The Eskdale Valley

The Eskdale Valley

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A view of Esk Pike and Bowfell from the head of Langdale

Church House is situated in Boot, Eskdale, one of the most beautiful valleys in the Lake District. On the quieter side of the National Park, Eskdale has a peaceful tranquillity that makes it especially appealing to those who want to avoid the crowds. Wainwright wrote of it, "the loveliest of all the Lakeland valleys". It is also the valley where owner Didy Morgan spent her childhood holidays.

At the upper end of Eskdale is one of the Lake District's best-kept secrets, Great Moss, a stunning open valley surrounded by some of the highest peaks in England; Scafell Pike, Esk Hause and Bowfell.

The valley of Eskdale begins via Hard Knott Pass, a steep mountain road that is one of the most challenging drives in the Lakes. At the top of the valley is an old Roman fort built between AD120 and AD138, which is open to visitors. There are spectacular views from there right down to the Irish Sea and the old fishing village of Ravenglass, where there is a ruined Roman bath-house. Nearby is Muncaster Castle, Gardens and Owl Centre, with lots for children to do all year round.

The bubbling River Esk runs right through Eskdale, flowing to the estuary at Ravenglass. The river has super, natural pools for swimming, especially at Trough House Bridge and Forge Bridge. Popular with canoeists and those who like to fish, the Esk was the favourite river of the famous fisherman Hugh Falkus for its pure, unpolluted, challenging fishing; unrivalled waters in England for wild salmon and sea trout.

Between Church House and the river is St Catherine's Church (300m away), which dates back to the 12th century. By the river at the side of the church, you'll find the 'stepping stones'. These huge stepping stones were placed there to aid the crossing of the river, probably in the 18th century. Great fun to cross, especially in Crocs in the summer – wet feet beware! A short walk from there is the Stanley Ghyll Force; a magnificent 60ft waterfall that plunges into a deep pool below – very impressive to visit.

In the hamlet of Boot, there is a working water mill dating back to 1578, open to visitors, along with its eccentric little museum.

Muncaster Castle

Eskdale itself was greatly influenced by Lord Rea in the 19th century. He was a hugely successful Liverpool coal and shipping magnate, who built the very impressive Gatehouse – now a thriving Outward Bound centre. Lord Rea had many houses and Estate cottages built in the local hard pink granite, flanked and mullioned by attractive red sandstone from the nearby St Bees. He had his own extensive ornamental Japanese gardens formed on the bank above his grand house, which have been painstakingly restored and are free to wander around all year. Enter them up Giggle Alley, just by the small car park and public conveniences in Eskdale Green.

His contribution to the valley is easy to appreciate and enjoy now by looking at the many quality built Estate structures. One of these is now the Discover Eskdale centre in St Bega's Church, just 100m from the Eskdale village car park, which looks at the life, times and landscape of the valley through the ages. Opposite here you can also stock up on provisions from the superbly run village shop.

The famous Ravenglass & Eskdale Miniature Railway, known locally as the Ratty, runs along the valley, its steam trains making the leisurely seven-mile journey down to the sea through some fantastic Lake District scenery. This is a must for a holiday visit, the end of the line being only half a mile away from Church House at Dalegarth Station.

The recently opened Eskdale Cycle Trail, leaving from the front door of Church House, turning right down Parson's Passage just before St Cathryn's Church is a most enjoyable day. It covers eight miles along the river on your own bikes or you can hire them from Shepherds Views in Holmrook - 01946 729 907. The trail takes you to Ravenglass, then the Ratty brings you back! It is best to book the bikes onto a train with 24 hours notice if possible.

The walking from Church House is unparalleled with some of the best in the Lake District. You can hike from the valley bottom to the summit of the highest peak in England, walk over the high fells, or trace the sinister old coffin route to Wasdale. All walks can be started from the front door of Church House.

Eskdale Golf Course is seven miles away and has an 18 hole golf course and stocked fishing pools in a stunning location. The course is located off the A595 just south of Muncaster Castle. For further information and to inquire about bookings, please call 01229 717 680.

Eskdale isn't just about outdoor activities. There are three pubs within easy walking distance of Church House, five altogether in Eskdale. All welcome children and serve real ales and good food. In Upper Eskdale you will find the Woolpack Inn, with its own microbrewery, featured in the Good Beer Guide 2008, Boot has the Boot Inn with a restaurant as well as a bar, and Brook House Inn, which was awarded 4 stars from the AA and a RAC Dining Award. Further down the valley is the George IV, with over 200 malt whiskies. And in Eskdale village, you'll find the Bower House Inn, next to the village cricket ground and set in beautiful gardens. There is public wi-fi access at Brook House and the Bower House. The three pubs around Boot also run the Boot Beer Festival in Eskdale in June.

There is also the annual Eskdale Show which combines sheep showing with Cumberland wrestling, a fell race and lots of children's activities.

La'al Ratty

Wast Water with Great Gable, Lingmel and Scafell Pike


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