Places I love, Issue 2: Wastwater, Cumbria

Wastwater is the deepest lake in the UK. It is fringed by the highest mountain in England, Sca Fell Pike, and a numerous smaller peaks such as Great Gable. The entire southern shore is a scree slope falling below Illgill Head. There is a YHA hostel at the west end of the lake and this is the reason I have Wastwater in this series.

Wastwater from Great Gable, YHA in the distant woodland, scree on the left:

Wastwater from Great Gable

We visited the Lake District a few times in my childhood and always stayed at the YHA Wasdale Hall hostel for at least a few nights. It’s a charming nineteenth century building nestled in a wooded area near the lake shore. The family rooms, as I remember them, were comfy and large. The basement had a pool table and a table tennis table to keep you busy on rainy days. We spent many happy hours in this place but it’s the surrounding area that draws the visitors, not the amenities of the hostel.

The walk to the pub at Wasdale Head is about 4 miles and from here the greatest peak in England is a stone’s throw away. Scafell Pike is why most people come to this glorious part of the Lake District, it’s a fairly easy walk to the top and takes a couple of hours if you avoid a scree-slope scramble below the summit. I think I first conquered this mountain aged about nine years old so it’s easy enough for almost anyone to do. There are some beautiful views back over the lake on your way up and from the top, if you’re lucky enough to have avoided a cloudy day, you can see across the whole region. Bask in its glory. Other lovely local walks are the one over the top of Illgill Head and down into Wasdale Head or even along the lake shore, scrambling over the scree boulders. It’s a lot of fun around here!

As a child Wasdale Head and the Wasdale Inn were a great source of amusement. Me and my brother would try to damn the small cold stream that ran alongside the pub whilst my parents sipped drinks on wooden picnic tables in the beer garden. Theakston’s Old Peculier was my dad’s tipple if I remember correctly. I don’t remember very much rain in these times, just a lot of sun and some endless days of walking. Sometimes it was too much for me and I wasn’t into it, most days I was though. These days were some of my favourites from my youth.

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