Britain's Favourite View

Lakeside and woodland paths lead to Britain’s favourite view.

NEAREST LOCATION

Nether Wasdale

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

2 miles (3.2kms)

ASCENT
98ft (30m)
TIME
1hr 30min
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Medium
STARTING POINT
NY148048

About the walk

Background

TV reality shows rarely surprise anyone anymore, but in 2007, when the nation backed Coronation Street’s Sally Whittaker’s choice of Wastwater as Britain’s favourite view, more than a few people said ‘where?’ Because Wastwater, despite its credentials as England’s deepest lake (258ft/79m), overlooked by its highest hill, Scafell Pike (3208ft/978m), is still quite a remote spot, hard to reach from the Lake District’s honeypots by any other means than walking over Sty Head or Black Sail. It’s well over an hour by car from Windermere, and that’s barely 30 miles (48km) away.

Cosmopolitan Place

Wasdale wasn’t always this remote. In the days when a sailing ship was the fastest means of getting anywhere, the dale’s position, opening out on to the fertile coastal plain of West Cumbria, was really quite beneficial. The lower valley, beyond the lake, is known as Nether Wasdale. Many farms here prospered in the 18th century in a way unimagined by those deeper into the fells. They had threshing machines and grew turnips and pedigree pigs when the fell sheep farmers were still using methods unchanged since the time they were run by great medieval monasteries. Slate, copper and wool from the Lakeland fells all passed this way on horseback, on the way to the bustling new port at Whitehaven. In the opposite direction went ginger and cinnamon, sugar and tobacco from the West Indies. It’s hard to imagine, but this must have been a relatively cosmopolitan place. In 1832 Rawson Stansfield, a wealthy banker from Halifax bought land at Daker End and Low Wood, by the mouth of Wastwater. By 1839 he had settled in his newly built mock-Tudor style Wasdale Hall and set about the valley doing good works.

Vantage Point

But so far from the booming tourist crowds, little else changed in this quiet backwater. The National Trust secured Wasdale Hall and Low Wood in 1959, finally giving the rest of us access to that view from its best vantage point, down by the shore just a few hundred paces from Stansfield’s front door. The Hall is now a youth hostel, but electricity didn’t arrive in the upper valley until 1978, so the pace of life has not really quickened. Ironically for the valley of the favourite view, many who pass this way today do so in the middle of the night, on their way to rush up Scafell Pike as a second leg in a Three Peaks challenge. If only they lingered longer they might appreciate that view a little more.

Walk directions

From your parking area, walk west along the lake road, heading for a cattle grid at a bend. Continue with care for about 200yds (183m) and take a footpath signed up to the right. A broad track leads up amid woods. The remains of a walled garden appear on the right and beyond this the track becomes a little rougher.

At a ladder stile you emerge from the walled path to bear left on a grassy path across more open country. Meandering through the bog cotton and over a little bridge, you soon pick up a more substantial bridleway coming in from Greendale. This wider track continues across the access land at Ashness How, descending to a gate and stile beneath a gentle ramp of crag. Beyond this, continue along a fenced corridor until you reach a footpath waymarker.

Turn left, with the direction for Woodhow, and pass though a gate. The path swings round to the right, passing the secretive waters of Woodhow Tarn (not accessible). Beyond the next gate bear left up the track towards Woodhow Farm. Approaching the farm, heed the diversion signs that take you over an adjacent bluff and deliver you at the farm gate, back on the road.

Cross and turn left for a few paces to a footpath sign and gate on the right. Go through this and down the field beyond, descending to the River Irt and a gate leading onto a riverside path. Stay on this path as it enters Low Wood and reaches the Lund Bridge.

Don’t cross the bridge, but stay by the riverside, going through the kissing gate and into the woods. Stay with the lower path and as you round the bend you’ll see a weir across the river. The water now becomes calmer and begins to open out into the lake, and there is a barn on the opposite bank. Continue round a little headland and beyond a boathouse you’ll find yourself on the lakeshore proper. A terraced track skirts the shore and woods with the best views up the valley. Through a gate you enter the parkland around Wasdale Hall (now a youth hostel).

Several more gates follow and you dive back into the rhododendrons opposite a little island and take a short flight of rocky steps leading upto a ladder stile. Turn left, and the road is just a few paces further on. Turn right to return to the parking areas by the shore.

Additional information

Road, grassy paths and tracks, some potentially boggy, 4 stiles

Woods, fields and lakeside

Fields grazed by sheep, but after Lund Bridge you should be fine

OS Explorer OL6 The English Lakes (SW)

Roadside parking by the lake between the Greendale turn and a cattle grid

None on route, nearest in Wasdale Head (3 miles/4.8km)

Been on this walk?

Send us photos or a comment about this route.

Know a good walk?

Share your route with us.

Walking in safety

Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.

Find out more

About the area

Discover