“ Address: Wasdale Hall / Wasdale / Seascale / Cumbria / CA20 1ET „
I was going to start this off with a bit of poetry for all you literary types, you know the stuff:
Wastwater, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth of thy majestic lake
And to the height of Scafell Pike, for goodness sake
My soul can reach thee when I'm feeling down
Or, when feeling out of sight, in my nightgown.
But Elizabeth Barrett Browning said it much better than me
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death."
In fact I feel the same way about Wastwater as Alfred Wainwright felt for his beloved Haystacks - where his ashes were scattered.
There are a goodly few reasons for this, I have to say, not least of which is the splendiferous Youth Hostel that stands on its shore.
So, lets get on with it shall we? Yes, too right!
So, how many ways do I love this place? I love its...
With it's own stretch of Wastwater, this is the closest you're ever going to get to a Lake in the Lakes. For us, with teenage children it was perfect. We could sit at the picnic table in the grounds and watch the kids playing by the water's edge, skimming stones and trying to throw one another in, but obviously those with younger little darlings will need their wits about them. It is important to remember that this is the deepest (and probably coldest) of all the Lakes.
This hostel undoubtedly takes the prize for the best YHA Building in the Lakes, if not the entire universe in my mind. I am a Tudor fanatic and anything looking remotely Tudor does it for me. It isn't actually Tudor, if truth be known, but it does look fantastic. Owned by the National Trust and managed by the YHA, Wasdale Hall as it's also called, was built around 1829 and still retains many of its original features including the servants' entrance, which I had to think twice about not using - I was on holiday after all.
With a majestic staircase, wood panelled dining room and vaulted cellar, the building is just as interesting inside as it looks from the lakeside.
If you've read any of my other YHA reviews you'll realise by now that this institution really thinks about feeding its guests, and feeding them well! With hearty breakfasts, tremendous packed lunches big enough to tackle Scafell Pike singlehandedly and restaurant quality evening meals this particular establishment also takes an award for best food.
Our breakfast was buffet style and we had the choice of breads, croissants, pastries, cereals, yoghurts, melon, and fresh fruit and juice. There was also a cheese selection, ham and salami, local butcher's sausage, boiled egg and beans all finished off with toast with toppings and endless cups of fair trade tea or coffee. And for less than a fiver to boot.
Picnic lunches, from about £4.00, are in two sizes of either five or seven items. Flapjack here was the best I've tasted - but whether this was because I was atop of England's highest mountain when I ate it I don't know.
If you have special dietary requirements, the wardens will do everything they can to cater for them, with enough notice that is. Don't ask for caviar though, that won't go down too well!
Evening meals are served between 6 and 8pm, with restaurant service. Everything we ate was delicious and the views from the dining room compete fiercely with that of Buttermere I have to say. Prices are similar to other hostels - you can easily have a three course meal for £11 although drinks would be extra of course.
Fair trade and organic wines feature on the wine list and from £8 were very reasonably priced and not a hint of vinegar. Local beers and spirits are also available. We never saw any ghosts though!
The hostel caters for 50 intrepid travellers in 6 rooms on the first floor of the building. There are
2 rooms with 4 beds
1 room with 6 beds
1 room with 8 beds
2 rooms with more than 10 beds
You know, as you climb the broad, thickly carpeted staircase, that your room is going to be of a high standard as hostels go. I remember feeling a little flutter of excitement as we went up to our room after checking in. I wasn't disappointed either. Each room has its own mountain name and a beautifully panelled wooden door.
Inside, our room for 6 had three bunks with individual reading lights, storage, a sink, shaver point and an electrical socket - the girls cheered at this point as taking the straighteners all that way without one would have been a disaster!
We stayed in May and although it was warm during the day, the nights were cool so we were glad of the central heating.
This hostel also takes the prize for best soundproofed rooms - no noise to be heard from anyone after 11pm. Wow! Maybe it was the thick walls that did it.
Below stairs, there is a vaulted cellar where a pool table lures you into a quick, friendly game. And, if you're anything like us this ends up being anything but quick or friendly. In fact, the competitive edge in all of us sneaks out where pool is concerned, especially when my husband believes his middle name is hurricane, whirlwind or strong gale at least.
There is a drying room at Wastwater, but alas, alack no automatic washing machine I'm afraid. There's just enough to help you dry your wet stuff out before the next day and that does the job. Boot racks are sufficient for the 50 possible visitors and there are enough hanging rails as well.
This was a sunny room at the front of the house with a vast array of equipment within. I admire anyone who can tackle their own cooking after a long, tiring walk and there were plenty people to admire when we stayed. I would say the balance was about 50/50 for catering/self catering in May. You can eat in the members' kitchen or bring your food into the dining room if it's not too busy. Better still, eat at a picnic bench outside!
Another sunny room, this time one where you can enjoy a quiet game of cards, read or plan the walk for tomorrow. We didn't use this room much but it was busy. It was also tastefully decorated, warm and welcoming.
I never saw a TV at the hostel. Hurray! Another thing that I love about it.
These were in demand as there weren't too many of them. Lucky for us our room was right next to a toilet and shower, so we kind of queued from the door as a result of exhaustion more than anything else. No complaints about these facilities at all. The kids might have said there were a few more midges than they would have liked, but that's on account of a Lake being in the front garden and a wood in the back.
We stayed over the May Day Bank Holiday last year and we paid £80 per night for a room for 6, room only. This works out at less than £14 each for a group of 6. Currently the prices are £13.95 for adults and £10.50 for under 18s. This is relatively cheap as hostels go, mainly because of the difficulty you have in reaching it.
Is there anything else I love about this place?
I certainly loved walking down the stairs rather than up them, especially after climbing Scafell Pike! But apart from that, I think I've pretty much covered it.
+++How do you find this little gem? +++
The printed instructions given by the hostel are incredibly complicated and we found them just as complicated in practice.
The best option I can give you is to research the route carefully online and have a clear plan. Make sure you have breakdown cover, because you are going to be miles away from anywhere and also try to make your journey in daylight. This is in the depths of darkness at night and it's even further from civilization (on some parts of the journey) than the one to Buttermere.
I don't want to put anyone off, you just have to err on the side of caution.
For the adrenaline junkies travelling from the central lakes you can test drive your car over the Wrynose and Hardnott passes to Eskdale Green. These are steeply dramatic roads in places and ones that might scare the pants off the anxious travellers amongst us. This route is often impassable in winter and very crowded in summer.
The hostel website gives this transport information:
How do you get to this Youth Hostel:
From south follow A590 to Greenodd, then A595 to Broughton in Furness then Nether Wasdale. From North take the A595 from Whitehaven, at Gosforth. turn off for Nether Wasdale.
Stagecoach X6 Whitehaven - Ravenglass (passes Seascale & Ravenglass stations), alight Gosforth, 5 miles, then walk or Taxi. Gosforth Taxis 019467 25308. Taxibus service on Thurs, Sat & Sun must be booked by 6.00pm previous day.
Seascale Station (not Sun) 8 miles. Irton Rd (Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway) 5 miles.
Ordnance Survey Map Number: OS89 or OL6
Grid Reference: 145045
Tel: 0845 371 9350
Fax no: (+44) 19467 26056
For those with the wanderlust, other hostels are a good day's walk away as follows.
Eskdale 6 Miles
Black Sail 7 Miles
Honister Hause 8 Miles
Borrowdale 9 Miles
You have to bear in mind that these are not flat miles and in the case of Borrowdale, if you want to take in Scafell Pike en-route you also have the climb and descent to consider. These 9 miles are probably worth about 15 on the flat, but what glorious miles they are!
I hope that my love of Wastwater, and Wasdale Hall has managed to rub off and has given you somewhere to consider for a walking trip, a family get together or to just go see the highest mountain in England and climb it if you're up for it! It's worth every step and if a bunch of toddlers that I saw doing it can complete it, you can!
For more info on Wasdale Hall see http://www.yha.org.uk
For more info on Wastwater itself see http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/wastwtr.htm
For info on Scafell from Wasdale see http://www.trekkingbritain.com/scafellpikefromwasdale.htm
For the best mountaineers pub see http://www.wasdaleheadinn.co.uk/
The house dates back to 1829 and the grounds extend to the shores of Lake Wastwater, Englands deepest lake.