Days out in West Cumbria and the Western Lake District
If you come on holiday to the Lake District, there is a temptation not to get around to the western side of Lakeland or the West Cumbrian coast for days out. Here are my top 5 reasons that might help change your mind.
1. Wasdale and Wastwater
Perhaps the most dramatic of the lakes of Lakeland, Wastwater in the Wasdale valley has an atmosphere like none of the others. Where Ullswater and Windermere are pretty and Derwentwater is grand, Wastwater has an air of the mysterious. On the far side from the road leading to the hamlet of Wasdale Head, the Screes tumble steeply down into the deepest of the Lake District’s lakes. The morning sun hardly touches that far side and so there is almost always shadow there, even when the sun is beating down on those who have stopped their cars to look across the water.
Then there are the highest of peaks surrounding the furthest end of the valley – Scafell Pike and Scafell – for those tempted by the heights.
You don’t need to climb high to enjoy the valley though. Shorter walks around the valley head lead around tortuously constructed and very ancient dry-stone-walls or up the stream-side paths that feed the lake.
At Wasdale Head, a fabulous pub, the Wasdale Head Inn is very welcoming, and there is a shop for outdoor gear and the needs of the campers at Wasdale Head campsite. There is also one of the smallest churches you will find, perfectly peaceful in the depths of the valley.
How to get to Wasdale
From the north, follow signs for the lovely little village of Gosforth and then signs for Wasdale.
For Satnav, use CA20 1EX
2. Eskdale, Muncaster Castle and La’al Ratty
Muncaster Castle has a great history, and the grounds are fabulous in late spring if you can catch the bluebells or the rhododendrons in bloom.
The castle is also home to the Hawk Conservancy Trust, who have a Hawk and Owl collection here and organise regular flying displays.
Muncaster Castle also has many special events through the year, so time your visit to suit: Muncaster What’s On.
The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway is a 7-mile-long narrow-gauge line with gorgeous views of the coast around the pretty little village of Ravenglass and then of the impressive Eskdale valley.
Click here for timetables and events (sometimes a Peppa Pig event!) on the affectionately named La’al Ratty railway.
The village of Ravenglass is tiny, but why not walk or drive down from the station and potter down to the shore?
Much of Eskdale is quite flat, and there are a number of walks that can be done around the valley. Another alternative is to use La’al Ratty in one direction, and walk back. Sally’s Cottages website has a description of the route.
How to get to Eskdale
The shortest route to drive to Eskdale from Ambleside and Windermere is via the impressive Hardknott Pass. Don’t forget to stop and look at the remains of Hardknott Roman fort part way down, and wonder at how and why the Romans might have built it just there.
Well worth exploring, just like the rest of Eskdale, Muncaster Castle and Ravenglass.
Satnav for Eskdale
Muncaster Castle: CA18 1RQ.
Ravenglass Station: CA18 1SW
Eskdale valley (specifically the top end of the La’al Ratty line) at Dalegarth station near Boot, CA19 1TF
3. Ennerdale Water, Loweswater and Crummock Water
The lakes of the western Lake District are the quietest of the National Park.
Ennerdale is tucked away in a quiet valley. Once derided for its intense forestry, the Ennerdale valley is in the process of being transformed by ‘re-wilding‘, with forestry gradually being replaced by broadleaf woodland, sheep numbers reduced, and the lake and shoreline made more friendly to fish-life and butterfles.
Loweswater is one of the smaller lakes of Lakeland. Parking is very limited, and the best place is usually the western end where there are a couple of laybys. From there you can walk down on footpaths through fields (this can be muddy) to join a lovely path through natural woodland along the southern shore.
There are deer and red squirrels in the woods, though they aren’t easy to spot!
Between Loweswater and Crummock Water is the very popular Kirkstile Inn. Well worth a stop, with good food and their own ales, and with quite a view over the closest fell, Melbreak, from their garden.
Melbreak makes quite a challenging climb. If you’re tempted, be very careful on the ridge climb which is steep and has some very loose rock in places. The view from the top is fabulous though.
Although Crummock Water adjoins the village of Buttermere, which can be very crowded in the summer, the lake can seem by comparison very peaceful. And it is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful of the Lake District’s lakes.
You can park in Buttermere and walk past the campsite to get to the eastern shore, or park in one of the laybys on the northern shore, or find the delightful half-mile walk from the National Trust car park on the Lorton to Loweswater road.
Buttermere village has two pubs and two cafés to choose from, each with their own speciality.
4. St Bees and the Beacon Museum, Whitehaven
The award-winning Beacon Museum in Whitehaven has a changing range of exhibitions, plus some ongoing displays. It is on the interesting harbour area of Whitehaven, re-built from its shipping times into a marina.
Further down the coast is St Bees, with its beach, Norman priory and a coastal walk over the cliffs to the lighthouse at St Bees Head and its bird colonies and views across to Scotland and the Isle of Man, depending on the weather.
This is also the start of the Wainwright Coast to Coast Walk to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire.
5. Maryport and the Solway
Maryport is somewhere I have recommended as a family day out on a wet day. It has an Aquarium and a Click and Climb facility.
For adults and children, there is Senhouse Roman Museum.
The museum has finds from the Roman fort site just behind the museum, which was part of an extension of forts down the coast from the end of Hadrian’s Wall at Carlisle.
On a dry day, you can also walk down to the coastline from the museum, along the seafront to the large harbour area. Maryport has seen more prosperous days, but is still an interesting town, particularly the harbour area.
If you have bikes, there is a flat off-road cycle path from Maryport parallel to the sea north Allonby. It is 10 miles, there and back.
So, those are my top 5 days out in West Cumbria and the Western Lake District.
Muncaster Castle gardens at bluebell time
Do you have your own ideas for days out in West Cumbria and the Western Lake District?