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A wonderful Eskdale walk - Stanley Ghyll diversion  holiday cottages

A wonderful Eskdale walk - Stanley Ghyll diversion

Kate W 19 April 2021

There are a few wonderful walks in Eskdale for you to choose from and below we detail our favourite route. Head to this beautiful corner of the South West Lake District for taking in lovely local scenery including the famous Stanley Ghyll waterfall. 

Begin at the swing bridge at Milkingstead, a farm and bothy owned by the National Trust as their maintenance outpost for the western valleys. Turn left over the bridge, and set off up the river, following the lane. The path goes through the gate at the field entrance and across to the gate opposite, and then through the ruins of Red Brow farmstead and so on up the side of the River Esk. 

Stanley Ghyll waterfall

This route leads you through Dalegarth woods, where Colonel Stanley once planted over a million trees, and behind the stately round chimneys of Dalegarth Hall, the Stanley family seat. These sturdy, round chimneys are typical of the Lakeland architecture of the yeoman houses, and you will see many examples throughout the Lakes.

The path comes to a wide lane that runs from Dalegarth to the lonely farms on Birker Moor, and here’s your first choice: you can add on a division to visit the beautiful Dalegarth waterfalls or continue on your way.

To see the waterfalls, go right, up the lane for about 100 metres then through the gate on the left marked 'Waterfalls’. An obvious path wends upwards through the woods to the falls themselves and takes roughly half an hour although this will vary. You can climb up the right-hand side as far as you like before turning back, and the views of the falls just go on getting better, until at the top, if you are brave enough, you can lie on your front and peer over the straight 60-foot drop of Stanley Ghyll waterfall.

Retrace your steps down into the woods, and rejoin the path up the valley - no need to go back through the gate.

Birker Moor

If you gave the falls a miss, then you will have crossed the Birker Moor lane and gone through the gate marked 'footpath', through the lovely little field to the opposite gate, and through into the lower section of the waterfall woods. The path now carries on upriver to the stepping stones across to St. Catherine’s Church. If they are above water, cross here: otherwise, carry on upriver a further 200 metres to cross via the upgraded Ratty ‘girder bridge’ over a lovely pool.

St. Catherine’s Church Eskdale

Drop into St. Catherine’s, both for the peace and gentle spirituality of its interior and to view the ornate gravestone commemorating Tommy Dobson, the most famous of the Eskdale Masters of Foxhounds. He has many songs of his own, sadly not as famous as ‘D’ye ken John Peel’ but gems in their own right, and to be heard at every Eskdale Show (held the last Saturday in September). Standing at the church door, looking down the valley, his stone is 10 metres away, slightly left.

Leaving the churchyard, turn left up the lane for 50 metres, then bear left along ‘Parson’s Plod’, the direct route from the vicarage to the church, and follow it to the metalled lane. Turn right, up the lane to the main road up Eskdale.

Dalegarth terminus

If time or energy is at a premium, turn right and walk up the road to Dalegarth terminus, the end of the Ratty. Here’s a café, toilets, children’s playground, and if you wish a train back to Eskdale Green. Tell the guard where you’d like to be dropped off, or it’s a long walk back from Ravenglass.

If you want to finish with a flourish though, turn left and down the road past the vicarage, and you'll come across a large guest house on the left, and a small train halt on the right. Cross the railway and go through the gate and then ever upwards on the old track that used to be the peat track up to Eskdale Common. This is a strenuous climb, but the view as you reach the top is well worth the effort.

Blea Tarns are all over the Lake District, but this one is the biggest. Use the excuse of its charms to sit awhile and get your breath back before setting off along its left bank, across the stream, and follow the path over to Siney Tarn. This is a very reedy, overgrown area but a magnificent wildlife sanctuary and nesting place for hundreds of gulls. Be sure to keep the tarn on your right making your way down westwards. You will see plenty of evidence of the peat cutting referred to here, as large boggy areas where all the topsoil, the peat, has been removed. This peat is the accumulation of ten thousand years of fallen woodland, rotted down to a burnable peat.

Walking the Eskdale route

Whichever track you use, as long as you keep going generally west, you will come to a fence across the fell that keeps sheep out of ‘Low Fell End’, an area covered in bracken, scrub and bleaberries. 

Walk through the gate, and down the obvious track that is level at first before dropping down to the valley again. After 50 metres, if you look to your right, you will see a vast depression in the ground. This is where the iron ore quarry collapsed during the late 19th century; by great good fortune on a Sunday when there were no miners inside. There used to be a tramway right down from this quarry to the Ratty, where the full wagons of stone pulled the empty wagons back up and there are still traces to be seen (if the bracken isn’t growing).

Follow the track and as it begins to descend you will pass a peat hut on your left. The cut peat was first piled to dry, then carted to these peat huts to be stored for the winter. It was tipped in from the high ramp at the back, and removed from the low door at the front. Whenever more was needed, a horse and cart could come up and take a load from the hut. They were high on the fell to save carting time in the hard-pressed summer; in winter there was always time for the occasional load.

Follow on down the peat trod, through the gate in the wall, and on a further 50 metres, then turn left on the path that goes through another gate, and back through the Dalegarth wood. 

This wonderful Lake District walk can be accessed on foot from several of our cottages in Eskdale.

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.

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