Things to do nearby Irt Cottage
Wasdale is home to the Lake District’s and England’s most dramatic and rugged mountain scenery, and has a wilder more unspoilt feel than the rest of the National Park. Fittingly, it is renowned as the birthplace of British climbing as a sport, and the view down Wastwater to the head of the valley was voted Britain’s best several years ago. The mountain trio of Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Scafell together form the logo of the National Park.
The valley is home to the country’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, the deepest lake in Wastwater and the smallest church in St Olaf’s.
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 ninth and tenth centuries, the valley bottom is a patchwork of fields populated by Cumbria’s famous native Herdwick sheep.
The famous Wastwater screes, which are easily seen from Irt Cottage, plunge several metres straight into the dark depths of the lake and on fine days glow a deep orangey red as the sun sets behind the hills. There is a path along the base of the screes but it is notoriously a more tricky proposition than it looks, with huge boulder fields to navigate across.
Wasdale and neighbouring Eskdale offer some of the most memorable hiking and beautiful scenery in the Lake District, both on the high fells and along the valley bottoms. It is a walker’s paradise, with glorious fells, crystal clear mountain streams, cascading waterfalls and exhilarating views. And there’s no shortage of excellent pubs to rehydrate from at the end of the day.
The lake is very peaceful as motor boats aren’t permitted (apart from the mountain rescue team!). You are however 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 along the shore and beautiful places to swim or go for a paddle. Wastwater is a magnet for local 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!
Mountain bikes are not allowed on footpaths, but are permitted on bridleways, of which there are many. The three most popular routes are Black Sail Pass, Styhead Pass and Burnmoor Tarn, but they are all for experienced riders only as they all involve steep climbing and descents.
As well as the deepest lake and highest mountain, Wasdale boasts England’s smallest church, St Olaf’s, 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; a stark reminder to all who visit.
There are three pubs in Wasdale. At the top of the valley is the Wasdale Head Inn, the perfect place to relax with a pint of real ale and a hearty meal. It was the birthplace of the world’s biggest liar competition, now held each November in the nearby Santon Bridge Inn. Further down the valley, in Nether Wasdale, The Strands Inn offers real ales from its own microbrewery, a good selection of wines and food, including good vegetarian options. The Screes just opposite also serves real ales and food.
Church Stile Farm Shop is a quarter of a mile from Irt Cottage and, during the Spring and Summer, is the nearest shop for general provisions and local produce. The shop also sells a small rane of wine and beer. Gosforth village at the very end of the valley has a well stocked village store for groceries, fresh fruit and vegetables, food to go, alcohol and newspapers as well as an ATM. It also has an interesting stone cross in the St Mary’s Church yard , which is thought to date back to Viking times.
Wasdale is near to many other Lake District attractions, such as the old fishing village of Ravenglass, which is the only coastal village within the National Park. It is home to a historic Roman bath house, beach, and is the beginning of the famous Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway - a popular miniature railway that travels seven scenic miles to the beautiful and tranquil Eskdale valley. It was recently named by the Guardian as being one of Britain’s top ten coastal gems.
Eskdale itself has excellent valley walks along the river, or a walk up the beautiful ravine to Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall. For the more adventurous, the route up Scafell through the Upper Esk valley and the amazing wide open space of Great Moss is one of the best mountain ascents in the Lake District. There are five fine pubs in Eskdale, all serving real ale and good food.
Nearby Muncaster Castle is located just outside Ravenglass and apart from the historic Castle also features glorious gardens, the World Owl Centre, a children’s maze and regular special events for families. It’s especially worth a visit in spring its woodlands are carpeted with a glorious display of bluebells.