Wasdale, recently voted Englands most beautiful view. well that gives a place something to live upto doesn't it?
At this point you probably expect me to say its not that good, well I'm sorry but it is that good. An unbeleivably stunning location tucked away far to the west of the Lake District, it is not the easiest place to get to but its worth the effort.
Wasdale is home to the giant of Lakeland, Scafell Pike (although you cannot see it from here) and the rest of the Scafell range. There are other famous peaks around wasdale to including Great Gable with its distinctive pudding basin peak and Yewbarrow above others.
To get here you drive down the obligatory winding lanes that give no clue to the view that is going to open up before your eyes.
When you first lay eyes on the open expanse of Wastwater your breath is taken away by the sheer natural grandeur before you. Across the lake is the famous scree slopes that drop right to the waters edge and a road that follows the lake shore to eventually deposit you at Wasdale Head with its Inn.
I have to admit that after descending from the summit of Scafell Pike I was eagerly anticipating a meal in the Pub, I am afraid to say I was sorely disappointed with the quality of the fare on offer, it was a let down although the beer was good. I know that a lot of other people have also felt let down by the food at the Inn, if the quality and choice was improved then the pub would be a lot better.
There is also a small camping/climbing supplies shop near the Pub but as you can imagine with a captive market it is very pricey.
All this does not detract though from what you will truly come here for and that is that view, it is simply magnificent.
Home of the countrys most beautiful view and I have to admit having visited this place I have to admit it is absolutely stunning!
To get to wasdale you have to head right to the west of the lakes and you feel like you are leaving all the stunning scenery behind, but a few more windy bends and the mmost magnificent view hits you, you drive right alongside the edg of wastwater (the deepest lake in england) and at the other side the huge 'screes' tumble magnificently to the waters edge.
Ahead of you, you will see towering peaks of Kirk Fell, Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Pillar soaring over Wastwater, to the right at the head of the lake is Lingmell and the Scafell Massif although you can't see Scafell Pike from here.
There is nothing much here apart from a pub (which does rubbish food) a shop and a campsite, but for stunning photos and fantastic walks, you can't beat it
Heard of it? Some people may have heard the name or read a bit about it, some people may have never heard of it and some people may well have been there. I was extremely fortunate to fall into the last category only just this weekend gone, August 5-8th 2005.
Having lived in the Coniston, Cumbria on two separate occasions as a sprightly young lad of 19, working the seasons in the Sun Hotel and the Yewdale, I managed to enjoy the fruits of the Lakes, often running up the hills between shifts and walking across the fells on my day off. In those days however, I did not drive, so my time was spent locally or within a bus daytrip from Coniston herself. Dont get me wrong, Coniston is a beautiful village come town, with more than enough to occupy both the occasional visitor and the hardened traveller, with her traditional values and modern tinge. However I digress, this review is on Wasdale, a hidden gem which deters all but the hardened explorer due to the accessibility problems you have to overcome to reach her.
Located in the West of the Lake District, Wasdale has one road in, one road out. This road is tight and two vehicles can not pass without stopping in convenient spaces made to overcome this problem. I met a library bus on my visit, and thankfully it was next to a farm gate which I used to allow the vehicle to inch past me. It was so close I nearly grabbed a visitors guide to the Lakes from its travel section. Mind you, choosing to take the E320 Merc up there instead of Sherrys KA was not the most sensible of ideas but the practicality of the free fuel and also the comfort won me over. Still, after negotiating a few twists, turns, blind bends and pot holes, through the trees that line the roads edge, I could make out a vast screen of rock fall that made the sides of Wast Water the eerie place she is.
Wast Water is Englands deepest lake, Englands coldest lake and Englands most isolated lake. When you eventually turn the last tree-obscured bend and catch the full view of the majesty that commands you attention, you realise how privileged you are to be in Wasdale. The journey is long and arduous to get here though, if you are staying in the Central Lakes, you need to go via the coast, which can be a 2 hour drive, or if you are naive, brave or just a complete lunatic then you can take the Langdale road through Wrynose and Hardknott pass, a road that will make you want to give up driving and walk. Trust me, when you get to a steep 1/3 bank with a hard turn to the left and no sign of where the road is as it veers off at an angle that defies gravity, then you will know that driving this way is not for the faint hearted. The sign that introduces this road tells you that it is not suitable for anything but cars and motorbikes. It also states in winter it is not suitable for either! Theres a clue. It still takes a good hour or so this way unless you drive like the devil himself.
Back to Wast Water!
As you pull alongside the lake, there are various places to stop the car and walk around her banks. Accessibility is only available to the West side of the lake with the East side being steep banks of stones and rubble (Scree) and although it has a small sheep path running close to the lakes edge, I would not risk the frequent rock falls that plague this lake. Parking is free but uneven and slightly boggy, even in the summer months, so be very careful where you plant your wheels and your feet assuming you never had your brand new Hi-Tec Hiking boots on when you jumped out the car.
The birdlife is pretty active with a few gulls hovering around looking for the elusive picnic sandwich left unattended and a few lesser salty birds shifting through the boggy heath for tasty morsels. Sheep roam freely but tend to stay a good 10ft or so from the car parks as a whole, but I dare say would run a mile if you tried to ridge that gap. The lambs are stronger this time of year and still have their cute (my wifes description, not mine!) looks. Again, dont try and approach them as their parents will abandon them if they smell of human.
The water of the lake is a very dark colour, tainted by the peat from the fells and her depth, Wastwater has an awesome appearance and also an eerie one when the weather turns. Stretching for almost 3 miles, she is not the longest lake, nor the widest at a half mile at best, but the sheer drop from those screes that stretch from Scafell to Whin Rigg make her the most fearsome of the lakes. You can look at pictures anywhere on the web, just type in Wastwater in google and see for yourself what I mean, but believe me, it does not prepare you for the physical sight that hits you in the face like a wet fish in a Mini advert, when you cast eyes on her raw, natural beauty for the very first time.
Moving along the West banks of Wastwater, you come to Wasdale, not quite a village but more a collection of a few farm houses, a large inn and one, if not the smallest church in England, St Olaths church, dating back to the Norse days I do believe.
The camp site is situated at the head of Wastwater and in amongst a flurry of trees for shelter. Basic amenities, no club house etc, but only a 10 minute walk to the Wasdale Head Inn, a Hotel/Bed & Breakfast stop off as well as an Inn famous for, amongst other things, The biggest liar in England competition! Now the pub itself is a mixture of modern and tradition, with some converted homesteads that they let out as self-contained flats for the evening or by the week. I thought the prices they charged were, like her surrounding hills, a bit steep. At a cost of £98 B&B for 2 people, I would rather have driven the distance from a much cheaper Whitehaven or Cockermouth, even Keswick and paid maybe half that price. However, you dont get to wake up to Scafell, Englands highest hill/mountain nor do you get to sit all night in the Inn and sip their home made stout without the fear of driving afterwards.
Did I mention the hills surrounding this place? The two words that spring to mind when you sit at the bottom contemplating your journey up any of the surrounding hills are simply My god! they are awesome. Great Gable lies at the head of Wasdale and looks like a giant upside down Tupperware salad bowl. Stretching some 899M above sea level, it is an incredible sight to behold. Cast your eyes to the right and the clouds cover the top of Scafell and Scafell Pikes, the two highest parts of the lakes, and only the foolish attempt to walk up those hills, and on cue, I am that fool. Leaving the valley, some 67M above sea level, and contemplating what you think will be a relatively challenging stroll to the top of the pikes, you just cant imagine what is install for you. After crossing the stream without soaking your boots, if you are lucky, a pathway that inspires the song Stairway to heaven faces you. Stops every two minutes to allow your screaming calf muscles to recover their sanity and your beating heart to calm, you carry on for what seems an eternity before you reach a relatively easy plateau about 600M up. Here you try and convince yourself it gets easier, but it does not. Now for those thinking of attempting the Wasdale giant, Scafell, there are easier routes, but when I say easier I mean still hard but not as crazily hard as this route is. So do not be put off by my perils, just learn from them. Eventually, after climbing up a steep embankment of loose stones through a narrow twisting passage, we came to the saddle between the Pikes and Scafell, where we collapsed into a snotty heap and consumed mars bars and bananas and other healthy things whilst thinking had we remained in the valley far bellow, we could have tucked into the homemade hot pot or stews offered by the welcoming Wasdale Inn. The final ascent of the journey was only 100m up a lesser gradient and this was done with ease before a 2 hour less hazardous trek was completed and we arrived at said pub for a pint of homemade Stout. I doubt I have ever earned a pint so much in my life.
I wish I had both more time and fitness so that I could have explored the peaks of Great Gable, Pillar, Kirk End and even stretch out to the Langdales if given half the chance, but alas time was not my greatest friend this weekend and a much easier Saturday was spent boating on Coniston Lake and exploring her copper mines and waterfalls.
As well as Wasdale Head, you can find accommodation at Nether Wasdale, Santon Bridge and Eskdale Green, all about 20 minutes drive from Wastwater. Slightly further are Gosforth and Seascale (Yes, the nuclear place!) both within a stones throw of the sea, but my advice would be to stay here for maybe one night and the rest of you holiday at Keswick or Ambleside.
This link here;
Gives you all the restaurants, Inns, hotels and BB s in the area as well as weather forecasts, walks and a lot of valuable info that you will need, especially if visiting out of season.
Top tip. It is essential that you take some items with you when walking in the hills and fells of the lakes. The weather is as changeable as the Labour partys agenda and can surprise the most hardened veteran of Cumbria.
Always take a rucksack. Not a small kiddies backpack, but a sizeable 50ltr or 75ltr one. Avoid cheap rucksacks as they rub and wear into you causing back pain and muscle ache. Ensure you have waterproof clothing in the rucksack, warm clothing to change into, a first aid kit, water, food, compass and map, couple of bin liners and a torch to name but a few items. It may seem over the top, but if you get caught out on the fells, you may find yourself faced with some very difficult situations and total disillusion as to where you are and how you get down. Better to be safe than sorry.
Wear hiking boots if possible, but a decent pair of walking shoes, trainers will suffice, although not give your ankles the same support. Take you litter home with you and do not feed the local wildlife as they have different diets to Kraft Cheese triangles and Cheesy Wotsits, would you believe?
Follow the country code, check the weather and listen to local advice. The lakes and Wasdale in particular are a fantastic place so enjoy yourself but be sensible.