Surrounded by England's highest peaks including Scafell Pike (977m), Great Gable (899m), Kirk Fell (802m) and Pillar (892m), Wasdale has an amazing range of mountain walking. However, don't be fooled that it's all hard summit bashing stuff, as the paths around the valley deliver just as much drama and even reveal an extra bonus secret for those who take time to explore them. This route takes a tour of the twin valleys that split at Wasdale Head. Along the way it visits intimate river banks, treads ancient packhorse tracks and grabs views of secretive waterfalls. The walk can be cut short or extended at a number of points making it family friendly.
Tour of Wasdale Head
Start/Finish: National Trust Car Park, GR NY182074
Distance: 8.4km (5.2 miles)
Time: 4-5 hours
Height Gain: 190 metres
Bridleways, narrow riverside paths, lanes, farm access track, old packhorse track and rough valley bottom paths.
OS Landranger 90, OS Explorer OL6, Harvey's Super Walker Lakeland Western (1:25,000), British Mountain Maps Lake District (1:40,000).
Join the bridleway on the eastern side of the National Trust Campsite and follow it to Lingmell Beck. Do not cross the beck, instead follow the narrow riverside path along the bank then between the wall and the bank to a footbridge. Cross the bridge and follow the grassy path north west to join the valley road.
Turn right and follow the road for 100 metres to a track on the right. Turn onto the track and follow it to Burnthwaite. Along the way you pass St. Olaf's Church, believed to date from circa 1550. It's a fascinating place to visit and well worth a detour - look out for the Fell and Rock Climbing Club Great War Memorial window.
From Burnthwaite, for those with excessive energy, an out and back ascent to Sty Head Pass can be made by following either the high or low level bridleways across the southern slopes of Great Gable (adds an extra 2 hours). To continue the normal route turn left at Burnthwaite Farm and follow the rough bridleway west back towards Wasdale Head.
Just before Wasdale Head is reached the bridleway splits, turn right and take the Mosedale Bridleway. Follow it for 1.2km until a vague path splits off left at a large cairn. The path heads through a wall then swings west and crosses Mosedale Beck to reach the distinctly marked Y Boulder.
Head south east along the rough path that leads past Ritson's Force to Wasdale Head. Don't cross the footbridge unless you want to visit the Inn, instead head south along the rough footpath beside the beck to join the valley road. Turn right onto it and follow it south back to the car park.
Why not take the bus or train to Wasdale during the summer, find out more with the Visit Wasdale timetable on the National Trust website.
Take a tent to Wasdale Campsite and make a weekend of it by exploring England's deepest and purest lake, a 1,200 year-old dry stone wall, as well as England's smallest church, St. Olaf's - all within walking distance of the famous Wasdale Head Inn.