The valley of Eskdale in the South West Lake District is a tranquil haven of peaceful woodland, rippling rivers, and magnificent fells. As well as a range of wonderful walks suitable for all abilities, there’s plenty of activities and attractions to enjoy. You’ll have enough to keep you busy for your whole stay and you can also explore a little further afield into Wasdale and Ravenglass!
Take a look at all of our holiday cottages in Eskdale.
1. Hop on the La’al Ratty
One of the best and most unusual ways to explore Eskdale is on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway - locally known as the La’al Ratty - whose miniature steam trains can be heard gently tootling through the valley for much of the year. This very special route stretches for 7 miles between Ravenglass on the coast and Boot in the heart of Eskdale. You can enjoy the whole return journey in full or hop on and off at whichever station you like. Or why not take a linear walk through the valley and return to your starting point via a ride on one of the engines? The popular attraction is also dog-friendly and hosts regular special events.
2. Admire Stanley Ghyll Force
This lovely walk takes you right up to the impressive Stanley Ghyll Force, a tumbling 60-foot-tall waterfall hidden away in a giant crevice in the woods. Taking in riverside paths, beautiful woodlands and stepping stones, the route is magical and a delight whatever the weather.
The falls and river are named for the Stanley family, who have been prominent in the area for many years. Colonel Stanley planted over a million trees in the area, making up large parts of Dalegarth Woods.
Until recently, only the final fall of the force was visible but now, thanks to clearance of invasive plants by national park rangers, an older viewpoint - popular during the Victorian era - is once again accessible and allows visitors to see the upper falls.
3. Discover Eskdale Mill
This Grade II* listed 16th-century building is a must-visit for all history lovers and those who have an interest in the heritage of Eskdale and the Lake District. Open to the public since the 70s, Eskdale Mill went through a £1 million restoration in 2019 and is the only working water-powered corn mill in the national park. Visitors can learn about all stages of the milling process and see the two impressive waterwheels in action as well as take a look at the hands-on exhibition, enjoy a guided tour, or see a milling demonstration.
4. Woodland Walks
Image by Dave Willis
Home to some of the most beautiful oak woodland in Cumbria, Eskdale is the perfect place for a gentle walk amongst the trees. The River Esk, from which the valley takes its name, flows down from Esk Hause and passes through the woods, allowing walkers to enjoy riverside routes sheltered by the green canopy. Hows Wood covers 20 acres and has been carefully restored by Friends of the Lake District, who also waymarked a pleasant circular walk. It’s a wonderful place to see bluebells in the spring or perhaps hear the sound of an elusive cuckoo in the summer!
5. Climb Scafell and Scafell Pike
If you’re a more experienced walker who would like a bigger challenge than what the lovely valley walks offer, then Eskdale is an excellent starting point for taking on the Scafells. Scafell Pike is England’s highest mountain and popular with all manner of hikers. Though Scafell – 14 metres lower than Scafell Pike – is geographically closer to Eskdale, you can reach both peaks from the valley.
Walkers should be well-equipped and experienced as the route covers some of the most difficult walking in the Lake District. Walkers should prepare properly with suitable equipment, clothing and route maps.
Take a look at our self-catering cottages close to Scafell Pike.
6. Wild Swimming
On a hot summer’s day, what could be better than a quick dip in one of the crystal clear river pools of Eskdale? Depending on your constitution, you may be happy submerging yourself at other times of the year, too! Whatever your season preference, the waters of the valley are fantastic for a wild swim. Burnmoor Tarn on Eskdale Fell is a wonderfully isolated spot (though make sure someone knows where you are!) for a dip, or the pool at Trough House Bridge is popular with locals. Why not pack a picnic, take a stroll along the river, and just find a suitable pool for a tasty lunch and a refreshing swim?
7. Hunt out the Japanese Gardens
Perhaps not what you expect to find in the middle of the Lake District! Situated in the wonderfully named Giggle Alley – a wood that was once part of the Gate House Estate – you will find the ruins of a Japanese garden. Designed by Thomas Mawson – who was also responsible for the gardens at Brockhole and Rydal Hall, as well as others – it makes for a lovely walk on the outskirts of Eskdale Green village.
8. St Catherine’s Church
Worth a visit for the surrounding scenery alone! St Catherine’s Church is just a short, easy walk from the village of Boot and Dalegarth Station and has a backdrop of splendid scenery. This simple yet beautiful church has a well-maintained graveyard with interesting headstones. You can pop inside for a moment of quiet contemplation and to take in the lovely stained glass windows. Parts of the current building date back to the 1300s, though there has been a church on the site since the 6th century!
9. Blea Tarn
Just to confuse you, there are two Blea Tarns in the Lake District: one near Coniston and one near Eskdale! We are, of course, talking about Blea Tarn in Eskdale here, an atmospheric lake that forms part of an easy to moderate circular walk. Setting off from the village of Booth (or Dalegarth Station on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway), you pass Eskdale Mill before heading onto the open fell. The ascent is fairly steep to begin with but then becomes relatively gentle for most of the rest of the route. During the circular walk, you will take in fabulous views of the surrounding fells, a bit of the area’s mining history, and Stanley Ghyll Waterfall.
10. Enjoy the pubs
After a day exploring the delights of serene Eskdale, you’ll no doubt want to treat yourself to a good meal or a glass of something tasty! There are five fantastic child and dog-friendly pubs within Eskdale, all serving good food and with a welcoming atmosphere. The King George IV and The Bower House Inn sit on either side of Eskdale Green while The Boot Inn and The Brook House Inn are in the tiny village of Boot. The Santon Bridge Inn, on the way towards Wasdale, is the host of the annual World’s Biggest Liar competition! You can find out more about these fantastic spots with our guide to the Eskdale pubs.
Eskdale is the perfect Lake District location for enjoying a peaceful break where you can get in tune with the scenery and yourself. We have an amazing collection of holiday cottages in Eskdale, or you can use our cottage search to browse all of our self-catering properties.
You might also enjoy:
• 8 favourite Lake District pub walks
• Walks in the Lake District
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.