Things to do nearby Whillanside
Nestled in the charming hamlet of Boot Whillanside offers a wonderful base for walking. Why not take the path up from the village to Burnmoor Tarn? You can extend the walk in to the Wasdale Valley or alternatively down into tranquil Miterdale. You could pack a picnic and take the easy stroll along the River Esk, there are plenty of gorgeous places along the way for a paddle or a swim. No trip to Boot would be complete without a trip on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway. Take the train down to the lovely coastal village of Ravenglass or potter up to Muncaster Castle for a visit that all the family will enjoy.
Eskdale is a wonderfully unspoilt valley that offers fabulous food, real ales and a host of opportunities for walking and cycling for all abilities. Boot itself is a wonderfully quaint settlement boasting two pubs serving excellent food and real ales. Also nearby is The Woolpack Inn, serving home cooked food with an emphasis on local produce, a marvellous choice of vodkas and gins and delicious pizzas from its wood-fired pizza oven.
For the well-prepared and more adventurous walker the upper Eskdale Valley is towered over by Scafell and Scafell Pike. Scafell Pike is one of the Lake District's most iconic and legendary mountains. At 3,209 feet, it is England's highest mountain and one of the most thrilling climbs in the Lakes. The views from the top have inspired writers such as Wainwright, Wordsworth and Coleridge and on a clear day the views stretch to Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man.
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.*/
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 bathhouse. Alternatively pack a picnic and take in the view imagining what life was like here nearly 2,000 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. 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.
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. There are play parks and cafes at both Ravenglass and Dalegarth stations and guests in the Eskdale Valley can hail the train from several halts. With prior arrangement you can put your bikes on the train at either end of the line and cycle back via the Eskdale Trail.
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.
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.
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.
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.*/
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.