Eskdale, Wastwater­ & the Duddon Valley

Jonathan’s View

“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. I believe 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. This makes it a difficult place to get to but the effort is worth the rewards. 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 fells lined up directly above 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. 

The Duddon Valley

Stickle Pike in the Duddon Valley

Stickle Pike in the Duddon Valley

The Duddon Valley is my favourite place in the Lake District. The walk up to Seathwaite Tarn and over Dow Crag probably my favourite walk in the Lake District. This is untouched country, it is extremely rare to see anybody walking. We hold one of our navigation training days for the National Park at Ulpha Bridge precisely for this reason. The lack of people brings out the wildlife, in particular the birds and deer. The landscape is typically Lakeland; bracken clad fells, rocky knolls and deep valleys. Away from the pub at Seathwaite there is little habitation and places to stay, many stay in Coniston and walk over!

As an aside the Duddon river apparently offers the best canoeing in the Lake District.

Eskdale

River Esk at Lincove Bridge

River Esk at Lincove Bridge

To the west of the Duddon is Eskdale, probably most famous as the base for an excellent route up Scafell. The return via Eel Crag to the village of Boot is equally enjoyable. On each side of the valley the bracken clad fells are similar to the Duddon Valley in character. Further up the valley in Upper Eskdale the high Lakeland fells close in and provide the most remote area of the Lake District. Perfect for Wild Camping.

To the lower end of the valley 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. 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.

Wasdale

Wasdale Head Hotel

Wasdale Head Hotel

Aside from the pub and campsite at Wasdale Head there are only deep valleys and high mountains up Wasdale. It is often given the name ‘The Walkers Valley’ due to the best and most dramatic scenery in England. Driving along the banks of Wastwater the mountains at the head of the valley become inspirational. Scafell Pike, Great Gable and Pillar rise up from the valley floor and offer an enticing spectacle for the stronger walkers amongst us.

The lake itself is deep and somewhat foreboding, certainly not pretty but memorable. It suits the valley, particularly when seen with the Wasdale screes falling directly in to the water. Unless staying in the pub you must bring your tent, which is the way it should be. 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 at the head. A walkers valley!

Walks in the area

Easy

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.

Moderate

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.

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.

Hard

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

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.

 

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Other Things to do in Eskdale, Wastwater & the Duddon Valley

Not a lot in reality but who cares when the walking is so good!

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.

 

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

Eskdale Camping & Caravanning Club

Ravenglass Camping & Caravanning Club

Gosforth Hall Inn, Wasdale

Cottages in the Dales

 

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