Here at Sally's Cottages we love the The Lake District. With its soaring peaks, endless greenery, stunning lakes, wildlife, screes, culture, ancient history, country pubs and half a million sheep, the Lakes is one of the most beautiful destinations in Britain. I recently took a trip to the South Western Lake District to escape the crowds and enjoy some peace and tranquility.
The western part of the Lake District is traditionally less touristy and quieter than the better-known areas and enjoys scenery which I think often tops the more popular places. You've every chance of having a mountain-top or lakeside picnic spot all to yourself, as I did last week. The most curious thing is that the less-populated valleys has an increibly high pub-per-person ratio. In Eskdale alone, there are 5 pubs and yet the valley has a population of just 250 people.
The other thing the western valleys have in common is better weather. The Lake District is well-known for its showers – the lakes have to come from somewhere – but the western areas have fewer heavy downpours and are very often warmer than the rest of the national park. So – have we convinced you to head over to the Duddon Valley, Ennerdale, Wasdale and Eskdale? Read on to find out more....
The Duddon Valley is in the far south-west of the county, accessible from Broughton-in-Furness on the coast or by following Wordsworth's steps from Wrynose Pass to Cockley Beck at the head of the valley. Wordsworth wrote no less than 34 sonnets about the Duddon Valley.
'Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide,' he said, contemplating the stately pace of the River Duddon. When I was a child, I can remember summer holidays spent jumping off Ulpha Bridge into the River Duddon, whilst my parents picnicked on the river bank. There are lots of footpaths throughout the valley, but those near the valley foot are very gentle, level and still beautiful; just right for families and people who walk for relaxation rather than exercise.
Further into the Duddon Valley, you can walk to Wallowbarrow Crag, where the river rushes through a gorge, or up to Birk's Bridge, stretched dramatically over a 20-foot chasm. Seathwaite Tarn is a great place to relax with little chance of running into fellow walkers. The views over the woods, river and fells are spectacular, and there's a good chance of spotting red squirrels and buzzards. To view our Duddon Valley Cottages, click here.
You may not have heard of Ennerdale, and that's because the small number of roads make it the least-visited part of the Lake District. It's famous for its climbing, scrambling, cycling and walking; there's just one small village, and the road stops at Bowness Knott at the lake's edge.
Ennerdale Water is the only lake not to have a tarmaced road running along its shores, but the valley does have 30 miles of public rights of way including 14 miles of exquisite forest paths. Here, walkers, riders and mountain bike enthusiasts can park up at Bowness Knott, put their sandwiches in their backpacks, and head out into miles of wild lakes scenery.
Climbers will know of Ennerdale for one reason: Pillar Rock. The rugged north face of Pillar mountain has been a proving-ground for climbers for a hundred years, with super climbs at most grades right up to the plainly-named, 'Hard Severe'. Despite its fame, the remote location and reputation of Pillar means that it's never crowded, and you can often enjoy your battle with nature in perfect solitude. To view our Ennerdale Cottages, click here.
Wasdale is a place of extremes. The valley opens gently at Nether Wasdale, with breath-taking rural views. A mile and a half further on, the scenery changes dramatically as Wastwater, the country's deepest lake, and the high fells that surround it, come into view. The iconic Wasdale screes contrasting against the calm, steely waters. At the head of the lake is Great Gable and Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain.
Wasdale is also home to England's smallest church, set in the hamlet of Wasdale Head. St. Olaf's is a tiny place just big enough for the small local population and is based in an old yew grove with ancient beams said to have come from Viking ships. From The Wasdale Head Inn you can enjoy a range of superb Lake District walks, hiking up into the Scafells and beyond. This is very much the place to be if you need to get away from it all. Click here for our Wasdale Cottages.
Eskdale is a truly beautiful valley, with a varied terrain for both the relaxation-seeker and the committed adventurer alike. If you want to unwind and take in the spectacular scenery the easy way, hop on the steam train (known as the L'aal Ratty) at the foot of the valley in Ravenglass, and let it chauffeur you through seven miles of woodland, gentle fields and river views, set against the backdrop of the highest mountains in the country.
There are lots of footpaths in the valley, many of them low level riverside walks. You can paddle in the river, cross stepping stones and picnic at leisure, with few other visitors around. The more adventurous will head up the valley, perhaps to the steep, wooded ravine to the 60-foot falls at Dalegarth Force, or take the path east of the Doctor Bridge to the extreme heights of the Roman fort at Hardknott Pass.
Eskdale's most stunning and strenous activity is the 'Woolpack round', a 16-mile walk topping the Scafells. This day-long trek is not for the fainthearted, but rewards the fit with spectacular views of all the best that the Lake District has to offer, with the highest and craggiest peaks, distant glittering lakes and green valleys heading to the sea. Click here for our Eskdale Cottages.