Ravenglass is the only coastal village to fall within the Lake District National Park, and is in an attractive location close to the confluence of the Esk, Mite and Irt rivers. In the 1850s Ravenglass was described as a sea-port and market-town, although only had 337 inhabitants. The natural harbour created by the meeting of the rivers had also attracted the Romans, and Ravenglass was thus the site of a port for nearly two thousand years.
Ravenglass gained a fair and market from King John in 1208. In 1796 Lord Muncaster gained permission to hold markets on Wednesday and Friday, along with three annual fairs, but by the middle of the nineteenth century only the Wednesday market was still running. Three older fairs were still going strong, a cattle fair on 6 May, a horse fair on 8 June and a second cattle fair on 5 August.
By the 1850s the August fair was only one day long, but at one point it had been three days long. On the first day the Serjeant of the borough of Egrement, carrying an insignia called the Bow of Egremont, and accompanied by the foresters of the forest of Copeland with their bows and horns and the tenants of the forest opened the fair. The fair was then run by the foresters and tenants, before at noon on the third day Lord Muncaster took back possession of the fairground. The rest of the third day was filled with horse races and local sports.
The Romans had their main naval base on the north-west coast at Ravenglass, and the remains of the Roman fort of Glannoventa can still be seen to the south of the village. The remains of the bath house include some of the tallest remaining Roman walls in the country. The port at Ravenglass was the final destination of the Roman Road that crossed Hardknott Pass on its way to Ambleside. The fort remained in use for around 300 years, almost the full length of the Roman occupation in the north.
Ravenglass was revived as a port during the Middle Ages, although its trade was always on something of a small scale. By the middle of the nineteenth century the main trade was coal coming from Whitehaven for the local limekilns and Ravenglass oysters heading back in the other direction, but by then the port was already fading, as larger industrial ports took over. In 1845 the port suffered another day when a railway was approved, to run from Whitehaven, through Ravenglass and on into Furness. This railway still runs all the way around the Cumbria coast, from Furness, along the west coast and up to Carlisle.
A rather more scenic railway, the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, reaches the coast at the northern end of the village. This railway was originally built in 1875 by Whitehaven Iron Mines Ltd, and despite the failure of that company five years later remained in operation until 1913. In 1915 it was reopened as a narrow gauge line, running up Eskdale to Boot. Since 1960 it has been owned and run by a preservation society, and operates during the tourist season.
Perhaps the most scenic transport route to end at Ravenglass is Moses' Trod, which runs from Borrowdale, around the flanks of Great Gable to reach Wasdale with the port as the eventual destination.