Things to do nearby Penny Hill Farm Cottage
Penny HIll Farm is situated near the foot of Hardknott Pass, across the curiously named Doctors Bridge. It falls within the greater area of Boot, a hamlet at the head of the Eskdale valley with its own special character. It's a wonderfully peaceful and unspoiled area set within an amphitheatre of mighty fells with the crystal clear River Esk tumbling along nearby.
Boot village is a quaint little settlement boasting two pubs serving excellent homecooked food and real ales. There's also an excellent selection of single malt Whiskies to be tasted! At the top of the village lane is Eskdale Mill, the last remaining working mill in the Lake District. It is one of the oldest water powered corn mills in England. The mill makes for a very interesting morning or afternoon where you can take a tour and see the original working machinery. Also just nearby Penny Hill is The Woolpack Inn, also serving locally sourced homecooked food, a marvellous choice of vodkas and gins and delicious pizzas from its wood fired pizza oven.
One of the most popular things to do in the Eskdale Valley is to take a trip on the famous Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, locally 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. From Penny Hill Farm you can catch the train at Dalegarth Station, a leisurely 1.5 mile walk from the cottage. With prior arrangement you can put your bikes on the train at Dalegarth and cycle back via the Eskdale Trail. Read more in our guide to the La'al Ratty
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. The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Museum has recently which makes excellent use of its interactive exhibits to tell the story of the railway. A great day out for all ages. Read more in our guide to Ravenglass
While you're down at the coast why not visit historic Muncaster Castle? 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 itself 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 playpark, café and shop as well as seeing the most stunning displays of bluebells and rhododendrons when in season. Take a look at our guide to Muncaster to find out more.
The walking in Eskdale is second-to-none. From Penny Hil Farm you will find a variety of routes to the top of Scafell and Scafell Pike to suit all abilities. 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. From the farm you can follow the bridleway up to the iconic Harter Fell or alternatively head up the upper Esk to the wonderful pools beyond Brotherilkeld for a wild (and chilly) swim.
For those of you who would rather have your adventures taken care of by experts then Westlakes Adventure is a company based in Boot providing outdoor activities for individuals, couples, families and groups. Their activities include rock climbing, ghyll scrambling, paddle boarding and kayaking and they are based less than half a mile from the cottage.
There are plenty of more gentle walks in the valley too. The path folowing the River Esk must surely rank as one of the most picturesque anywhere. A small detour off it will take you to stunning Stanley Ghyll Force also to St Catherine's Church, a beautifully situated place of worship which can be reached by stepping stones crossing the river Esk (providing the river isn't in spate!) 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.
Just under two miles from the cottage at the head of the valley you'll find the steep switchback road that is Hardknott Pass (not for the faint hearted driver or passenger!). This will take you 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
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 and back again. For roadies you have one of England’s steepest roads at the head of the valley to challenge you. Indeed many of the Lake Districts most challenging cycling sportives (including the Fred Whitton, the Lakeland Loop and the Tour of the High Passes) go through the valley. If hills aren’t to your taste there are some lovely rides out towards the coast with rather less challenging hills.
The next valley to Eskdale is Wasdale. Famously, with England’s highest mountain and deepest lake, smallest church and biggest liar, Wasdale still has an unspoilt tranquillity that belies its majestic grandeur. It is the most mountainous of the Lake District Valleys. From Wastwater in the valley bottom, the Screes climb, seemingly vertically, out of the lake. The valley has hardly changed in hundreds of years, and the natural splendour of the fells and lakes has been preserved in all of its glory. Read more in our guide to Wasdale
If you’d like to head out of the valley you have many great options. Whitehaven is a Georgian Harbour town 23 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 Mine Heritage Centre now houses art exhibitions and concerts.
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.