Wasdale Area Guide
Wasdale, along with Borrowdale and Langdale is one of the big three mountain valleys of the Lake District, with some of its most dramatic scenery. Famously home to England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike and deepest lake, Wastwater, it is also one of the most tranquil parts of the Lake District National Park.
Dawn over Great Gable in Wasdale
Stretching 12 miles from Wasdale Head at the top of the valley down to the village of Gosforth, this is a place that has hardly changed for centuries. Colonised by Norse farmers in the 9th and 10th centuries, from the time of the Vikings the valley bottom has been a patchwork of fields with cottages dotted here and there, leading to the lake and mountains that rear up to the sky.
The Screes appear to climb straight out of the lake, rising to a height of almost 2000 feet. On the other side of the valley are the great mountains of Yewbarrow, Seatallan, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable and, biggest of them all, Scafell Pike.
Wasdale on a Winter's evening
Wasdale offers some of the most memorable hiking and walking in the Lake District, both on the high fells and along the valley bottom. The cottages in the valley offer unparralled walking to the high fells from the door.
It is also the birthplace of British climbing, with hundreds of routes. Information on these is available from the local climbing shop on 019467 26384.
There are lots of things to do on the lake. Sailing and motor-boats aren’t permitted but you are welcome to bring your own kayaks, canoes and rowing boats. There are plenty of picnic spots and beautiful places to swim or go for a paddle. The view accross the lake to the Lake District fells beyond was voted Britain best view on the 2009 ITV show.
Mountain bikes are not allowed on footpaths but are permitted on bridleways, of which there are many. The three most popular routes are Blacksail Pass, Styhead Pass and Burnmoor Tarn, but they are all for experienced riders only as they all involve steep climbing. See our suggestions for other outdoor activities in the Lake District.
St Olafs - one of England's smallest churches
As well as the Lake District's and England's deepest lake and highest mountain, Wasdale boast England’s smallest church, St Olaf’s, set amongst a small wood of yew trees. The roof beams are said to have come from Viking ships. The churchyard holds the graves of many climbers who died on the fells. See our information page about Lake District Churches.
There are four pubs in Wasdale. At the top of the valley, in the hamlet of Wasdale Head is the Wasdale Head Inn, the perfect place to relax with a pint of real ale made onsite at its own microbrewery. It was the birthplace of the world’s biggest liar competition, now held each November in the nearby Santon Bridge Inn.
Further down the valley, in Nether Wasdale, The Screes Inn offers real ales, a good selection of wines and food, including good vegetarian options. The Strands Hotel just opposite also serves real ales and food. Most of the cottages in the valley are within walking distance from one of these pubs so, if you are too tired for self catering after a day on the fells, you can treat yourselves to some hearty Lake District food and a Lakeland Ale or two. Several accept dogs so if you are bringing your faithful friend see our review of dog friendly Lake District pubs.
There are two fantasic Farmer's Shows in the valley one at the head of the valley and the other in Gosforth. You can see details of both in our review of Lake District Shows.
Gosforth village (were we also have self catering cottages available), at the very end of the valley is the nearest place for shops groceries, fresh fruit and vegetables, food to go, alcohol and newspapers. It also has an interesting stone cross in the St Mary’s Church yard , which is thought to date back to Viking times.
The tallest and oldest Viking cross in England
Ravenglass & Eskdale
As Wasdale is near to many other Lake District attractions, it makes the holiday cottages in the area a great base for exploring. The attractions include the old fishing village of Ravenglass (fifteen minutes drive away) with its Roman bath-house, beach, and the famous Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway - a popular miniature railway that travels seven scenic miles to the beautiful and tranquil Eskdale valley. Muncaster Castle, Gardens and Owl Centre has lots going on all year round, especially for children.
The Ravenglass & Eskdale Steam Railway
Useful information for Wasdale
- Wasdale has three pubs, plus the Bridge Inn at Santon: The Wasdale Head Inn, The Screes & The Strands.
- For Muncaster Castle, Gardens and Owl Centre, please visit Muncaster Castle.
- For the miniature steam railway which follows a scenic 7 mile track from Eskdale to Ravenglass, please visit The 'la'al Ratty'.
- Tick list for recommended things to do in Wasdale & Eskdale
- For details of a classic horseshoe walk which takes in Pillar and Red Pike, visit www.walkingenglishman.co.uk
- 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 and enquire with Carol Climb.
- For bouldering in Eskdale, please visit www.lakesbouldering.co.uk
- Cumbrian Wildlife.