Eskdale is one of the most beautiful valleys in the Lake District.
Situated in the quieter side of the National Park, it has a peaceful tranquility that makes it especially appealing to those who want to avoid the crowds. This makes is a great venue for holiday cottages in the Lake District. It is also the valley in which I grew up - you can read my memories of growing up and my favorite parts of Eskdale in Sally's review of Eskdale.
At the upper end of Eskdale is one of the Lake District’s best-kept secrets, Great Moss, a stunning open valley surrounded by some of the highest peaks in England, Scafell Pike, Esk Hause and Bowfell.
Hardknott Roman Fort
The road winds its way down Hard Knott Pass, a steep mountain road that is one of the most challenging drives in the Lakes. It goes past an old Roman fort built between AD120 and AD138, which is open to visitors. There are spectacular views from there right down to the Irish Sea and the old fishing village of Ravenglass, where there is a ruined Roman bath-house. Nearby is Muncaster Castle, Gardens and Owl Centre, with lots for children to do all year round.
The River Esk flows right along it to the estuary at Ravenglass. The river has natural pools for swimming, with Trough House and Forge bridges for jumping off. It is also popular with canoeists and those who like to fish. Stanley Ghyll Force is a dramatic 60ft waterfall in a deep gorge that is well worth seeing. Also along the river is St Catherine’s Church (see our information page on Lake District churches), which dates back to the 12th century. You can see an excellent walk which takes in all these sights and some fantastic Lake District views to 'Boot' which can be accessed from most of the cottages - Sally's Eskdale Walks - Stanley Ghyll.
There are two villages in the valley. The hamlet of Boot has one of the few remaining working water mills in the country, dating back to 1578 and open to visitors, with a museum. Fold End Gallery exhibits and sells art and crafts. There is also the Eskdale Corn Mill which is worth a visit, it has two water wheels (very unusual in Britain) which power the grinding stones.
The walking in Eskdale is unparalleled with some of the best options in the Lake District. You can hike from the valley bottom to the summit of the highest peak in England, walk over the high fells, or trace the sinister old coffin route to Wasdale most walks can be started from the door of the cottages.
The other village is Eskdale Green, where you can visit the Discover Eskdale centre in St Bega’s Church, which looks at the life, times and landscape of the valley through the ages, stock up on provisions from the village shop or take a walk through the exotic Japanese Gardens, created at the end of the 19th century for Lord Rea, a Liverpool coal and shipping magnate who lived in the nearby Gatehouse, now owned by the Outward Bound. The Gatehouse estate is closed to the public, but the recently restored Japanese Gardens are open all year round.
There are many ways to explore Eskdale. The famous Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway runs along the valley, its steam trains making the leisurely seven-mile journey down to the sea through some fantastic Lake District scenery.
The Eskdale Cycle Trail travels 8 miles along the river. Bring your own bikes or you can hire them from Budgie Bike Hire at Dalegarth Station (the Eskdale terminal for the steam railway).
The valley bottom is mostly fields, marked out by dry stone walls – farming is still the mainstay of village life. You can have a look at what you can expect to see the farms doing at different times of the year, find out the best farmers markets and get some great ideas for farm based kids activities in our Down on the Lake District Farm review. Maurice Steele has farmed and photographed the Eskdale Valley for over 40 years now. We have put together a slideshow to create a pictorial overview of a year in Eskdale. Some of the photos were taken 40 years ago but are still relevant today - the beauty of never-changing Eskdale.
Eskdale Golf Course has an 18 hole golf course and stocked fishing pools in a stunning location. The course is located off the A595 just south of Muncaster Castle – For further information and to enquire about bookings, please call 01229 717680.
Eskdale isn’t just about outdoor activities. There are five Pubs in Eskdale, all welcoming children and serving real ales and good food. In Upper Eskdale you will find the Woolpack Inn, with its own microbrewery, featured in the Good Beer Guide 2008, Boot has the Boot Inn with a restaurant as well as bar, and Brook House Inn, awarded 4 **** from the AA and an RAC Dining Award. Boot even has its own beer festival each June. Further down the valley is the George IV , with over 200 malt whiskies. And in Eskdale village you’ll find the Bower House Inn, next to the village cricket ground and set in beautiful gardens. There is public wi-fi access at the Bower House. Most of the cottages in the valley therefore have a pub within walking distance. The three pubs at the top end of the valley also run the Boot Beer Festival in Eskdale in June.
Useful information for Eskdale
- Walks in Eskdale
- There are lots of dog friendly cottages in Eskdale if you bring your fury four legged friend. See our review of Dog Friendly Lake District Pubs.
- If you prefer a picnic see where to pick up great local produce on our Lake District Picnic information page.
- Tick list for recommended things to do in Eskdale & Wasdale
- You might bump into one of Cumbria's famous children or be following in their footsteps. Find out on our Famous Cumbrians page.
- If you would like to spend a day of guided climbing, canoeing, ghyll scrambling or other outdoor adventure sports, then see our review of outdoor activites in the Lake District.
- Cumbrian Wildlife in Eskdale.