Bridge at the Green, marking end of the best section of the Eskdale TRail

The inspiration behind our route today was the Eskdale Trail. Here is a link to the leaflet bike route describing the trail which involves a ride on a minumum guage steam train up the Eskdale Valley and then a hike or cycle back along bridleways and quiet roads to the start point. The steam train does not resume until next week so it was an ideal time to do the ride as we expected the cycle path to be very quiet – which it was.

To get to our start we had about an hours drive involving in part a section across the high fells which were very stark but at the same time stunning, especially with the contrast of the Irish Sea on the horizon. I found the drive challenging along a single track road with a fair few blind summits and corners. However, it was not too busy and everyone was very considerate, waiting at the passing places dotted at regular intervals.

A real unexpected pleasure at the start of our ride was a small section along the coast on a bike trail which involved a tricky little bridge section besides the railway line. All too soon we headed inland. Again very quiet roads through farmland gently rising until we got to Santon Bridge and our first climb. Time to take off some layers as the sun was warming everything up nicely. Caught up with a couple of other riders near a farm offering Alpaca rides – had to tell them my favourite joke ” what’s the difference between an alpaca and a lama” (spoiler below). Made them laugh and when we came across them later in the Woolpack Inn garden it had broken the ice for us to have a good chat over our drinks. Even discounting the Alpacas, on this ride we saw the most wildlife of our trip:

  • 3 large gobbler turkeys with their fan tails raised;
  • peacocks
  • goldfinches
  • highland cow; and of course lots of sheep.

We dropped into the valley at Eskdale Green and then cycled up the Valley to the foot of Hardknott Pass (at a jaw dropping 30% gradient something for another day!) before retracing our footsteps. Very different feel to this area from the rich pastureland we had cycled through earlier; the Valley narrowed in with steep slopes all around, typical fell scenery and vegetation. We had spotted the Woolpack Inn was open but decided to have our sarnies just below Hare Crag before heading back for a much anticipated first drink post lockdown. Mike had his first ‘proper’ beer of the year and was very happy. Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon is no hardship but not so much fun if its raining/windy/cold. Once again we lucked out.

Photos below are (clockwise), start of trail from Ravenglass heading towards the hills we needed to cross to get to the Eskdale valley, Jax with her back to Hardknott Pass, Jax descending from Chapel Hill

The Eskdale Trail started a couple of km further down at Delegarth. We were not quite sure what to expect except that the climb up to Chapel Hill was steep and I expected to have to push up a fair portion of it (which I did). For me the trail fell into quarters: First section charming dirt tracks through woods and hilly fields, with lots of gates. Second section after the Bridge at the Green was on a forest trail through managed woodland which I found a bit boring. Third section was the climb up Chapel Hill (hard and I had to push up the single track). Muncaster Tarn at the top where we relaxed and enjoyed our peanut butter sarnie. Last section a fun ride down to Muncaster Castle gardens and then to Ravenglass.

Really enjoyed the day especially all the variety that was packed into our ride. Would do it again but probably miss out Chapel Hill and ride round by the edge of the golf course instead.