“A piece of Lakeland set aside for walkers, wildlife and those who simply enjoy peace and tranquillity”
All the 3 valleys of Eskdale, Wasdale and Dunnerdale (or the Duddon Valley) share much in common. Although they can be a pig to get to; once there they offer the best walking experience in the Lake District. Not only are they much quieter and totally unspoilt but by a quirk of fate they also have stunning scenery, grand and rugged mountains and pretty little villages and hamlets. Geographically they occupy the south west corner of the Lake District which brings an additional benefit with the influence of the sea. As in Scotland, the dramatic way sea and mountain merge together brings the best out of each and although it would be wrong to say that Black Combe matches the Black Cuillin of Skye there is an undoubted attraction of looking down from the fells in to the vastness of the sea. The valleys though differ from each other, particularly Wastwater, which has steep scree slopes falling in to a deep cold lake. The Duddon Valley and Eskdale are softer, rolling yet craggy with hidden tarns, rocky peaks and full of the nooks and crannies that typify the Lake District. A superb landscape.
The Duddon Valley is my favourite place in the Lake District with the walk up to Seathwaite Tarn and over Dow Crag probably my favourite walk in the Lake District. Seathwaite itself has a traditional Lakeland inn whilst further south the hills are lower but no less beautiful. This is untouched country, it is extremely rare to see anybody walking. This brings out the wildlife, in particular the birds and deer. Aside from Seathwaite and the Newfield Inn the only other village in the valley is Ulpha with its small shop but Great Broughton and Woodland are nearby and the estuary at Broughton in Furness has all the facilities missing in the valley. Incidentally the Duddon river does offer the best canoeing in the Lake District.
Next valley to the west is Eskdale, probably most famous as the start for the best route up Scafell, particularly if the return is made via Eel Tarn, tucked away above Boot in the rocks and heather. The walking is uniformly good whichever direction is taken from either of the 2 main centres of population; Boot and Eskdale Green. The Ravenglass to Eskdale mini railway is also well visited and so it should be – I remember it still as a small child although I was largely unaware of the lovely scenery that it passed through on its way to Dalesgarth station near Boot. Muncaster Fell and Castle are passed en route as is the ‘capital’ of Eskdale, Eskdale Green. There is more going on in Eskdale, of particular note is the Boot beer festival in June and the Cycle festival in late summer but the valley is still quiet at all times of the year. Whereas the Duddon Valley offers the ultimate get away from it all holiday, Eskdale simply adds a little gloss to the experience.
Very different is the ‘walkers’ valley of Wasdale. Aside from the pub and campsite at Wasdale Head there is nothing up Wasdale. Save for some of the best and most dramatic scenery in England. Driving along the banks of Wastwater the mountains at the head of the valley are inspirational – Scafell Pike, Great Gable and soon to be seen Pillar rise up from the valley floor and offer an enticing specatacle for the stronger walkers amongst us. The lake itself is deep and somewhat foreboding, certainly not attractive in an Ullswater way, but it fits the valley particularly when seen with the Wasdale screes falling directly in to the water. Unless staying in the pub it is out with the tent in Wastwater which is the way it should be here. Nether Wasdale and Santon Bridge do offer some alternatives at the west end of the lake but the joys of Wastwater are actually to be found up at the head. A walkers valley!
Scafell from the South. A grand ascent of Scafell from near Boot in Eskdale returning via Burnmoor and Eel Tarns
Dow Crag via Seathwaite Tarn. Possibly my favourite walk in the Lake District, starting from Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley
Harter Fell. A steep pull up from the head of the Duddon Valley to this fine rocky peak.
Fells over the Duddon Valley. A forgotten corner of the Lake District and much the better for it.
Cold Pike from Wrynose. An easy climb to reveal the glorious views of the Langdale Valley and surrounds
Devoke Water. A large tarn (the largest?) overlooking the lovely valley of Eskdale
Eel Tarn from Boot. An idyllic tarn in a beautiful part of the Lake District. A short walk which all should try and do.
Muncaster Fell. A separate fell overlooking the sea on the western fringes of the Lake District.
Black Combe & the Irish Sea. A late afternoon/evening walk will reveal quite superb views out to sea, reminiscent of Scotland.
Pillar from Wasdale Head. A rough and remote circuit of high fells from the head of Wastwater
Yewbarrow. One of my favourite single fells; isolated, great views and some very interesting scrambling options.
Wastwater Screes. A long ridge and rough shoreline path to the south of the deepest lake in the Lake District
Other Things to do in Eskdale, Wastwater & the Duddon Valley
Not a lot in reality but who cares!
Ravenglass Eskdale Mini Railway. A minature railway, great for children but also adults with eyes for the fells
Boot Beer Festival. Held in June this is an excellent festival, last year show casing over 100 beers.
Muncaster Castle. One of the better castles and some wonderful gardens with its World Owl Centre gives a good day out.
Western Lakes. Much more information on things to do in the Western Lakes
Updated Weather Forecast
Click here to go to the Met Office website for the 5 day weather forecast for Eskdale, Wasdale & the Duddon Valley
Places to Stay
King George IV Inn, Eskdale
The Barn B & B, Eskdale Green
Bridge End Farm Cottages, Boot, Eskdale
King George IV Apartments, Eskdale
Fisherground Camping, Eskdale Green
Gosforth Hall Inn, Wasdale