BEAUTIFUL Eskdale offers great opportunities for walking at all levels, writes JOHN EDMONDSON. This walk combines a stroll along the valley followed by short ascents to Eel Tarn and Blea Tarn. It shows a glimpse of the sort of terrain that longer fell walks involve. There are several opportunities to shorten the walk.

Park in the free Lake District National Park Trough House Bridge car park: access via a lane opposite Dalegarth Village Hall. Grid reference NY 171 002 near postcode CA19 1TF.


Distance: 7 miles and 1,600 feet of ascent

Time: 3-4 hours

Terrain: tracks and fell paths

Map: OS Explorer OL6


1 Turn left out of the car park onto the track signed Low Ground via Stanley Ghyll Force. Keep left past Dalegarth Hall (built in 1599) and at a crossing of paths turn left onto the path signed Gill Force. Contrary to the signs, the distance to Doctor Bridge from here is 1.5 miles. Cross the footbridge in woodland. After crossing a ford turn left and walk beside the beck to meet the River Esk opposite the 12th century St Catherine’s Church. Turn right and walk along the riverbank to Gill Force, which is an attractive stretch of fast flowing river. Turn right to meet the bridleway in 50 yards and turn left. Follow the track to Doctor Bridge, passing to the left of Low Birker Farm and continuing across the bridge. For a level, three mile walk turn left and return to St Catherine’s church on the other side of the river. Otherwise, continue to the road and and turn right.

2 Immediately before the Woolpack Inn turn left onto the path signed Burnamoor and Wasdale Head. Follow the uphill path going beside a wall on the left to a roofless stone building. Keep right, cross a boggy area (over stones) to go around the right of a small hill to Eel Tarn. Walk to the end of the tarn and keep left of the beck to meet a main path. A ramble to Scafell Pike, which is five miles north of here, would require a further 3,500 feet of ascent - another day perhaps. Turn left and follow the walled path past Gill Bank farm. Go through a gate on the right, signed Gill Bank and Boot then left down the tarmacked lane to Boot. Turn right, cross the 17th century packhorse bridge over Whillan Beck, pass the mill (currently undergoing restoration) and go through a gate. To shorten the walk with no further ascent turn left and follow the course of the old railway to Beckfoot Bridge.

3 To visit Blea Tarn bear right onto the bridleway signed Wasdale and Mitredale. Stay on the main uphill track and pass six or more stone buildings (some in ruin). This area was the site of Nab Gill iron ore mine, for which the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (“Ratty”) was built. Follow the old grassy track that swings left, ascends gently to a cairn then descends through a gully to Blea Tarn. Before descending, walk to the top of Bleatarn Hill on the right for a splendid overview of the tarn. This is one of three Blea Tarns in the Lake District. Walk to the end of the tarn and turn left around crags. A splendid view of Eskdale and Hardknott Pass suddenly appears. Follow the zigzag path down to Beckfoot, cross the Ratty railway track and turn left onto the road. After 300 yards turn right opposite the village hall and beside the war memorial onto the lane leading back to the car park.

Next week: around Gowbarrow from Aira Force

NB: restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.