Things to do nearby The Screes
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! It's also home to some excellent pubs and even a microbrewery. The Screes is ideally placed to make the most of everything this special place has to offer.
Stretching 12 miles from Wasdale Head at the top of the valley down to the village of Gosforth, this is a place that has hardly changed for centuries. Colonised by Norse farmers in the 9th and 10th centuries, the valley bottom is a patchwork of fields from the time of the Vikings, leading up to the lake and magnificent mountains rearing up to the sky. St Olaf's England's smallest church 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.
The valley 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. There are also many smaller fells with extremely rewarding views, in fact right beside the cottage is the path that leads up Middle Fell, Buckbarrow and Seatallan. Don't be intimidated by the high mountains of the valley. There are plenty of less demanding options, Wastwater's shore is just a gentle half mile potter down the road while the village of Nether Wasdale is a pleasant woodland walk.
The cottage is named after the famous Wastwater Screes which appear to climb straight out of Wastwater's depths, rising to a height of almost 200ft and more than 200ft underneath the water. 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. Indeed visitors to the cottage can admire the stunning view from the bedroom windows. 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. Indeed if you sit outside in the shared garden on a sunny evening you're likely to see climbers on the crags of Buckbarrow, one of the fells behind the house. 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 motor boats 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. 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. If you’d like your 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?
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 Castle makes a great rainy day visit where you can learn more about its colourful history. The original foundations of the building itself date back as far as 79AD - construction of the castle that you see today was started in 1258. 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. Being the other side of the Scafells offers a variety of different ways to scale these giants. Great Moss is one of the Lake District’s best kept secrets. This stunning open valley is surrounded by some of the highest ground in England, Scafell Pike, Esk Hause and Bowfell but hidden from view from the Eskdale valley floor.
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 Stanly 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.
Further up the valley as you head up the steep switchback road that is Hardknott Pass (not for the faint hearted driver or passenger!) you’ll come to the staggering setting of Hardknott Roman Fort. The fort was built under Hadrian’s rule in the 2nd century. It guarded the pass on the road from Ravenglass to Ambleside and was policed by troops from the eastern Adriatic. Today visitors can explore remains including the barracks, commandant’s house, parade ground and bath house. Or you can sit and take in the view imagining what life was like here nearly 2000 years ago.
Rather than heading inland to the fells why not consider exploring the coast? 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. At the Mine Heritage Centre you can learn about miners and how they lived and worked, and extracted the ore from the ground.
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.
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. Today, Ravenglass is better known as the starting point for the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway (La’al Ratty). This is the land of Bronze Age settlements, Roman forts, ancient churches, medieval castles and many other hidden delights. Why not take a bike and explore either the 11 mile Eskdale trail or follow some of the Hadrian's Cycleway?
As summer draws to its close Wasdale and Eskdale both play host to agricultural shows. 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. The Wasdale Head Show and Shepherds Meet 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, watch the serious business of herdwick judging and shows.