The Duddon Valley
The Duddon Valley is a jewel in the crown of Cumbria, unspoilt and perhaps the most idyllic corner of The Lake District. The Duddon Valley follows the River Duddon from just south of the precipitous Wrynose Pass towards Duddon Bridge and Broughton in Furness, passing Harter and Ulpha Fells in the west and Coniston Old Man to the east.
Inspiring the greats
Wordsworth loved the Duddon Valley and wrote a sequence of 34 sonnets entirely about it. In his ‘Duddon Valley: Conclusion’, he contrasts the permanence of the ancient valley with the impermanence of man: ‘Still glides the stream, and shall forever glide; The Form remains, the Function never dies; While we, the brave, the mighty, and the wise, We Men, who in our morn of youth defied The elements, must vanish.’ Seathwaite church was the church of an 18th-century parson whose life inspired Wordsworth's 'The Excursion'.
The small market town of Broughton-in-Furness is a mile east of Duddon Bridge, and the biggest settlement in the valley. The town is ancient in origin, as its strategic point on the Duddon makes it the obvious disembarkation point for successions of Celts, Romans and Vikings. It has some older buildings, notably the 300-year-old Old King’s Head, but most are Georgian. The town boasts pubs with food, a wonderful grocers with local produce and a Tourist Information Centre. The Blacksmith's Arms at nearby Broughton Mills, a traditional Lakeland Inn, is well known for its good food and local hospitality.
Swinside Stone Circle
To the west of Duddon Bridge lies the stone circle of Swinside, described by Aubrey Burl as ‘the loveliest of all the circles’ with an aspect to compare with Castlerigg, at Keswick, and Long Meg in the Eden Valley. Swinside is signposted from the A595, with the nearest parking spot at Crag Hall, a little more than a mile from the circle. There is a rough path from here just to the south of Swinside Farm. The circle consists of 51 stones, in a perfect circle about 90 feet in diameter.
Ulpha and Seathwaite
The village of Ulpha, whose Norse name means ‘Wolf’s hill’, considers itself the capital of the valley. The riverside is a popular place for picnics. It has a handy village shop and post office, which sells fishing licences for the river. The church at Ulpha has an interesting altar carved from a local cherry tree and also the remains of wall paintings.
Further up the valley as you look across from the Ulpha side to the Seathwaite side is a Quaker Burial Ground.
The village of Seathwaite – not to be confused with the Seathwaite in Borrowdale – is a tiny place with a good, 17th-century pub, the Newfield Inn. The Inn is home to the Duddon Valley Fell Races, which take place in May, and serves local beer and food. It also sells fishing licences for Seathwaite Tarn. Seathwaite Tarn is the third-largest in the Lakes, and sits at 1200 feet above sea level on the west-facing slopes of the Coniston fells. Fishing permits are available at The Newfield Inn. Millom and District Angling Assocation permits are available at Broughton Tourist Information Centre.
The Duddon Valley is particularly popular with walkers, with its proximity to Coniston Old Man, Scafell Pike, Dow Crag, Harter Fell, Caw and Greyfriar. Gentler walks can be had at the stunning Wallabarrow Woods, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which has an array of native flowers and plants. Wallabarrow Crag is an excellent spot for climbing.
Plenty of less challenging fell walks take in tarns, waterfalls, lower pikes and crags which offer stunning views. If you are lucky on a clear day you may see England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and The Isle Of Man. You can wander over The Dunnerdale Fells into the Luckle Valley, across Ulpha Fell or Birker Fell into Eskdale.
The Duddon Valley is also popular with canoeists with excellent rapids and different grades of difficulty at different points of the river.
The quiet valley roads and surrounding fells provide many routes for on-road and mountain biking. The Coast to Coast Cycleway passes through the area and the ancient Walna Scar Road provides a rigorous off-road course.
Climbing Wallowbarrow Crag which is easily reached from the heart of the valley provides approximately 30 routes to suit climbers of all grades, including the popular "Trinity Slabs"(VD) and "Thomas"(S). The minor crags include Stonestar and Seathwaite Buttress. Classic climbing at Dow Crag is accessible via the Walna Scar Road. There are many good scrambles in the area (See" Scrambles in the Lake District" published by Cicerone Links).
There are lots of great pubs in the area:
The Newfield Inn - A beautiful Lakeland pub with a stunning slate flagged floor.
The Old King’s Head in Broughton serves local beer and good food.
The Black Cock Inn in Broughton is another traditional inn with a good menu.
The Manor Arms in Broughton is CAMRA Pub of the Year for Cumbria.
Ulpha also has a small shop and post office.
There are plenty of places to visit within a 30-minute radius.
Have a day at Muncaster Castle, Gardens and Owl Centre, home to the Pennington family for over 800 years and with lots going on all year round, especially for children. The gardens are renowned for their stunning rhododendrons in the summer.
Muncaster Castle is also close to the starting point for the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway (or 'La'al Ratty'), which is a brilliant day out for all the family.
Coniston village and lake is 30 mins in the opposite direction and has plenty of lakeside activities.