Wandering around Eskdale

Published 12 June 2012

Harter Fell, seen near Boot

Over the elongated bank holiday weekend I went on one of my periodic trips to the Lake District.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I have a kind of love/hate relationship with the place. I love it for the stunning scenery and amazing views. I hate it because my trips always seem to coincide with the worst weather possible.

Still, it’s like some sort of drug and I keep going back for more, and with a two day bank holiday to fill, I thought I’d make the most of it. For various reasons I don’t have many chances to escape this year, so when there’s a chance I decided to grab hold of it just as firmly as I could.

I also wanted to head to a different part of the Lakes on this visit. As I don’t have a car, most of my trips to the Lakes have a familiar feel about them as they usually involve Ambleside and Langdale in some form or other.

There’s a good reason for this. It’s a wonderful place and it has good public transport links. The train pulls in to Windermere and there’s frequent buses to Ambleside. From there you can speed off on the bus to Langdale which runs seven days a week, and there a whole host of fells open up, along with excellent pubs for afterwards.

But much as I love Langdale, it’s nice to explore new territories. But getting to them by public transport isn’t easy. There’s always Coniston but I’ve been there several times (and never once managed to scale its most famous summit.) Grasmere, well I could head there too, but even that’s a bit too familiar.

Then I heard about Eskdale on the west of the Lakes; a quiet, peaceful side where few tourists go (well, relatively few.) It’s quiet because there’s no transport links and no giant car parks. The roads from the east of the Lakes aren’t great. If you go walking here, you have to know where you’re going or be staying locally.

It sounded perfect. And the lack of public transport doesn’t matter either has Eskdale has its own solution. The non-car owning rambler does not need to fear as there is a way to get to here. You do it by using a tourist attraction – the 15″ gauge Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway which runs throughout the tourist season and connects this quiet place with Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coastal railway line.

Everything seemed to fall in place and a reasonably promising weather forecast meant I could get my tent out. My plan was simple. Base myself near the village of Boot and explore some fells I’d never seen before. I booked the tickets and made a plan which involved seven fells to be done over three and a half days.

Of course, not everything went to plan. Fell one (Hard Knott) was abandoned at the first hurdle thanks to a fatality on the West Coast mainline that saw me arrive at Boot three hours later than planned. Then on my final day of walking bad weather meant that another fell escaped me.

Still, five of the seven did get done – a whopping 71%, which, when all is said and done, is actually the highest success rate I’ve ever had on a Lake District trip.

Even better, I did one of them on a busy bank holiday weekend – a weekend where half the country seemed to be in the Lakes – and saw no one at all. Oh yes my friend, Eskdale’s a special place.

So take my advice. Don’t go there. Stay firmly away. Cos Eskdale’s lovely and peaceful. And I want it all to myself if that’s all the same.


Matthew King (@hillplodder)

13 June 2012 at 11:11 pm

Eskdale is possibly my favourite Lake District valley, although Langdale runs it close. And I can fully understand your non-driving issue when it comes to somewhere like Eskdale. I’m trying to do all 214 Wainwrights without using a car and Eskdale was the hardest place to get to yet. I solved it by walking over Black Combe and the other fells to Devoke Water, and these fells are every bit as good as the proper Wainwrights in Eskdale.

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