Things to see and do
There's a plethora of beautiful walks, activities, Wainwrights to bag and opportunities for sightseeing on the doorstep. We haven’t included any of the more strenuous fell walking or cycling routes here because you probably have your own plans, but if you’re stuck for ideas, you’ll find some excellent guides, maps and books on the sideboard in the house.
Wasdale is for the Lake District connoisseur and is (arguably), its most beautiful and remote destination. It’s most probable that Wasdale Head will be one of your first ports of call. Many of the Lake District’s finest mountains can be traversed from here including its highest peak of Scafell Pike, Great Gable as well as the less well-known Kirk Fell, Yewbarrow and Pillar. Wasdale is the starting point of the Three Peak Challenge and home to England’s deepest lake - Wastwater, its smallest church (St Olaf’s), and its biggest self-proclaimed liar, the former landlord Will Ritson (who’s tall tales included the claim that his dog had given birth to winged hounds after an encounter with an eagle). Today it’s the home of one of Cumbria’s legendary heroes – Joss Naylor MBE, the record breaking fell runner whose record for the 72 peak Lakeland Circuit in under 21 hours was unbroken for 13 years.
The more strenuous climbs from Wasdale are well documented including the mammoth seven summit Netherbeck Horseshoe – you can find routes for most of these walks in books on the dresser. However, if you’re feeling less intrepid, our suggestions for shorter ambles in Wasdale are as follows:
Take the path from the Beer Garden at the back of the Wasdale Head Inn for a gentle stroll alongside the river across the quaint old pack horse bridge and up the valley where you’ll find Ritson’s Force waterfalls on the right in about half a mile.
Visit to St Olaf’s church to see the graves of climbers who met their death on the surrounding mountains. There is also a window pane etching of Napes Needle on Great Gable commemorating the climbers killed in the war.
A simple lakeside walk is one of the best ways to appreciate the valley. Park the car as soon as the road turns alongside Wastwater and walk back alongside the lake where there is are lovely vistas, trees and pebble shores to picnic away from the road.
Wasdale Webcam feed http://www.wasdale.com/17.html
Beckermet – Obviously, you won’t have to go far to discover the delights of Beckermet. The name derives from “the meeting of the becks”. Beckermet is a very old settlement and its church, St John’s, dates from Norman times. Following the Conquest, the hamlet was on the route of plundering Scots for 200 years and the site of an ancient castle stands on two small hills above Ker Beck on Mill Lane. A short stroll out of the village in a south westerly direction takes you to the lonely St Bridget’s church that dates from the 13th century. From here you can reach the beach, there is a description of this walk later on this page. The graveyard is the bearer of no less than two National Monuments: an Anglican and Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft which are pre-Norman with an inscription that numerous learned scholars have failed to translate.
Gosforth has a gift shop, bakery and, as mentioned previously, several pubs. It also has many walks. There is a lovely walk which starts off in the ancient church with its Anglo-Saxon Cross. For further details look in the book on the dresser called Walks through History.
Eskdale Green(25 min) is a delightful hamlet at the beginning of Eskdale, there are low level walks around here which travel past the river and the narrow-gauge railway. The Bower House inn is worth a visit, also the King George IV.
Nether Wasdale (20 minutes) The lovely village of Nether Wasdale, the gateway to Wasdale is the starting point for many fine walks.
Ravenglass (15 min) This small coastal village with a natural harbour is not only worth a visit in itself but it is also home to The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway – one of the oldest and longest narrow-gauge railways in England complete with its famous engine, Old Ratty. https://ravenglass-railway.co.uk/about-us/
Muncaster Castle Five minutes south of Ravenglass is Muncaster Castle, Gardens, Hawk & Owl Centre. Attractions include:
Historic haunted castle, Himalayan gardens, bluebell woods
Hawk & Owl Centre, exhilarating flying displays, bird of prey experiences, Enchanted Trail, Meadowvole Maze and adventure
Playgrounds, cafes, gift-shops and accommodation
Ennerdale Bridge Another nearby area not to miss is Ennerdale Bridge village (18 min) and Ennerdale Water, a traditional Lakeland village with an old Church and pub, plus great walks around the village and the lake, including a stretch of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk.
The Duddon Valley (also called Dunnerdale) Offers unrivalled walking with spectacular views on the Dunnerdale Fells, in the woodlands and by riverside. The tiny villages of Seathwaite and Ulpha are the focal points of the valley, while the 16th century Newfield Inn near the end of the Walna Scar road offers a fine welcome and roaring log fires. (46 mins). Nearby (41 mins) is the market town of Broughton in Furness with high quality food shops, tearooms, restaurant and pubs. There's a guidebook on the dresser if you need further information.
Loweswater A little further north is Loweswater. (35 min) Nestled in a wooded valley in the far west of the Lake District, Loweswater is a peaceful lake at approximately 1 mile in length, 1/2 a mile wide and 60 feet deep and is often bypassed. A lovely circuit walk (4km or 2.5 miles) starts at Maggie's Bridge car park - grid ref. NY 134210 and takes you round the lake, bypassing the Kirkstile Inn if you’re in need of refreshment. The walk is a specially upgraded accessible footpath as part of the Miles Without Stiles project and is therefore suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
St Bees The most westerly point of Cumbria, St Bees (4 miles) marks the start of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk. The village is set on the only Heritage Coast from Wales to Scotland, dominated by the towering sandstone cliffs of St Bees Head and the clifftop path takes you to the lovely Fleswick Bay and RSPB Nature Reserve. St Bees also boasts a 900-year-old Norman Priory, a promenade and exceedingly good icecream!
Egremont The nearest town of Egremont has been hit by several shop and pub closures recently and is a bit frayed round the edges, but nevertheless is well worth a visit. There are lovely riverside walks and the views from Egremont Castle are beautiful.
Whitehaven Whitehaven is the closest large town to The Tree House (20 mins).
This Georgian town was one of the first post-renaissance planned towns in the country. Built on shipping and mining, both industries have now declined, but Whitehaven is never-the-less an attractive place and is one of the 40 Gem Towns in England (the only other in Cumbria being Cockermouth).
Do not miss the magnificent Georgian Harbour, once a thriving port now a very smart marina or The Rum Story (Lowther Street) which tells the story of the UK rum trade which originally centred on Whitehaven’s port. The trail, set in the original shop, courtyards, cellars and bonded warehouses of the Jefferson family business, begins in a Caribbean rainforest.
Longlands Lake Longlands Lake (10 mins) is popular with local people for walks with children or dogs. A scenic area with woodland and free parking. On the A5086 just before Cleator.
Cockermouth A little further away is the other ‘Gem Town’ of Cockermouth (35 mins) which is a small bustling market town on the north west edge of the Lake District, famous for being the birthplace of William Wordsworth. The centre has a wonderful array of independent shops and cafes and there are lovely walks by the river. Also, a great choice of pubs and restaurants (see recommended pubs). http://www.cockermouth.org.uk/
Drigg A wilder beach setting, great for letting the dogs and children run free or for a quiet stroll is at Drigg (20 mins) Drive past the station, if you reach sand you’ve gone too far! The beach recently featured in the Telegraph newspaper's Top 10 Secret Beaches in England. The Victoria pub here has a good reputation for food although we haven’t been yet.
Seascale (14 mins) Take your bucket and spade when you visit the vast stretch of golden sands Seascale with beautiful views and a great playground for the kids.
A walk from The Tree House to the beach
There are several pleasant walks from The Tree House to the beach where you will often have the whole seaside to yourself. It’s just under or over 2 miles depending on the route chosen. This description takes you one way over the exciting (wobbly but safe) suspension foot bridge and back from the beach along the cycle path. If you have a dog and/or would like to avoid the suspension bridge, several stiles and the possibility of cows in a field just take the cycle path route there and back, although the bridge way is more interesting (in our opinion).
From the front door take the road down hill and turn left just after the Royal Oak on to Sellafield road. You will pass the Reading Rooms, our village hall. Immediately after the last house in the village where the speed limit ends turn right following the cycle route. Down this lane you will see an impressive railway viaduct which used to carry the line from the many mines that used to work in this area, also a very futuristic barn which looks like it could host a great music festival .
Just after passing under the disused railway make time to visit the remote small St Bridget's church, it’s usually open.
The path continues to the left and passes an interesting small wetland area which is an SSI. Here you can choose to take the path right, down to the bridge over the Ehen or continue straight in to join the old railway, now a cycle route. Both will take you to the sea.
If you turn right, follow the track cross the bridge, at the other side follow the riverbank downstream taking a style over the fence. The village in the distance is Graystones. The path continues alongside the river beneath a high point of land (which incidentally you can see from our garden) and after a short way look for the tunnel on the right under the railway leading right onto the beach.
This railway is the Cumbrian coast line, south is Barrow and Preston, north is Carlisle. There are many small stations along the line such as St. Bees and Ravenglass where the wonderful line to Eskdale starts.
The main reason this line survived when many other rural lines were unfortunately closed it due to the Sellafield nuclear power station which you can see in the distance on many parts of this walk.
After time on the beach, if you’d like to go back via the cycle route walk south along the track over the sand dunes until you find a bridge carrying the railway over the Ehen, go under the bridge and up onto it crossing the river on a path right alongside the track. On the other side take the cycle route left/north, after 15 minutes you’ll join the path on which you came.
A bit further afield …
Less than an hour’s drive away is Buttermere Valley, encompassing three lakes, famous for its dramatic views and woodlands. The lake at Buttermere offers one of the best round-the-lake walks in the Lake District. Here’s a link to some other routes suggested by The National Trust. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/buttermere-valley
Keswick Should you be able to tear yourself away from the tranquil Western Lakes, Keswick is 50 mins away and is a major tourism centre with a range of visitor attractions and boating on Lake Derwentwater.
This popular Victorian resort is set on the Solway Firth, a designated area of Natural Beauty, a bird-watchers’ and Anglers’ paradise with what has been the best flat fish fishing in the country. The Solway Music Festival, Cumbria’s biggest music event spread over four days. Glorious sea views and sunsets, across to the hills of Scotland. (1 hour and 14 mins).
Bassenthwaite Bassenthwaite Lake is known for its pike angling as well as its serene beauty. Anglers may buy permits for their own boat which can be launched from the public slipway near the sailing club on the A66 (38 mins).
Coniston Coniston Water (1 hour) is probably the best lake for public boating. There’s a steam yacht gondola with group bookings and charters available or you can hire canoes, motor boats, row boats, kayaks etc to sail out to Peel Island a famous location in Swallows and Amazons, or cruise past Brantwood, the home of John Ruskin.
Recommended scenic drives
An excellent drive with views of the both fells and the sea is the high road between Calder Bridge and Ennerdale Bridge, plenty of places to stop and take in the scenery and of course two lovely villages at each end. It’s also a popular cycling route.
A drive up the coast to Silloth on the West Coast Road offers spectacular views over the Solway Firth through an Area of Outstanding Beauty to see (if you time it right) spectacular west coast sunsets.
For those who want to test their driving skills, the road over Hardknott and Wrynose Pass crosses the larger Western peaks with a 30% gradient, ascending some of the highest peaks accessible by road. The views are awe inspiring.
Experiences and attractions:
The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Do not miss this seven-mile journey on this world famous, narrow- gauge railway, starting at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ravenglass village, travelling across the estuary through the hills and spectacular scenery to Dalegarth in the heart of Eskdale. Dogs are welcome! www.ravenglass-railway.co.uk
West Lakes Adventure Woolpack Farm Cottage | Boot, Eskdale CA19 1TH (1 hr and 16 mins). Ghyll scrambling, canyoning, canoeing, abseiling, climbing and much more for adventurous groups and families. www.westlakesadventure.co.uk/
Hardknott Pass, Eskdale CA19 1TH England Remote and dramatically-sited fort founded under Hadrian’s rule in the 2nd century (one hour 10 minutes). The road is very steep and not for the faint-hearted.
Horse and Husky Bootle Station Bank House, Millom LA19 5XB England If you fancy the exhilarating experience of riding behind a team of huskies or galloping on the beach, riding the forest and fells, horse and Husky offers various experiences and fun days out for all the family.
(40 mins 16.6 miles) via A595 horseandhusky.com/
Stanley Ghyll Waterfall Eskdale, Holmrook – a sixty-foot high waterfall in a dramatic, deep gorge. (39 minutes)
Muncaster Cycles The Old Butchers Shop Main Street, Ravenglass CA18 1SQ England – (17 mins) A great bike shop if you’re looking to hire a bike to explore the countryside. Tel: 01229 717989
Cumbrian Heavy Horses The UK’s only specialised heavy horse-riding establishment Braystone Bank Farm, Nr Millom, Whicham Valley, Cumbria LA18 5LY (40 mins).
www.cumbrianheavyhorses.com Tel: 44 1229 777764
Florence Arts Centre and Cafe (6 min). Situated in the building of the disused Florence Mine this quirky place is worth a visit. There are art exhibitions, history of the mine plus special events, live music and comedy, films, check their website. It’s not signposted very well from the south: Take the A595 North, at the first roundabout turn right (3rd exit) then immediate left and left again.
But this small list is far from being exhaustive … there is much, much more!
NOTE: Many of these places have had to shut down during the Covid-19 pandemic. Please check that the venue is open before setting off.