Things to do nearby Cragg Cottage
Potter up to Muncaster Castle to explore the Castle's history and the beautiful grounds. It's a great place for all ages with daily bird of prey displays and events going on throughout the year. Take a step back in time at lovely Ravenglass, there are several pubs and you can also catch a train on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway. The Railway Museum there makes a great rainy day visit too. Pack a picnic and enjoy viewing the wildlife at the Eskmeals Dunes Nature Reserve or get on your bike and take in some of the Hadrian's Cycleway along the coast.
Eskdale is a wonderfully unspoilt valley that offers fabulous food, real ales and a host of opportunities for walking and cycling for all abilities. At Birkby guests are wonderfully placed to make the most of the valley's mountains as well as the nearby coast.
At the Birkby end of the Eskdale valley lies Muncaster Castle. Sitting high above the estuary where the river Esk meets the Irish Sea at Ravenglass it has a well-deserved reputation as one of Cumbria’s most popular attractions. The castle itself makes a great rainy day visit where you can learn more about its colourful past. It is steeped in history, with tales of kings and queens, of murder and intrigue and ghostly presences everywhere! The grounds at Muncaster are just as much of a delight as you can watch stunning bird of prey displays, explore a meadow vole maze, enjoy the play park, café and shop as well as seeing the most stunning displays of bluebells and rhododendrons when in season.
One of the most popular things to do in Eskdale is to take a trip on the famous Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, more popularly known as the La’al Ratty. This narrow gauge steam railway makes a leisurely seven-mile journey from Ravenglass to Boot taking in some staggering scenery along the way. There are play parks and cafes at both Ravenglass and Dalegarth stations and guests in the Eskdale Valley can hail the train from several halts. With prior arrangement you can put your bikes on the train at either end of the line and cycle back via the Eskdale Trail.
If you've come to the Lake District armed with your walking boots then you'll find the choice of paths here superb. You will find a variety of routes to the top of Scafell and Scafell Pike to suit all abilities. As well as big hikes to the highest fells, there are plenty of more gentle walks in the valley too. The path following the River Esk must surely rank as one of the most picturesque anywhere. A short walk from Dalegarth Station will take you to the beautifully situated St Catherine's Church, where you can cross the river Esk by its famous stepping-stones (providing the river isn't in spate!) and continue on down the valley. A short detour from the bridleway will take you to the magical Stanley Ghyll force. From Eskdale Green you could take a walk up from the village to the wonderfully named Giggle Alley, from here you can head to the Japanese Garden, a beautifully tranquil spot.
Muncaster Fell lies just across the valley from the Birkby road. It makes a rewarding walk for all abilities as its gradient is never too severe and the views from the top are truly magnificent. There are several footpaths from this end of the valley leading up to tranquil Devoke Water and Stainton Tower, known locally as the Pepperpot.
Ravenglass is the only coastal village within the Lake District National Park. It's a much-loved place, which seems to have a special kind of light all of its own. 2,000 years ago, it was the location for an important Roman port and military fort and later became a bustling fishing town. Now Ravenglass is better known as the starting point for the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway (La’al Ratty). There are several eateries in the village where you can get locally sourced and home cooked food and real ales. There's also a cafe and play park at the station to while away a sunny afternoon. Why not take a bike and explore either the 11-mile Eskdale trail or follow some of the Hadrian's Cycleway along the coastline?
Drigg beach is a wonderfully windswept place for a walk to blow away the cobwebs. The sands seem to stretch for miles in both directions and at low tide you may even be rewarded with the sight of the remains of an unknown shipwreck emerging from the sand. The beach forms part of the Drigg and Eskmeals Dunes Nature Reserve. This wonderful network of dunes is the largest in Cumbria and supports one of the largest seabird breeding colonies in the northwest as well as a wonderful range of flora to investigate. Of course you might just as well enjoy a paddle and a picnic!
The cycling opportunities in the area are fantastic. For mountain biking the valley offers trails to suit all abilities with low-level forest trails and more technical bridleways leading over to the Wasdale and Duddon Valleys. For roadies you have one of England’s steepest roads at the head of the valley to test your mettle as well as two other picturesque fell roads right on the doorstep in the form of Corney and Ulpha. If hills aren’t to your taste there are some lovely rides out towards the coast with rather less challenging routes.
Golfers are well catered for with Muncaster's own nine hole course just across the valley as well as popular links courses at nearby Seascale and Silecroft. If you would like your outdoor adventures taken care of by experts, then Westlakes Adventure is a company based in Boot providing outdoor activities for individuals, couples, families and groups. Their activities include rock climbing, ghyll scrambling, paddleboarding and kayaking. Alternatively, why not head to "Horse and Husky" nearby where you could find yourself splashing along the coast on horseback or sledding behind a team of huskies!
To explore the valleys further inland you could visit lovely Coniston where its rich history can be explored at the Ruskin Museum or you could hire a boat and imagine yourselves in Swallows and Amazons on the lake where Arthur Ransome was inspired to write the story. Alternatively you can take the road over Hardknott and Wrynose passes to Ambleside, a lovely Victorian town at the head of Lake Windermere. The town is now a bustling Lake District tourist hub where you can take one of the Lake Steamers from Waterhead or find out more about the many well-known characters that have been connected with the town, including William Wordsworth, Hardwicke Rawnsley, John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter.
If you’d like to explore more of West Cumbria you have many great options. Whitehaven is a Georgian Harbour town 20 miles up the coast with a colourful history involving rum, sugar and piracy! The Rum Story makes a great place to start your visit and from there you can follow their ‘Quest’ around the town’s historical landmarks. It is also the start to the 140-mile long C2C cycle route. Closer by is Egremont where you can find the remains of a Norman Castle and Florence Mine, the last working iron ore mine in Europe, and part of the rich mining history of West Cumbria. The Mine Heritage Centre now holds events and exhibitions.
The Eskdale valley plays host to many seasonal events. The Boot Beer festival takes place in early June every year while the Eskdale Art Show and Muncaster's world famous "Festival of Fools" both take place over Whit weekend. As summer draws to its close The Eskdale Show is held on the last weekend of September. This is a famous Lakeland agricultural show of Herdwick Sheep, which are bred and reared on the surrounding fells by local farmers. The show also has competition classes for hound dogs, terriers, sheep dogs, poultry and shepherds crooks. There are also stalls full of Cumbrian goods, sporting events for children, fell racing, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling events and hound trailing. It’s an excellent window into local farming life and a great day out.