodland, which used to be a garden in the picturesque era.

Of historical interest are the stone graves in the ruins of the ancient St. Patrick's Chapel, close to St Peter's Church. They are thought to date from the 11th century, and are hewn from solid rock. Local legend has it that St Patrick landed here after crossing from Ireland and established the chapel. However it has been established that the chapel was built around 300 years after Patrick's death. These stone graves appear on the cover of the Black Sabbath CD, "The Best of Black Sabbath".

The grounds of St Peter's Church contain many Saxon and Viking remains, and the church itself contains a Viking hogback stone. The purpose of these strange stone sculptures is the subject of much debate; they are found mainly in Northern England and also in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and a few areas of Southern England with Viking links. Heysham also contains one of only three sites in Britain and Ireland that contain a pre-Roman labyrinth carving, the others being located at Tintagel, Cornwall and Hollywood, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Lancaster Museum holds artefacts from the area such as stone axe and hammer heads (some weighing up to 4 kg (9 lb)) dating back to the New Stone Age. Many of these artefacts and their original location suggest that this was an ancient burial ground, or barrow; the area is still known locally as "The Barrows". The Barrows are the only sea-cliffs in Lancashire and contain, in a relatively small area, woodland, open grassland, sandy beaches and deep rock pools.

Heysham Heritage Centre is housed in the barn of a Longhouse in Main Street. The building is owned by the Heritage Trust for the North West, who also own the cottage part of the longhouse, 22 Main Street. The Heritage Centre is run by volunteers, most of whom belong to Heysham Heritage Association.

Heysham Port started operation in 1904 with a ferry service to the Isle of Man, as well as freight to Ireland and services for the eastern Irish Sea and Morecambe Bay gas fields. A SeaCat service to Belfast started in 1999. Some ferries connect with trains from Heysham Port railway station to Lancaster via the Morecambe Branch Line. The Bay Gateway dual carriageway opened in October 2016, connecting Heysham directly to the M6.

The artist J. M. W. Turner visited Heysham in the 1790s when travelling throughout Britain. On a visit in August 1816 he made sketches which formed the basis of his subsequent watercolour Heysham and Cumberland Mountains (British Museum); it depicts the village with the Lakeland backdrop across Morecambe Bay.

 

St Patrick's Chapel possibly dates back to the mid-eighth century, or a little later. The rectangular chapel is constructed of sandstone and measures roughly 7 meters by 2.2 meters. One of the best architectural features is the curved Anglo-Saxon style doorway. Local tradition states that St Patrick may well have come ashore here in the fifth century, after being shipwrecked off the coast, and subsequently established a small chapel. The existing chapel is thought to have been built at least two centuries later to encourage the act of pilgrimage.

Around St Patrick's Chapel are the remains of eight rock-cut graves hewn from the headland, several of which are body shaped and have rock-cut sockets, possibly for wooden crosses. It is thought that the graves were created around the eleventh century and were used for burying very high-status individuals

There is a circular trail route which takes in the headland along with places of interest in the historic Heysham village itself. The trail takes you along the most prominent cliff on the Lancashire coast to explore the area's rich history and the landscape of today. Click to download (pdf).

Dogs are welcome, under control. Please clear up after your dog. There is a large grassy area for picnics. There are cafés, shops and pubs in the village. No toilet facilities. There is Pay & Display parking in Heysham village (not National Trust).

The National Trust does not own a car park at Heysham although there is the village car park which is operated by Lancaster City Council (LA3 2RW). This car park has a height barrier of 2m and is Pay and Display. There are 210 spaces with designated disabled parking. There is a short walk down the Main Street in Heysham towards St Peter’s Church and the start of the National Trust walking route.

Footpath surfaces are good with some steep cobbled sections climbing up to St Patrick’s Chapel and also some stone steps in Rectory Woods which can be slippery after rain. There are gates with radar padlocks at either end of the headland walk which is along a grassy path. The path down from the headland walk to the beach can be rutted and slippery when wet.

There are no toilet facilities on site although there are public toilets located near the Village car park. (LA3 2RW) Please check these facilities for temporary closures. There are visitor facilities and refreshments available in Heysham where there are shops, tea rooms and a pub.

Directions From the A589/ Heysham Road. Main Street is approximately 0.5 miles. From Heysham Road turn right where the brown signs direct you down to St Patrick’s Chapel onto Longlands Lane - this then becomes Crime Well Lane and the car park is opposite Main Street. Here you can pick up brown signs which will direct you to the Shore and St Patrick’s Chapel.

 

Location : Heysham village, near Morecambe, Lancashire LA3

Transport: Heysham Port (National Rail, limited service) then bus (2.5 miles). Bus: 2, 3, 4 and 5 from Lancaster via Morecambe

Opening Times: Dawn to Dusk

Tickets : Free

Tel: 01524 702 815