Things to do nearby Irt Cottage
Wasdale is one of the big three mountain valleys of the Lake District, with some of its most dramatic and unspoilt scenery. Mighty peaks dominate the head of the valley. Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Yewbarrow and the Scafells, the highest peaks in England, surround Wasdale Head, which is renowned as the birthplace of British climbing.
Nether Wasdale is a charming little hamlet just over a mile from the southern edge of Wastwater. It harks back to a bygone era with its tiny church nestled next to a small village green with a maypole where the May festival is held each year. It boasts two pubs, The Strands and The Screes run side by side and the Low Wood Hall restaurant is just up the hill.
The valley of Wasdale must certainly be ranked as one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in the entire country. While its staggering scenery is a magnet for walkers, cyclists, divers, swimmers and general potterers it still retains its unspoiled quality and feeling of remoteness. It's a place with many superlatives attached to it, indeed it is the proud home of England's highest mountain, deepest lake, smallest church and also the competition for the World's biggest liar!
The valley stretches for 12 miles from Wasdale Head down to the village of Gosforth. The fertile area at the valley bottom is a patchwork of fields which has scarcely changed since the 9th century when Norse farmers colonised the area. This then leads to the crystal clear lake and magnificent mountains rearing skyward from it. St Olaf's, England's smallest church, is set amongst a small wood of yew trees. The roof beams are said to have come from Viking ships. The churchyard holds the graves of many climbers who died on the fells.
Wasdale offers unrivalled opportunities for walking with the mightiest Lakeland peaks, the Scafells rearing up from the valley's floor being an obvious choice for the energetic and well prepared rambler. Don't be intimidated by the high mountains of the valley. There are plenty of less demanding options too for example the pleasant woodland walks around the village of Nether Wasdale and at the bottom of the lake.
The famous Wastwater Screes appear to climb straight out of Wastwater's depths, rising to a height of almost 200ft. This immense wall of crags and shattered rock runs the length of the lake and is a sight to behold from the opposite shores of the lake especially at Sunset. For the sure-footed, there is a path directly beneath the Screes, crossing a tricky boulder field.
The valley is the birthplace of Cumbrian rock climbing with great Lakeland pioneers such as the Abraham brothers making the most of the mighty crags of the valley. These days climbers flock to the great walls of Scafell and Great Gable. The Barn Door shop at Wasdale Head is a highly reliable source of information for routes and sells an inordinate amount of equipment.
Wastwater is an absolute jewel, a crystal clear lake which is a delight to behold. The lake is very peaceful as motorboats aren’t permitted (apart from the mountain rescue team!). You are welcome to bring your own kayaks, canoes and rowing boats and enjoy the mountain scenery from a different perspective. There are plenty of picnic spots and beautiful places to swim or go for a paddle in fact it’s a wild swimmer's paradise. Wastwater is a magnet for divers and rumour has it there is a gnome garden in the depths of the murky waters and the remains of a WW2 airplane. For expert divers only of course!
If you’d like your outdoor adventures taken care of by experts then Westlakes Adventure is a company based nearby providing outdoor activities for individuals, couples, families and groups. Their activities include rock climbing, ghyll scrambling, paddle boarding and kayaking. Why not book a family kayaking trip on the lake?
Gosforth and its surrounding area is a treasure trove of footpaths and Bridleways that any devotee of the great outdoors will enjoy. The village is a bustling little place, which is incredibly well served for the foodies among you. There are two pubs on the village square and two more within half a miles' potter of the village centre. One of our favourite places to eat is The Wild Olive, an excellent Italian restaurant with a wood fired pizza oven and a lovely little play room for children as well as access out to the village's play park.
There are also plenty of options for visitors to enjoy outside of the valley. Muncaster Castle makes a great day out, it sits high above the estuary where the river Esk meets the Irish Sea at Ravenglass and has a well-deserved reputation as one of Cumbria’s most popular attractions. The 13th Century Castle makes a great rainy day visit where you can learn more about its colourful history. As you can imagine with a castle in such an incredible position on the very edges of the country, 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.
Eskdale is another iconic yet unspoiled valley in the western lakes. As well as big hikes to the highest fells, there are some lovely walks on the valley floor and along the beautiful river Esk. Why not 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. Alternatively a gentle potter along paths from the village of Boot will take you to Stanley Ghyll Force, a stunning waterfall tumbling 60ft into a deep pool below.
One of the most popular things to do in Eskdale is to take a trip on the famous 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. Whether you choose to make the journey from the charming coastal village of Ravenglass or from further up the valley at Dalegarth station in 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.
Moving away from the mighty fells inland why not consider exploring the coast? Ravenglass is the only coastal village within the Lake District National Park. It makes a delightful place for a visit with its feeling of a gentle old fashioned way of life. Ravenglass is where three rivers meet (Esk, Irt, and Mite) to form an estuary and natural harbour. 2000 years ago, it was the location for an important Roman port and military fort and later became a bustling fishing town. Why not take a bike and explore either the 11-mile Eskdale trail or follow some of the Hadrian's Cycleway?
Eight miles away on the coast is Seascale, a Victorian seaside village with an excellent local ice cream shop. Seascale is also home to an excellent links golf course. Walking south along the beach for a mile will take you to the sand dunes at Drigg. A great place for a family picnic and paddle on a sunny day or just for a wild and windswept winter walk. St Bees is another seaside village further up the coast offering lovely walks along to secluded coves to the north.
Whitehaven is a Georgian Harbour town 17 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 just south of the town is Florence Mine, the last working iron ore mine in Europe, and part of the rich mining history of West Cumbria.
The Wasdale Head Show and Shepherds Meet, which takes place in early October, is a great opportunity to mingle with the locals in stunning surroundings. Watch the fell runners making light work of the incredibly steep climb up Kirk Fell, sample the local ale and food stalls and browse the crafts. You can also see vintage machinery and watch the serious business of Herdwick sheep judging.