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Quick Guide to the West Lakes
Western Lakeland is a land of vivid and exciting contrasts, lying between the mountains and the sea. Inland are four main valleys, each with their own distinct character, leading from the coast into the heart of the Lake District: Ennerdale, Eskdale, Wasdale and Dunnerdale. Both Wastwater and Ennerdale lakes have no through roads – so offer a far more peaceful visit than the other lakes. They also have some of the most dramatic mountainous landscape in the National Park.
There is nothing like the amount of holiday accommodation in this area as is found in the North and South Lakes but there is still a decent choice of b&b’s, guesthouses, self catering cottages, campsites and wonderful Lakeland Inns. A few of the places to stay are found in Eskdale, the valley running from Gosforth on the West coast, through to the foot of Hard Knott pass, and containing the small villages of Santon Bridge, Boot and Eskdale Green. This is a wilder, more undiscovered part of Lakeland and is highly regarded by those who love the high peaks and the quieter places. From Boot in Eskdale is the famous Hard Knott Pass – a steep narrow mountain pass to Ambleside, passing the well preserved Roman Fort at Hardknott.
Wasdale is the home of England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike (3206 ft) and the deepest lake, Wastwater. The lake is possibly the most awe-inspiring of all of Cumbria’s lakes, surrounded by high peaks and bounded on one side by the famous “Screes” plunging from almost 200 feet deep into the water. Wastwater, 3 miles long, 260 feet deep, and described by Wordsworth as “long, stern and desolate”, is so austere in its beauty that it can be quite disturbing, even frightening, in the emotions it can rouse. The no through road on only one side of Wastwater offers dramatic views of the Screes, and England’s ‘finest view’ of Great Gable and Scafell.
Ennerdale Water is a deep glacial lake, about 2.5 miles long, with crystal clear water and some good forest walks around part of its perimeter. No road runs along the lake so a 3 hour walk around Ennerdale is beautifully peaceful and scenic. The closest village to the lake is Ennerdale Bridge, a popular stopping off place on the Coast to Coast route, with two pubs and a village shop.
At Ravenglass, a small coastal village to the south, is Muncaster Castle now famous for its gardens and its Owl Centre. From Ravenglass a small gauge railway, The Ratty, takes you on a scenic trip through the dramatic landscape of Eskdale to Dalegarth, near Boot. From here are walks to dramatic waterfalls and an ancient working mill.
The coastal towns of Maryport, Workington and Whitehaven are within minutes of complete peace and tranquility. Maryport and Whitehaven both have traditional fishing harbours well worth visiting, and both have marinas for privately owned boats. South of Whitehaven are the coastal towns of St Bees, Seascale and Ravenglass, most having good sandy beaches.
Maryport is a small, pretty fishing port almost entirely untouched by tourism despite its proximity to the Lakes and 4 good attractions: the Lake District Coast Aquarium on the quay, the Roman Senhouse Museum, the Maritime Museum and the West Coast Karting Centre. North of Maryport are the holiday villages of Allonby and Silloth.