Perhaps many people dream of living like a king (or queen) when fantasizing about a little bit of adventure in their life, but that is rarely possible unless you’re born into a royal family. Fortunately, a town in northern England has breathed new life into that dream by offering an island along with a job title that makes you sound like a ruler from Game of Thrones.
Overseeing a tiny island dominated by a castle from the 1300s and over-300-year-old public house, just off Furness Peninsula, an English council is set to hand in the throne of the lonely Piel Island to the right candidate, should he (or she) meet the requirement.
Being the island’s sole business, the Ship Inn seeks a landlord who has the burning passion to run a pub and reign supreme over the charismatic 50-acre plot. As for the said kingship, it is also included in the deal — and it’ll almost be official.
The Barrow Borough Council – the local authority who oversees the island – says the first documented landlord, Edward Postlethwaite, served from 1746 to 1766. Since the 1800s, for some ‘reason’ the title “King of Piel” has been bestowed to whoever filled the position.
To be on par with the prestigious title, an initiation rite was also established — the new leader sits in an ancient chair whilst donning a helmet and holding a rusty sword, and having buckets of beer poured over their head. Interestingly, both the title and the ritual still live on today, so the ideal candidate gets to fully soak in this 300-year-old tradition.
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Following the early termination of the previous “lord’s” lease, a temporary partnership organization was formed in 2021 between the local government and a pub company to ensure the significant historical landmark continues operating. Now, the Barrow-in-Furness (the local town) council is once again in search of its next “king” to take over the helm and run the pub.
“Piel Island is a unique place and any operator needs to appreciate the constraints offered by power, weather, access, and its location within an area of Site of Special Scientific Interest,” a report to councilors reads.
For 40 years, John Murphy has been leading walks to the island, and he told The Guardian that the island charges just a fraction of the cost of a “honey trap” hotel and this has been fundamental in attracting huge amounts of visitors to “staycations.” A ferry service operates and, during low tide, guided walks across the sand lead visitors between shores. Besides, Piel Island is just 20 minutes away from the surrounding Lake District, and within walking distance of Walney Island and its beaches.
Murphy emphasizes that whoever gets the job will need to be “massively dedicated” as running the pub and caring for the island was no easy task.
Coping with solitude on the lonely island, which stays shut during the off-season, is surely a vital factor. “You can’t just nip across to Tesco for a loaf of bread when you’re on Piel Island,” Murphy noted. “You’ll need to have dedication and a strong passion for isolation and peace and quiet. It takes a special personality.”
Along those lines, Sandra Baines, head of visitor economy and culture at the council, told the BBC the job was perhaps “not the dream people might think it is.” Well, no one said being a king (or queen) is easy and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.
It gets a whole lot more interesting though – as the chosen “King of Piel,” one would have to manage the bar, work with amenities like the ferry and guided hikes, and maintain the island with their own money (except for emergencies or essential repairs, which will be taken care of by the town).
What may attract an aspiring king as an exciting opportunity, has many daunting responsibilities. From facing uncertain weather to complete isolation, and having to put in long hours, it may not be the sort of dream life one would have envisioned upon being crowned king or queen of the island.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as the king or queen gets to live in the picturesque vistas of an island, where one can watch seals and birds while enjoying stunning sunsets. The views from Piel are pretty amazing,” Murphy added. “I must have slept on every blade of grass on that island, drunk or sober, and I just love it.”
The castle was initially built with the goal of keeping the Scottish invaders at bay. In 1487, some 8,000 mercenaries led by Lambert Simnel landed here and advanced on London in an attempt to overthrow King Henry VII and seize the throne of England. This maneuver was carried out as Simmel, it was claimed, was the rightful heir and true Earl of Warwick. However, King Henry was not toppled; the invaders were defeated in the Battle of Stoke Field, bringing the Wars of the Roses to an end.
It’s not every day that one comes across such an incredible “job opportunity” on a dreamy, enchanting island. So, if you’ve long dreamt of ruling as a king, this is your once-in-a-lifetime chance!