The Duddon Valley - also known as Dunnerdale - is one of the most secret parts of the Lake District. Missed by many visitors to the National Park, it remains a true hidden gem that offers beautiful scenery, tranquil surroundings, and spectacular walking. In fact, the valley was a favourite of William Wordsworth and, if it's extolled by him, then we think it's definitely worth a visit!
The River Duddon, which flows from high up on Wrynose Pass to the Duddon Estuary and the Irish Sea, gives the valley its name. It's famous for its clear rock pools and is a favourite destination for salmon fishing, canoeing, climbing and even wild swimming. For walkers, too, it's a truly beautiful experience, and this walk takes you through woodland, along the river and over some of the craggy hills of the area. It's tricky and steep going on some areas, but the scenic rewards make it all worthwhile!
You can make the most of the Duddon Valley at one of our self-catering cottages in the area.
Note: remember to fully prepare for your walk with map, compass, warm clothes, food and water. This description is a guide only and you should do your own research before heading out.
Approximate distance: 10km / 6 miles
There's a handy Forestry Commission car park right at the start of the walk at Birks Bridge complete with picnic tables: perfect if you want to enjoy a tasty picnic after this picturesque walks! This is a great place to park, and convenient for the start of the walk.
Once you're all booted up and ready to go, cross pretty Birks Bridge, an 18th century, Grade II listed packhorse bridge that straddles a small ravine. The river here is beloved for its deep, clear rock pools.
After crossing, immediately turn left onto a forest path. Above you to the right is Harter Fell, and you may see evidence of some forestry work taking place in the woodlands - there's a large ongoing project to restore the woodland with native species of trees. Keep your eyes open, too, for rare wildlife including dormice, otters and red squirrels.
The forest path splits before reaching Birks Farm, and you can either head slightly higher via the footpath to look down on the beautifully situated farm, or pass right by it via the bridleway. Either way, just above the farm, continue along the footpath (the bridleway takes you to the peak of Harter Fell), over Wet Gill until you reach the ford at Grassguards Gill, where you cross the river. You're now into more open countryside, and ruined stone buildings, mossy walls, and stone tracks add plenty of character to this already-lovely walk.
Following the lane, you'll approach the bottom of Wallowbarrow Crag - great for rock climbing - and then take a sharp left before the bridge that crosses Rake Beck. The path continues alongside Rake Beck, with Wallowbarrow Crag on your left, until you cross and continue downhill to High Wallowbarrow Farm. Turn left and follow the path through a small wooded area up to the banks of the River Duddon.
A Diversion to Seathwaite
You have a couple of options here. By crossing the river, you can do a small loop to take in some points of interest. Raise a toast to William Wordsworth at The Newfield Inn, where the famous poet used to enjoy the occasional drink. The welcoming pub offers a tasty menu and plenty of options to refresh yourself. A small distance away is Holy Trinity Church, built in 1874 and presided over for 66 years by Robert Walker, a priest made famous in Wordsworth's sonnets about the Duddon Valley.
Along the River Duddon
If you're keen to continue your walk along the river, you can instead skip the Seathwaite loop, and turn left without crossing the river. Follow the permissive footpath along the other side of Wallowbarrow Crag and into the woods. Keep an eye on your feet here, as loose rock and tumbled boulders can trip you up! This section of the walk follows pretty closely by the river, but is steep in sections and can be a bit challenging at times.
You'll eventually head back into the serene surroundings of Dunnerdale Forest where you continue along the river, below Swinsty How, until you reach a footbridge leading right across the river to Troutal. Ignore the bridge, and instead take the footpath to the right, climbing uphill back towards Birks Farm. However, before you head all the way up, take instead a right fork onto the permissive footpath, downhill through Great Wood and back to the river. Following the river again, you'll shortly find yourself back at your starting point.
Now, it's time for that picnic!
For easy access to this route, take a look at our holiday cottages in the Duddon Valley.