The picturesque valley of Eskdale in the Lake District begins in the lofty heartland of Scafell Pike, England's tallest mountain, running south-west to the Cumbrian coast. It’s a tranquil haven of dappled woodland, winding rivers and rolling fells grazed by flocks of Herdwick sheep - certainly one of the quieter parts of the national park, and the views are simply sublime.
You’ll find some of the finest walks in the Lake District here, as well as a sprinkling of cosy country pubs with crackling log fires and a handful of quaint villages. If this is your first visit, then we have created an itinerary based on a weekend stay to make sure you see some of the valley’s top highlights.
Make the most of this outdoor playground with our guide to what to do on your first trip to Eskdale.
Friday afternoon (arrival): Eskdale Mill
After arriving in the Eskdale Valley, you’ll no doubt want a little time to relax after your journey. So why not head to Eskdale Mill where you can enjoy a picnic in the wooded grounds alongside the tranquil sound of flowing water?
Once rested and refuelled, you can partake in an informative guided tour around this 16th-century landmark which is the only working water-powered corn mill in the Lake District. See the two impressive waterwheels in action, explore the hands-on exhibition and observe a fascinating milling demonstration. You’ll soon see why this is one of our top things to do in Eskdale.
Friday evening: Bower House Inn
Nestled on the outskirts of Eskdale Green, the Bower House Inn is an atmospheric watering hole with exposed beams, a blazing fire during the winter months and a gorgeous beer garden with a breathtaking view of Muncaster Fell.
One of the best pubs in Eskdale, make yourselves comfortable here for the evening with a hearty menu of homecooked dishes, prepared using locally sourced ingredients. Choose between the likes of Cumbrian sirloin steak, Cumberland sausage and slow-roasted lamb.
Saturday morning: Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway
After a refreshing sleep in one of our Eskdale holiday cottages, rise and shine and make your way to Dalegarth Railway Station in Boot for a magical day trip onboard the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway, or La’al Ratty as it’s known locally.
This iconic miniature steam railway chugs its way for 7 scenic miles to the coastal village of Ravenglass. Here you can spend your morning on the sandy beach before tucking into a paper-wrapped portion of fish and chips or discovering the Roman Bath House - one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the north of England.
Saturday afternoon: Muncaster Castle
In the afternoon, walk-off those chips with a gentle stroll to Muncaster Castle from Ravenglass. This stately home is believed to have been built in the 13th century and is surrounded by over 70 acres of flower-filled gardens, which include one of Europe’s largest collections of rhododendrons.
Enjoy an audio tour around the castle, find your way out of the Meadowvole Maze and watch exhilarating birds of prey flying displays at the Hawk and Owl Centre. Then, when you’re ready to return home, catch the steam train back to Boot.
Saturday evening: The Boot Inn Eskdale
If your tummies are rumbling by the time you arrive back in the picture-postcard village of Boot, then The Boot Inn Eskdale is a great place to stop for a bite to eat.
Renowned for its choice of real ales, this Eskdale pub also offers a mouth-watering menu of classic British dishes, with meat sourced from the valley and fish from the lakes. Be sure to leave room for dessert, as the sticky toffee pudding is divine.
Sunday morning: Stanley Ghyll Waterfall
Start your day by discovering one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Lake District, Stanley Ghyll, also known as Dalegarth Falls. Rising from the crags of the national park’s south-western fells, this enchanting Eskdale waterfall flows through a verdant forest of moss, ferns and overhanging trees before plunging for 20 metres into a deep pool.
One of the best walking routes here is from the 12th-century St Catherine’s Church where it is said a hermit once lived in a holy well, offering a blessing to anyone dedicated enough to find him. Use the stepping-stones to cross the River Esk or, if it is in full flow, there’s a footbridge a short distance upstream.
Be sure to take your camera as the falls are incredibly photogenic, especially after heavy rainfall, and there’s a good chance of spotting some red squirrels too.
Sunday afternoon: Hardknott Pass and Roman Fort
In the afternoon, jump in the car and head to Hardknott Pass, regarded as one of Britain’s most challenging roads. While not for the faint-hearted, the single-track road is a lot of fun, cutting through the centre of the national park via a heart-stopping series of sharp and narrow hairpin bends.
Said to be the steepest road in England, the pass offers awe-inspiring vistas of the surrounding fells at every turn and along the route is Hardknott Pass Roman Fort, which is a must-visit during your adventure.
This dramatically sited fort was founded under Hadrian's rule in the 2nd century, and you can follow in his footsteps as you wander the well-marked remains of the headquarters building, commandant's house and bath house.
Sunday evening: Woolpack Inn
Calm your nerves following your adrenaline-pumping drive with a well-earned evening meal at the Woolpack Inn.
Found at the foot of Hardknott Pass, this is a place where wood-fired pizzas and cook-your-own steaks on hot lava stones sit alongside country-pub classics like Cumbrian tattie pot with Yorkshire pudding and Herdwick mutton and black pudding bonbons.
Sit back with a cold drink and some good food and soak up the glorious views.
Monday morning (departure): Giggle Alley Wood
For your final morning before you set off home, enjoy one of our favourite Eskdale walks along the leafy trails of Giggle Alley Wood. The reason why this is one of the top walks in Eskdale is because hidden in this small woodland’s heart is a curious surprise, the remains of a Japanese Garden.
Far removed from its woodland surrounds, this oriental world was once an ornamental garden, designed by Thomas Mawson for a former country house, and was abandoned in the 1950s. Having now been lovingly restored by the Forestry Commission to its former glory, you can meander across its bridges, admiring the water features, Japanese maples and vibrant azaleas.
Holidays in Eskdale
With so many wonderful things to do in Eskdale, a weekend might not be enough! But however long you choose to stay, we’ve got a fantastic selection of holiday cottages in Eskdale to welcome you home after your fun-filled escapades.
Enjoy a memorable staycation in this magnificent valley or browse our full collection of self-catering accommodation in the wider Lake District and Cumbria for even more holiday inspiration.
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.