Things to do nearby Hillside Cottage
With the beautiful valley of Eskdale right on your doorstep, Hillside Cottage is ideally located for making the most of everything on offer here. Enjoy a ride on the picturesque Eskdale and Ravenglass steam railway, visit the historic (and reputedly haunted) Muncaster Castle or enjoy a day at nearby Drigg beach. There are lots of local footpaths to explore from the door, as well as plenty of high fells for longer days out too. Or why not bring your bikes and head out to explore on 2 wheels instead?
Eskdale is a wonderfully unspoilt valley that offers fabulous food, real ales glorious scenery and a host of opportunities for walking and cycling for all abilities.
If you've come to the Lake District armed with your walking boots then you'll find the choice of paths here superb. You will find a variety of routes to the top of Scafell and Scafell Pike to suit all abilities. As well as big hikes to the highest fells, there are plenty of more gentle walks in the valley too. The path following the River Esk must surely rank as one of the most picturesque anywhere. A short walk from Dalegarth Station will take you to the beautifully situated St Catherine's Church, where you can cross the river Esk by its famous stepping-stones (providing the river isn't in spate!) and continue on down the valley. A short detour from the bridleway will take you to the magical Stanley Ghyll force. Across the valley you can take a rather steeper path to the tranquil surroundings of Blea Tarn, a wonderful spot for a summertime wild swim. From Eskdale Green you could take a walk up from the village to the wonderfully named Giggle Alley, from here you can head to the Japanese Garden, a beautifully tranquil spot. Eskdale Green is also on the edge of the secluded Miterdale Valley. It's an incredibly peaceful place, you might not encounter a soul on a walk up through its forests. Why not take the walk up to Burnmoor Tarn or over into the Wasdale Valley from here?
Aside from the phenomenal natural heritage around the valley then perhaps the jewel in the crown of Eskdale is the magical Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, more popularly known as the La'al Ratty. This narrow gauge steam railway makes a leisurely seven mile journey from Ravenglass to Boot taking in some staggering scenery along the way. The railway passes through the village and visitors can wave at the train as it steams past (you have to wave at the La'al Ratty, it's practically the law!). Irton Road Station serves the western side of the village so whether you make the journey down to the coast to the delightful village of Ravenglass or further up the valley to Dalegarth at Boot you can enjoy great walks and indeed a play park and café at either end. With prior arrangement you can put your bikes on the train at either end of the line and cycle back via the Eskdale Trail. The railway has a new improved museum where you can find out more about the line's rich history through interactive exhibits, photographs and artefacts from the areas that it touches.
If you do choose to take the train down to the coast you'll find Ravenglass to be a truly special little place with a rich seam of history running through it and a gentle bygone era atmosphere all of its own. Evidence of its Roman heritage is just a short walk away from the Ratty Station in the form of a well-preserved Roman bathhouse. The village hosts regular antique fairs and art exhibitions as well as boasting several good eateries.
As for the cycling opportunities in Eskdale, well, where to begin? For mountain biking the valley offers trails to suit all abilities with low-level forest trails and more technical bridleways leading over to the Wasdale and Duddon Valleys. For roadies you have one of England’s steepest roads at the head of the valley to test your mettle. Indeed many of the Lake Districts most challenging cycling events pass through the valley. If hills aren’t to your taste there are some lovely rides out towards the coast with rather less challenging routes.
The next valley to Eskdale is Wasdale. Famously boasting England’s highest mountain, deepest lake, smallest church and biggest liar, Wasdale still has an unspoilt tranquillity that belies its majestic grandeur. The iconic view from the bottom of Wastwater was even voted Britain's Favourite View in a recent TV poll. It is the most mountainous of the Lake District Valleys, indeed several of the Lake District's classic fell walks can be scaled from the valley floor including Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Pillar and Kirk Fell. Wastwater itself is a crystal clear gem, much beloved of divers and wild swimmers, why not dip a toe on your visit?
Muncaster Castle makes a great day out for all ages. Sitting high above the estuary where the River Esk meets the Irish Sea at Ravenglass, it has a well-deserved reputation as one of Cumbria’s most popular attractions. The castle itself makes a great rainy day visit where you can learn more about its colourful past. It is steeped in history, with tales of kings and queens, of murder and intrigue and ghostly presences everywhere! The grounds at Muncaster are just as much of a delight as you can watch stunning bird of prey displays, explore a meadow vole maze, enjoy the play park, café and shop as well as seeing the most stunning displays of bluebells and rhododendrons when in season.
Drigg beach is a wonderfully windswept place for a walk to blow away the cobwebs. The sands seem to stretch for miles in both directions and at low tide you may even be rewarded with the sight of the remains of an unknown shipwreck emerging from the sand. This area of the coast also benefits from some of the best weather in the area so even when the clouds are gathering over the fells you might find yourself in sunshine here. The beach forms part of the Drigg and Eskmeals Dunes Nature Reserve. This wonderful network of dunes is the largest in Cumbria and supports one of the largest seabird breeding colonies in the northwest as well as a wonderful range of flora to investigate. Of course you might just as well enjoy a paddle and a picnic!
To explore the valleys further inland you can take the road over Hardknott and Wrynose passes to Ambleside, a lovely Victorian town at the head of Lake Windermere. The town is now a bustling Lake District tourist hub where you can take one of the Lake Steamers from Waterhead or find out more about the many well-known characters that have been connected with the town, including William Wordsworth, Hardwicke Rawnsley, John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter. Alternatively head to lovely Coniston where its rich history can be explored at the Ruskin Museum or you could hire a boat and imagine yourselves in Swallows and Amazons on the lake where Arthur Ransome was inspired to write the story.
If you’d like to head out of the valley you have many great options. Whitehaven is a Georgian Harbour town 20 miles up the coast with a colourful history involving rum, sugar and piracy! The Rum Story makes a great place to start your visit and from there you can follow their ‘Quest’ around the town’s historical landmarks. It is also the start to the 140-mile long C2C cycle route. Closer by is Egremont where you can find the remains of a Norman Castle and Florence Mine, the last working iron ore mine in Europe, and part of the rich mining history of West Cumbria. The Mine Heritage Centre now holds events and exhibitions.
The valley plays host to many seasonal events. The Boot Beer festival takes place in early June every year while the Eskdale Art Show takes place in the village school on Whit weekend. As summer draws to its close The Eskdale Show takes place on the last weekend of September. This is a famous Lakeland agricultural show of Herdwick Sheep, which are bred and reared on the surrounding fells by local farmers. The show also has competition classes for hound dogs, terriers, sheep dogs, poultry and shepherds crooks. There are also stalls full of Cumbrian goods, sporting events for children, fell racing, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling events and hound trailing. It’s an excellent window into local farming life and a great day out.