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Outside wall of Hardknott fort, Eskdale
Outside wall of Hardknott fort - Eskdale

Discover Eskdale the Hidden Gem of the Lake District

The unspoilt valley of Eskdale is one of the best-kept secrets in the Lake District. It lies on the far western edge of the National Park, a long way from anywhere. Many people are put off visiting by the time it takes to get here: if you don’t come by train, you either face a long drive around the coast or you have to negotiate the hair-raising bends of both the Wrynose and Hardknott pass, often impassable in winter. But those who make the effort are richly rewarded.

Hardknott Pass - Eskdale
Hardknott Pass – Eskdale

Explore the Eclectic Beauty of Eskdale Valley

On its short, exciting journey from the highest of the Lakeland fells to the Irish Sea at Ravenglass, the River Esk has carved out a beautiful and eclectic dale. From the remote amphitheatre of Upper Eskdale, bound by fearsome walls of rock and scree, it plummets into the main part of the valley, where it gently meanders between meadows and patches of woodland. There’s a chance of catching a glimpse of the increasingly rare red squirrel in the woods. This small, bushy-tailed native has been pushed out of much of England by the North American grey squirrel, but it still clings on to its territory in parts of Cumbria.

Things to Do in and Around Eskdale Green and Boot

This is a quiet valley, sparsely populated. The sheep grazing the valley bottom and the low, grassy fells probably outnumber the inhabitants of its two main settlements, Eskdale Green and Boot. These villages are where you’ll find the valley’s main facilities – campsites, a few B&Bs, a couple of tiny shops and several pubs, all of which serve food. Most of the valley’s main attractions are within easy walking distance, including Stanley Ghyll Force, one of the Lake District’s most spectacular waterfalls, the La’al Ratty narrow-gauge railway and the Japanese Garden in the Forestry Commission’s Giggle Alley, where you’ll find bamboo thickets and colourful maples.

Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway

Nestled between Eskdale and Wasdale, Scafell Pike reigns as the nation’s highest mountain, offering intrepid adventurers an unparalleled journey to its summit. The quaint village of Boot is an ideal starting point for hikers wanting to conquer the summit. Boot is also a good place for steam train enthusiasts to stay with Dalegarth station near by for a trip on La’al Ratty. They can relish a nostalgic ride aboard the Ravensglass and Eskdale Railway, winding through picturesque landscapes. History buffs can stop and explore the historic Muncaster Castle, on their way to Ravenglass. 

Discover the Rich History in the area

Boot is home to Eskdale Mill, the last working water-powered corn mill in the Lake District. Visitors can learn about the site’s history and then tour the buildings to see how the nearby stream powered the traditional waterwheels to grind grain. The buildings that exist today date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, although a mill has existed on the site since medieval times. Stepping even further back in time, visitors can make a trip further up the valley to where the spectacularly located remains of a Roman fort guard Hardknott Pass. Hardknott Fort, also known as Hardknott Castle, protected the road linking the Roman port at Ravenglass (Glannoventa) with a fort at Ambleside (Galava).    

Hardknott Fort

Venture into the Moorland and Tarns of Eskdale Valley

A good network of well-signposted paths makes easy work of exploring the valley bottom on foot, passing old packhorse bridges, the tiny St Catherine’s Church and lovely old farmhouses. There are stepping stones across the river for the nimble-footed or bridges if you don’t trust your sense of balance. On either side of the dale, old peat roads – grassy, zig-zagging tracks once used to bring this important fuel down from the fells above – provide easy access to moody moorland and hidden bodies of water such as Blea Tarn and Burnmoor Tarn. Lakeland’s largest tarn, Devoke Water, sits in a lonely spot to the south-west of the main valley. Surrounded by mysterious Bronze Age remains, it makes for an atmospheric outing.

Places to stay in Eskdale

Irton Hall – Eskdale

Irton Hall - Eskdale

Between the enchanting valleys of Wasdale and Eskdale is Irton Hall. Sitting peacefully at the foothills of the Western Fells of the Lake District. It is a stunning property with roots dating back to the 14th century and has received illustrious visitors such as Oliver Cromwell and Henry VI. The hall retains its traditional timber framing and charming features, while seamlessly blending modern amenities like free Wi-Fi. Travellers can choose from a variety of accommodations, including traditionally furnished rooms in the 14th-century tower, converted ballroom, and self-catering apartments.

Each accommodation offers a range of comforts, from flat-screen TVs and iPod docks to tea/coffee-making facilities and modern bathrooms. You can savor the delectable delights served at the on-site bar, lounge, and restaurant which boasts locally sourced produce, regional ales, and a tempting selection of beverages. In the mornings, hearty full English breakfasts are served in the lounge bar, while those seeking lighter options can indulge in a variety of continental choices. If you are craving a slice of history and natural beauty, then a mere 10-minute drive away you have the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and the medievel Muncaster Castle, renowned for its owl sanctuary. Pets are welcome at Irton Hall, so you don’t have to leave your furry friends behind. They can enjoy the beautiful surroundings as much as you do.

Address: Irton Hall, Eskdale, CA19 1TA

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High Ground Cottage – Eskdale

High Ground Cottage - Eskdale

High Ground Cottage stands out as one of the most enchanting places to stay in the Western Lake District, nestled amidst the rugged beauty of the Eskdale area. This magical retreat offers an unparalleled experience that blends modern comfort with vintage charm and breathtaking views of the surrounding fells. Picture waking up to the sight of mist rolling over the mountains as you indulge in a delicious breakfast before embarking on an adventure to explore the wonders of the Lake District.

You’ll feel right at home in this cosy haven, offering self-catering accommodation that allow you to fully embrace the tranquility of the countryside. Whether you choose to cook your meals with locally sourced ingredients or dine at the nearby family-friendly inns, the freedom is yours to enjoy. High Ground Cottage is truly a remarkable destination, with extraordinary views from every window, a well-equipped kitchen, comfortable sitting rooms, and peaceful surroundings. It embodies the very essence of what makes the Eskdale area a cherished destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

Address: High Ground Cottage, Eskdale, CA19 1TJ

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YHA – Eskdale

YHA Eskdale

The Eskdale, a purpose-built YHA hostel, welcomes guests to explore the picturesque setting of the Lake District. Situated on a hillside, the hostel offers breathtaking views of the lush green valley of Eskdale. Guests can wander around the wildlife garden and nature trail within the expansive grounds. Nature enthusiasts can take advantage of the nearby riverside walks and country trails suited to all abilities, while history buffs can discover the fascinating Hardknot Roman Fort just a short 5-minute drive away.

The well-equipped kitchen, cosy lounge area, and TV room provide the perfect space for guests to unwind and socialize with fellow travellers. A delicious breakfast is served, setting guests off on the right foot to explore the beauty of Eskdale. Most rooms come equipped with comfortable bunk beds, making it an ideal choice for groups of friends, families, or solo adventurers seeking camaraderie on their journey through the Lake District. The Eskdale is licensed to serve alcohol, offering a wonderful opportunity to relax and enjoy a well-deserved beverage after a day of adventures.

Address: Boot, Holmrook, Cumbria, Eskdale, CA19 1TH,

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