Western Lake District Adventure Holidays: Why West is Best

Jan 18, 2024 BY Mark Pawlak

Looking for real Cumbrian character, the best views, exciting activities and to escape the Lake District crowds? Then Western Lake District adventure holidays are what you are looking for. It’s with good reason, that the Lake District National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the British Isles.

*Updated in January 2024*

Western Lake District adventure holidays Why west is best Flickr CC image Scafell Pike by sagesolar

From some of the best hiking and biking in the country to unique extreme sports, and water sports to relaxing short breaks in the UK, the Lake District offers something for everyone. However, most visitors stay east or central so miss the top attractions the west has to offer.

Getting to the Western Lake District

If you are driving, to get west you will need to spend a little more time on the road. But an extra 45 minutes to an hour behind the wheel is more than worth it.

There is also easy access to the Western Lake District via the west coast rail route that runs to Barrow-in-Furness. You enter the valley soon after leaving Ravenglass station with ‘the lakes’ laid out before you.

Although there’s no public transport in Eskdale, there’s a narrow-gauge railway that runs the 7 miles from Ravenglass to Dalegarth. This takes you straight into the National Park and is a great base for western Lake District adventure holidays.

Western Lake District adventure holidays Why west is best Flickr CC image by Peter G Trimming

Originally built to move slate, it transports tourists into a valley that has under 200 residents. If you want a carriage put on for bikes just phone ahead and for a small charge the driver will oblige – same goes if you’ve got sheep to transport…

Geography of Western Lake District:

Interestingly, at different stages of history this region has been both a desert and sunken swamp. It has three strata of rock running through it creating the rugged scenery that makes western Lake District adventure holidays so much fun.

To the north you find the North Western Fells, which are more rounded slate hills, including the 852m peak of Grasmoor. To the south there’s softer Silurian rocks making the Furness Fells (aka Coniston Fells) where you’ll find more rounded sandstone and limestone peaks.

In between the two you’ll find the Southern Fells, which includes Scafell Pike England’s tallest mountain at 978m. Formed as a result of volcanic eruptions from 450 million years ago, it’s made from the toughest of rocks which have created jagged steep sided peaks.

Western Lake District adventure holidays Why west is best Flickr CC image of Wast water by Joe Hayhurst

Typical to the Lake District National Park are the u-shaped glacial valleys and deep lakes. However, the deepest, Wastwater, is not a lake.

Confused? Well, while appearing to be full of lakes, the Lake District only has one: Bassenthwaite Lake. The remainder are either waters or tarns, hence Wastwater, Derwent Water and Coniston Water (not Lake Coniston).

Western Lake District Adventure Holidays

With many peaks and numerous lakes (well waters and tarns) outdoor activities in the west are both varied and exciting. Here are some top activities to try during Western Lake District adventure holidays. If you need any gear for your adventures check out Trek Addict.

On Foot

Some of the best walking holidays in Britain can be found in the Western Lake District. From Dalegarth you are within reach of Scafell Pike. While it’s not the toughest hike, it still takes five or six hours, provides many great views and much satisfaction – standing on top of England is hard to beat.

Western Lake District adventure holidays Why west is best Flickr CC image hike to Scafell Pike by Indy

The Vale of Lorton in the northwestern corner of the Lake District is well worth a visit. As one of the quietest areas of the Lakes, you can trek around the peaceful waters of Loweswater, Crummock and Buttermere and climb the beautiful 852m high peak of Grassmoor.

For a really challenging trek take on ‘The Inn Way’. At 90 miles long it takes a week to ten days, it explores some of the more remote corners of the central and Western Lake District. You’ll walk through many of the Lake District’s deep sided valleys, follow lake shores and cross remote mountain passes.

In 2007 the Wasdale Screes above Wast Water was voted as the best view in Britain, making for some stunningly beautiful hikes. Wast Water is just 8 miles from the coast. So looking west you’re peering away from ‘the lakes’ towards the Isle of Man. But gazing back east you’re treated to the picture-perfect Lakeland scene below.

On Water

For a different perspective explore Wast Water in a kayak or canoe. During our visit, we canoed to the western-most edge of the water. Paddling as a pair for the first time we somehow managed to avoid going around in comedy circles, before stopping to gaze at the view.

Western Lake District adventure holidays Why west is best Flickr CC image of Wastwater by Joe Hayhurst

And we got the view we’d always wanted. Seriously, there are no superlatives subtle enough to describe it. Paddling back we watched the cloud base slowly rise above Great Gable, revealing the peaks, saddles and outcrops that converge at Wasdale Head.

On the steeper east side, scree slopes impose on the dark waters below. And as we yearned for lunch we spotted the consummate local hunter, a Peregrine Falcon (also seeking a snack), high above the jagged crest of Illgill Head.

Under Water

While the valley floor is at 200 feet above sea level, the real bottom of the valley is 260 feet (80m) further down. Wastwater is England’s deepest lake, and is a site written into local folklore after divers created a gnome garden on the lake bed.

Because diving to such a depth is hazardous, the local constabulary said the gnomes needed to be removed. So the Wastwater gnomes were placed a few feet deeper than Police divers can legally go…

Western Lake District adventure holidays Why west is best Flickr CC image from Wasdale screes by the_solitary_geoscientist

Why West is Best

It’s worth pointing out that Western Lake District adventure holidays don’t really represent the tourist experience of the wider Lakes. They offer a more refined, authentic, peaceful and private take on England’s favourite landscape. In my view this makes them a must-visit destination.

For accommodation try The Stanley Arms. Happily it offers regular transport up the valley to its pub, The Woolpack. And expect genuine customer service without the ‘have a nice day’ fakery that we are so often saturated with.

There are organised trips you fancy a Cumbria adventure holiday with a tour operator. If you prefer to plan it yourself then check out these activities and adventure experiences in the Lake District to self build your holiday.


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