29th January 2013The undiscovered lakes: Wastwater in winter

Perhaps Wastwater isn’t quite undiscovered, but it always amazes me how many people have visited the Lake District and not made time to admire it.

 Wastwater in winter

Beyond the breathtaking lake: From back left to right you can see Great Gable, Scafell Pike and Scafell looming.

Wastwater is England’s deepest lake, found in the Wasdale Valley, flanked by dramatic screes that have long been depicted in artwork and photography, and overlooked most famously by the Scafell range. For keen hikers, this area often favoured over any other part of the Lakes. Indeed, the most direct route up Scafell Pike begins at the Wasdale Head Inn – ‘the birthplace of British climbing’ – a drinking hole so intrinsically linked with the mountaineering world that you’ll find a specialist outdoor equipment shop right next door. So don’t panic if you forget your boots.

 Wastwater in winter

Wonderful Wasdale: To the left, you can see the Wasdale Head Inn and Barn Door Shop.

The wonderful thing about Wasdale is the ease of enjoying the views. The valley road leads right along the shores of Wastwater , via Santon Bridge to the south right to the Wasdale Head just north of the lake. With every wind in the road, the view alters slightly. Get out and walk, and you’ll be dumfounded.

Wastwater is not a watersports lake. In fact, most people find its dramatic appearance somewhat intimidating. No, this area is made special by the joyful walkers’ community at Wasdale Head, the otherworldly scenery and the fantastic walking. Even if you simply stroll on the shores as Giles and I did.

If you’re serious about pulling on your boots, challenging routes such as the Mosedale Horseshoe and of course Scafell Pike itself beckon. But both routes take planning and are for experienced hikers on fine days; Mountain Rescue will assure you of that. Another interesting and easier walk from Wasdale Head is to follow the ‘old corpse road’ connecting Wasdale to Eskdale. The eerie name comes from the times when the Wasdale Valley had no church of its own, so locals were transported along the track to Eskdale Church for burial. This route is the most manageable between Wasdale and Eskdale, leading from Wasdale Head to pass Burnmore Tarn and eventually arrive at several more pubs in Eskdale.

 Wastwater in winter

Early morning coffee: We camped at Wasdale Head campsite and took our morning coffee with us to watch the sun rise over snow on the peaks.

Stay in the area
There is a wealth of accommodation within reach of Wasdale, but staying right at the heart of the valley is a very memorable experience.

The Wasdale Head Inn – Birthplace of British Climbing
This popular pub has an intriguing history. In the 1800s, it was owned by Will Ritson – ‘The World’s Biggest Liar’ – hence the annual celebrations of fibbing held locally today. The Wasdale Head Inn is known as the birthplace of British climbing. Decades before the golden age of early British climbing, while the pub was mostly frequented by travellers and farmers, wealthy holidaymakers began to explore here. Samuel Coleridge is said to have scrambled up Scafell Pike with the Wasdale Head Inn as his resting place.  The pub has 9 rooms as well as self-catering accommodation, and after an evening in the Ritson Bar, you’re bound to leave with some interesting stories.

Wasdale Campsite (National Trust)
Open all year in a spectacular setting at the foot of the lake, this award-winning campsite couldn’t be better placed to explore the area. The camping area is free of cars and the site is very well kept – it’s one of my favourites in the Western Lake District.
Find details of the site at www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Lingmell House B&B
Managed by the Wasdale Head Inn, this idyllic former vicarage sits at the heart of the Wasdale Valley. Here you’ll find peace, quiet and no mobile reception to speak of. Bliss if you want to get away from it all.
Find out more via the Wasdale Head Inn website (www.wasdale.com)

Looking for luxury? Irton Hall
Irton Hall nestles between Wasdale and Eskdale in Holmrook and 5 miles from Wastwater. Dating back to the 14th century, the hall offers luxurious and spacious B&B rooms, with self-catering also available in the grounds.  

Whitehaven - the perfect day out
Millom & Black Combe

Brian Sherwen Photography

Many images on this website have been supplied to us by Brian Sherwen.