Lake District Walks - Eskdale
PUBLISHED: 15:32 14 February 2011 | UPDATED: 16:45 19 January 2016
Keith Carter leads a walk through Eskdale from the terminus of the famous La'al Ratty railway
THIS walk starts from the terminus of La’al Ratty, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway which is an absolute must for visitors to the area and, as they say, a grand day out.
We’re not taking the ride today but it is perfectly possible to combine a trip on the line with this walk including lunch at one of the nicest pubs in Lakeland, the Woolpack Inn, certainly in my list of the five best pubs in the Lake District. The Woolpack have their own brewery on site and judging by the two bitters I sampled, they would hold their own at any beer festival in Britain.
Our walk starts at Dalegarth Station where you can park all day on a pay and display ticket and use the station café and toilets on your return. Further along the valley the road is narrow and out of season the facilities are quite limited. Once the Easter holidays come round the area begins to come to life and the visitors return in everincreasing numbers. For walkers there is no finer destination than Eskdale which Wainwright described as ‘delectable’ and ‘a very special preserve for those who travel on foot’.
Leave the station car park and turn left on the road as far as the Brook House Inn, a prominent white painted building on the road side. Opposite
it, take the turning on the right, a rough track between walls leading towards the River Esk.
Keep right just past a house called Esk View, now used as a holiday let, and make your way down to where the tiny church of St Catherine’s nestles beside the river. The graveyard has several interesting gravestones including that of Tom Dobson, one time master of the Eskdale Hunt and as famous in his day as John Peel of Caldbeck.
Turn left along the river at a signpost to Doctor Bridge, the path initially well made and level until after a hand-gate it becomes obstructed in places by fallen trees.
These are not a serious obstacle however and we come to a substantial footbridge crossing to the south side of the river. On meeting a wall, follow it up a bank and join a footpath coming in from the right. Go through the gate and we come shortly to a quiet tarn on the right sheltered by conifers. Here some kind person has placed a bench, an ideal spot for coffee and contemplation, a winning combination
Continue on the clear path through gorse bushes, crossing a ford, another footbridge and a gate and where the path divides, take the left hand fork past Low Birker Farm, extensively renovated and no doubt intended like many of the buildings in the valley, for holiday lets.
The path leads to where Doctor Bridge crosses the Esk but we don’t cross it, instead turning right on the track to Penny Hill, a working farm but
supplementing their income by doing B&B. As the track approaches the farmyard walkers are asked to use the diversion to avoid going through
This is no hardship for us if it means giving the farmer and his family some peace and quiet without a steady stream of ramblers wandering past their front door.
Once past the farm, continue ahead on the path through pasture, the route clearly defined by the wheel marks of farm vehicles, rising soon to a belt of trees where a signpost points left to Wha House Bridge or straight on to Jubilee Bridge.
For those ready to turn back or head for the pub, their way is left to Wha House Bridge where they can turn left along the road to take them in short order to the Woolpack Inn.
For those who can manage a bit more walking, go straight on here and continue as far as the road at Jubilee Bridge atthe foot of the climb up to Hardknott Pass.
A stone footbridge crosses the bouldery bed of the stream and we turn left on the road to head back along the valley. The road is narrow at first and it is best to put on a bit of a spurt to get through the section only wide enough for a single car.
Beyond this the road widens a bit and there is more of a verge to keep out of the way of the traffic. A pause at the Woolpack Inn makes the roadwalking worthwhile and the views of the crags that line the valley remind you that Wainwright’s words are more than justified. Look out for the camp site at Hollins where some curious beehive cabins have been installed. These are timber camping pods, little wooden cabins big enough for two and ideal for those for whom a tent is a step too far.
We remain on the road all the way back to Dalegarth, there being no convenient path on the north side of the road. If you are reluctant to use
the road, on reaching Jubilee Bridge you could retrace your steps, making the walk a linear one.
This is wonderful country, whichever way you are coming from.
Area of walk: Eskdale
Distance: Six miles
Time to allow: Three hours
Map: OS Explorer OL6 The English Lakes, Southwestern area.
Refreshments: Café on the platform of Dalegarth Station, Woolpack Inn.
Useful book: Walks from Ratty by A Wainwright