The Duddon Valley - also referred to as Dunnerdale - is a true Lake District hidden gem. Tucked between Eskdale and Coniston, the narrow valley is only accessed by a few difficult roads, including the infamous Hardknott and Wrynose passes.
However, if you make the trip, the rewards are great. Truly tranquil thanks to its out-of-the-way location, Duddon is a great spot for a remote holiday. It offers climbing, nature spotting, and - most importantly - glorious walking! Each season brings something new: if you visit in the spring, daffodil walks are a must, with the flower covering the slopes of the valley’s fells. On sunny winter days, enjoy the crystal-clear views towards the coast and Coniston fells. Or, in summer, bask in the heat while you admire the undulating green hills.
Take your pick of the best Duddon Valley walks and don’t forget to browse our wonderfully remote holiday cottages in the area.
Note: although there are no particularly short walks described on this list, many of them can be shortened considerably to suit your preference. There are all sorts of footpaths winding through the Duddon Valley where you can take a detour back to your starting point. However long your route, remember to prepare fully with a map, compass, warm clothes, food and water. These descriptions are brief guides only.
River Duddon and Dunnerdale Forest walk
Approximate distance: 10km
Highest point: 280m
Highlights: A great way to get to know the landscape of the Duddon Valley
Taking in all aspects of the Duddon Valley, this walk is a great, relatively straightforward option if you want to get to know the area. It passes through peaceful woodland, along crystal-clear rivers, and across the lower slopes of impressive mountains. There’s even a handy pub around halfway along if you take a minor diversion for some refreshment!
Take a look at our full route guide:
The Dunnerdale Fells
Approximate distance: 9.5km
Highest point: 305m
Highlights: Pretty tarns are scattered over the tops
This walk is a beauty with hidden tarns, lush greenery and craggy outcrops. The route itself is fairly undefined, so you have some freedom to follow one of the many sheep tracks that criss-cross the fell top.
From Ulpha Bridge in the village of Ulpha, head east to the bottom of Yew Pike and follow the route between that and Birks Wood. The path continues over Hollow Moss Beck, to the bottom of Stickle Pike, and towards the Kiln Bank Cross road. Before reaching the road, though, turn right up one of the small sheep tracks towards Stickle Tarn. The path on the map gives out here, but you can continue meandering over the tops towards Great Stickle. Be aware that the ground can be boggy and is very uneven underfoot around here.
Once you descend, you’ll re-join the official path and follow it north-west past remains of an old ironworks and onto the road. Head north until you reach Ulpha again.
Approximate distance: 12km
Highest point: 400m
Highlights: Old mines at the top, easy-to-follow route
Walks from Seathwaite village are popular thanks to it boasting the Duddon Valley’s only pub, the Newfield Inn. It’s a good place to start for this walk up to Seathwaite Tarn, too, and you can reward yourself at the end of it with a drink and a hearty meal!
Dunnerdale has many tarns, but Seathwaite is the biggest (in fact, it’s one of the biggest tarns in the Lake District) and worth the relatively straightforward hike up.
From the pub, follow the road north-west until you turn up the path towards and past Turner Hall Farm. At the tarmacked road, cross over and follow the path north-east into a cluster of cottages before veering left back onto the footpath. This comes to a crossroads beneath Tongue House Close, at which point, head up and right along the stream towards the tarn. From here, it’s a case of following the path around the tarn before tracing your route back. Keep an eye out for the remains of the old mines at the north-east end of the tarn for a glimpse into the area’s industrial history.
Harter Fell, Hardknott Pass and Hardknott Roman Fort
Approximate distance: 10.8km
Highest point: 653m
Highlights: Impressive Roman remains and views of Eskdale and the sea
Although the scenery on this walk is amazing, what’s perhaps even more impressive is the Roman fort at the top. At nearly 250m above sea level, it’s one of the highest in England!
Start at the Forestry Commission car park at Froth Pot, crossing the bridge and heading left along the edge of the woods. The route curves around past Birks Farm and up to the summit of Harter Fell where you’ll catch a glimpse of Seathwaite Tarn, and even the sea.
Head back down via the path to your right and follow it anti-clockwise around the bottom of Birker Fell until you reach the bottom of Hardknott Pass. There’s a bit of road walking here as you head uphill (thankfully not tackling it by car!) before crossing back onto the footpath to head north-east and up to the fort.
After contemplating the loneliness of this outpost, follow the path around the back of Hardknott Roman Fort and down to the road, over it, and into the forest. From here, it’s a gradual descent along woodland paths back to Birks Farm and your starting point.
The Old Man of Coniston
Approximate distance: 15.5km
Highest point: 803m
Highlights: Views of Coniston - climb one of the area’s most iconic mountains
Parking at Seathwaite, head up the road north-east until you reach the footpath to Turner Hall Farm. This continues until you reach a small cluster of houses and a tarmac road (Walna Scar Road), where you turn right until the road becomes a gravel path. It’s a gradual uphill hike until, at around 620 metres, you’ll come to a clearly marked crossroads where you take the left turn towards Brown Pike. You should be able to see Coniston Water in the distance now.
As you continue along the ridge over Buck Pike towards Dow Crag, the fells fall away to steep crags on your right. Take extra care along here, making plenty of stops to admire the gorgeous rough shapes of the crag, and a couple of small tarns on the way. The path continues in a U-shape above Goat’s Water and eventually climbs to the top of the Old Man of Coniston.
After admiring the views, which seem to stretch on for eternity on clear days, you’ll double back on yourself slightly and follow the path almost due-north over Brim Fell Rake. Just beyond the path down to Levers Water, your route goes left. Take extra care here: you will be descending a relatively steep scree with no clear path. Continue around the south side of Seathwaite Tarn and down the road back to the bottom of Walna Scar Road, where you can retrace the rest of your route back to Seathwaite village.
Self-catering cottages in the Duddon Valley
The Duddon Valley is an ideal location for a peaceful walking holiday in the Lake District. Take a look at some of our remote Duddon Valley cottages for your perfect stay.
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.