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A pleasant rural ride with a short option and a magnificent scenic finale.
Minimum time 2h00
Distance 11.25 miles (18.1km)
Suggested map OS Explorer OL 6 The English Lakes (SW)
Start/finish by Wast Water, roadside parking at Greendale; grid ref: NY 144057
Trails/tracks lanes; longer route has a short section of grassy bridleway
Landscape wooded farmland then open fellside with view of lake and high fells
Public toilets Gosforth
Tourist information Ravenglass, tel 01229 717278; Sellafield, tel 019467 76510
Bike hire Ainfield Cycle Centre, Cleator, tel 01946 812427; Mark Taylor Cycles, Whitehaven, tel 01946 692252
Recommended pub The Screes Inn, Nether Wasdale, see Point 5 on route
Notes children 8+. Longer loop, suitability: children 11+
© Automobile Association 2008. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
Head east from Gosforth, pass a car park, then keep left on the Wasdale road. Follow this for 3 miles (4.8km) then keep left, signed to Wasdale Head for 2.5 miles (4km). Park in a grassy area on the left just past Greendale.
1 Head west along the road towards Gosforth, climbing slightly and passing close under the craggy slopes of Buckbarrow. Climb a little more and then descend to a junction.
2 For the shorter loop, go left here, signed for Nether Wasdale. Follow the narrow lane and descend to a junction. Keep left and descend quite steeply into Nether Wasdale, levelling out at the village green, with The Screes Inn on the left and the Strands Hotel on the right (Point 5). For the longer ride, continue straight ahead at Point 2 and go straight on at the next junction. The road is fairly level, with views over the valley of the River Irt to the left and wooded slopes on the right. A little over 1 mile (1.6km) from the last junction, look for a bridleway on the left, signed for Hall Bolton.
3 Turn left onto the bridleway. The initial descent from the road is as rough as it gets. Keep right where the track forks and go straight ahead between the buildings at Rainors. Wind down to an attractive bridge over the River Bleng. Beyond this there's a short grassy section, then join the surfaced drive to Hall Bolton. Turn right and follow the drive out to a road. Turn left. Note, this track is rarely very muddy, but after wet weather you risk a soaking on the grassy section beyond the bridge. To avoid this, continue along the road at Point 3 over a small climb and then down steeply to Wellington Bridge and the outskirts of Gosforth. Bear left on a farm lane (bridleway) through Row Farm and on to Rowend Bridge. Turn left to follow the road to Santon Bridge. This adds about 1 mile (1.6km) to the total distance. Follow the road easily to Santon Bridge, past the pub and over the bridge.
4 Turn left on a narrow road past a campsite and soon begin a steeper climb at Greengate Wood. The gradient eases and the views ahead start to include the craggy outline of The Screes. Descend gently to Forest Bridge, then keep left, over Cinderdale Bridge, into Nether Wasdale. Follow the level road into the village and its twin pubs.
5 Retrace to Cinderdale Bridge, then keep left on the lane, signed to Wasdale Head. There are glimpses of The Screes and then of the lake, but trees screen them as you pass the youth hostel at Wasdale Hall and it's only when you cross a cattle grid to open fellside that the full panorama hits you. Follow the road down and then up a short climb to near a cross-wall shelter on the right, which commands a great view.
6 Continue down to cross Countess Beck and turn left. It's now little more than 0.25 mile (400m) back to the start.
Wast Water is England's deepest lake, reaching a maximum depth of almost 260ft (79m), which means that its bed is well below sea level. The steep slope of The Screes, which face you across the lake, is continued deep underwater. The Screes, below the two summits of Whin Rigg and Illgill Head, are composed of decaying crags and masses of loose rock and boulders. This is landscape that is still evolving. There is a path, which you may be able to make out, running along the base of The Screes just above the level of the lake. It is no surprise to find that it is extremely rough going in places.
Looking up to the head of the lake and at the centre of the view (and of the National Park logo) is the pyramidal peak of Great Gable, 2,949ft (899m) high. High on its slopes facing you are the Napes Crags, beloved of the earliest rock-climbers and of generations since. But only with very sharp eyes, or binoculars, and even then only in favourable light, are you likely to discern the natural obelisk called Napes Needle. Its first ascent in 1886 is often regarded as the birth of rock-climbing. It features in a memorial window in the lovely little church at Wasdale Head.
The magnificent view of high fells around the head of Wast Water inspired the Lake District National Park logo, and would win many votes for the finest view in England. The ride saves this until near the end, first exploring the gentler scenery around Nether Wasdale.