The Lake District is, in my biased opinion, undoubtedly the most beautiful place in Britain. Soaring peaks, endless greenery, mirror-smooth lakes, wonderful wildlife, scary screes, romantic poetry, ancient history, country pubs and half a million sheep. There’s also no question that lots of people agree, and many of them can be spotted hunting for parking spaces in Windermere on a Saturday afternoon throughout the year, especially in summer.

Those in the know head for the quieter, western parts of the Lakes, where the scenery often tops the better-known areas and you’ve every chance of having a mountain-top or lakeside picnic spot all to yourself. The curious thing is that the less-populated valleys needn’t have fewer facilities, as the pub-per-person ratio remains curiously high. This, I’d like to think, tells you plenty about the locals’ congenial disposition, not to mention their love of real ale and hearty local food. There are plenty of self catering lake district cottages available for everyone as well.

The other thing the western valleys have in common is better weather. The Lake District is well-known for its showers – the lakes have to come from somewhere – but the western areas have fewer heavy downpours and are very often warmer than the rest of the national park. It’s not uncommon in late spring to see snow on distant fells, whilst you’re shedding layers on the valley floor below.

So – have I convinced you to head over to the Duddon Valley, Ennerdale, Wasdale and Eskdale?

The Duddon Valley is in the far south-west of the county, accessible from Broughton-in-Furness on the coast or by following Wordsworth’s steps from Wrynose Pass to Cockley Beck at the head of the valley. Wordsworth wrote no less than 34 sonnets about the Duddon Valley.

‘Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide,’ he said, contemplating the stately pace of the River Duddon.

Local people recall with fondness childhood summers spent jumping off Ulpha Bridge into the River Duddon, whilst their parents picnicked on the river bank. There are lots of footpaths throughout the valley, but those near the valley foot are very gentle, level and still beautiful; just right for families and people who walk for relaxation rather than exercise.

Further into the Duddon Valley, you can walk to Wallowbarrow Crag, where the river rushes through a gorge, or up to Birk’s Bridge, stretched dramatically over a 20-foot chasm. Seathwaite Tarn is a great place to relax with little chance of running into fellow walkers. The views over the woods, river and fells are spectacular, and there’s a good chance of spotting red squirrels and buzzards.

You may not have heard of Ennerdale, and that’s because the small number of roads make it the least-visited part of the Lake District. It’s our last great sanctuary for committed climbers, scramblers, riders and walkers; there’s just one small village, and the road stops at Bowness Knott at the lake’s edge.

Ennerdale Water is the only lake not to have a tarmaced road running along its shores, but the valley does have 30 miles of public rights of way including 14 miles of exquisite forest paths. Here, walkers, riders and mountain bike enthusiasts can park up at Bowness Knott, put their sandwiches in their backpacks, and head out into miles of wild lakes scenery.

Climbers will know of Ennerdale for one reason: Pillar Rock. The rugged north face of Pillar mountain has been a proving-ground for climbers for a hundred years, with super climbs at most grades right up to the plainly-named, ‘Hard Severe’. Despite its fame, the remote location and reputation of Pillar means that it’s never crowded, and you can often enjoy your battle with nature in perfect solitude.

Wasdale is a place of extremes. The valley opens gently at Nether Wasdale, with views of open farmland and forestry plantations. A mile and a half further on, the scenery changes dramatically as Wastwater, the country’s deepest lake, and the high fells that surround it, come into view. Mountainsides seem to plunge straight into the lake; bare screes contrasting with the calm, steely waters. At the head of the lake is Great Gable and Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain.

Wasdale claims another record with a candidate for England’s smallest church, at the hamlet of Wasdale Head. St. Olaf’s is a tiny place just big enough for the small local population, set picturesquely in an old yew grove, with ancient beams said to have come from Viking ships.

The Wasdale Head Inn is the place to set off on some of the most strenuous walks in the country, up into the Scafells and beyond. This is very much the place to be if you need to get-away-from-it-all. If mobile phones and reality TV have been driving you crazy, come right here; there’s very little reception for either.

Eskdale is a truly beautiful valley, with a varied terrain which suits the relaxation-seeker and committed adventurer alike. In fact, if you really want to see spectacular scenery the very easy way, hop on the steam train at the foot of the valley in Ravenglass, and let it chauffeur you through seven miles of woodland, gentle fields and river views, set against the backdrop of the highest mountains in the country.

There are lots of footpaths in the valley, many of them low level riverside walks. You can paddle in the river, cross stepping stones and picnic at leisure, with few other visitors around. The more adventurous will head up the valley, perhaps to the steep, wooded ravine to the 60-foot falls at Dalegarth Force, or take the path east of the Doctor Bridge to the extreme heights of the Roman fort at Hardknott Pass.

Eskdale’s most stunning and strenuous activity is the ‘Woolpack round’, a 16-mile walk topping the Scafells. This day-long trek is not for the fainthearted, but rewards the fit with spectacular views of all the best that the Lake District has to offer, with the highest and craggiest peaks, distant glittering lakes and green valleys heading to the sea. There are plenty of holiday cottages in the lake district in these areas too. It’d be crazy not to try them. Just follow the link.

By yanam49

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