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Things to do in Ennerdale

Walker in outdoor clothing looking over the landscape from the slopes of Steeple at Ennerdale, Cumbria
Walker looking over the landscape from the slopes of Steeple at Ennerdale | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Get closer to nature in the wild and remote Ennerdale Valley. Experience one of the longest-running wilding projects in the UK, where nature is being given more freedom to restore and revitalise the forest, mountains, rivers and lake. Escape the pace of modern life with a lakeshore stroll, a hike up to some of the most famous Lake District mountain peaks or a bike ride through the diverse and extensive forest.

Lakeshore strolls and mountain views at Ennerdale Water

If you want the peace and quiet of a lake set against a stunning backdrop of high mountain peaks and forest, head to Ennerdale Water: the westernmost and least visited of the major lakes.

Ennerdale is the only lake that doesn't have a road running along its full length, and its wild valley is nurtured though the Wild Ennerdale partnership, allowing natural processes to shape the way the valley looks, feels and functions.

Both Bleach Green and Bowness Knott car parks are great starting points for walks in the valley. Here you will find information about the valley and waymarked routes.

Follow the lakeshore path

If you don't fancy a climb but want something more than the accessible paths, follow the lakeshore path, which passes below Angler's Crag (minor scrambling is required). This walk takes you from the western edge of the Lake District towards its mountainous heart.

Winter sun on the Smithy Beck settlement, Ennerdale
The Smithy Beck settlement, Ennerdale | © National Trust / Chris Gomersall

See an ancient settlement

In winter when the bracken has died back, the archaeological sites in the valley show up most clearly. The Smithy Beck settlement dates back over 600 years and contains a collection of buildings known as ‘longhouses’.

The houses have a distinctive double wall construction which, archaeologists say, suggests that they were lived in all year round as this wall kept out the winter cold.

Smithy Beck is linked to another cluster of settlements nearby where people used to mine the fell sides for iron ore. It’s one of nine scheduled ancient monuments in the valley.

Find out how to get there by downloading the Historic Sites Guide from the Wild Ennerdale website.

Discover Pillar Rock

The iconic and imposing Pillar Rock sits below Pillar mountain and is the birthplace of mountaineering in the Lakes. Both dominate the view up the valley on the southern side.

Despite its name, Pillar is a great craggy mass of a fell, the eighth-highest of the fells and one of the more remote. Surprisingly elusive for such a massive object, only the tip of Pillar Rock can be seen from Ennerdale Water, so to find it you'll need to explore further up the valley.

How to see Pillar Rock

Pillar Rock is a massive rocky outcropping on the Ennerdale side of the valley that looks like a slender pillar from the valley floor. Some of the best views of the rock are from the famous 'high level route' – a path that perches perilously halfway up the side of the mountain.

If that isn’t your cup of tea, then you can see it via a gentler walk along the network of forest tracks on the valley floor.

Visit the Wild Ennerdale website to download a map and some walking routes.

Outdoor activities

The valley is also a great place for other outdoor activities such as biking, climbing, orienteering, riding and canoeing. Please see Wild Ennerdale’s activities page for more details.

Sunlight is casting rays between the trunks of densely planted trees in dark woodland in Ennerdale, Cumbria

Discover more at Ennerdale

Find out how to get to Ennerdale, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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