Steam Train to Eskdale & back – 12km Walk, Wild Swim & Film

This is a lovely route, travelling up into the Eskdale Valley from the coast by steam train, and back over the fells by foot. I used the Ordnance Survey Map 0L6 (The English Lakes, South Western Area) to guide me, I think it would be very tough to find your way without it.

First, here’s a short film that I made during the train ride and trek.

I set off from the Ravenglass Camping and Caravanning Club campsite where I was staying for a week and headed down the footpath to the village train station, a 10 minute walk at most. Here I was going to catch the miniature train up the valley to Dalegarth Station in the Eskdale Valley. It was a lovely 40-odd minute ride in an open-sided carriage offering fine view of forest, fell and other steam trains as they passed us en route. Here are some photos of the train, and the ride up to Dalegarth.

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Once at Dalegarth Station you have the option of so many walks (many people take a 2 hour return walk up to the waterfalls at Stanley Force, which are spectacular, then catch the train back), but I chose to head on back to Ravenglass by walking down the road for 10 minutes to Beckfoot Bridge, then getting on the footpath up to Blea Tarn. The swimming is great here at Blea, but I’d swum here before so was eager to push on to Siney Tarn for a dip, where I had never swum, but when I got there (it’s only a 10 minute walk from Blea) I found it very marshy, with the open water far from dry land, and not suitable at all for swimming. Below is a photo of Blea Tarn, and then a view of Siney Tarn.

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From Siney Tarn, I tried to follow the footpath across the ridge of the fell and on down to Eskdale Green, before climbing up onto Muncaster Fell. I found the going easy all the time, I mean, underfoot, and the gradients weren’t really steep, but the 2 issues worth mentioning is that the signposting isn’t great yet there are plenty of turnings and crossing paths, so you really need to keep an eye on the map (I got lost a fair few times), and also, another point is that Muncaster Fell seems to go on forever, so be prepared for this section of the hike to take a little longer than expected. There were 4 or 5 false summits, from each one I expected the land to fall away and the view to the sea to open up. Still, the views back over the route were always spectacular, with Sca Fell and Harter Fell dominating the scene. Here are some snaps of the route…

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Muncaster Fell took me about 2.5 hours to traverse, and I had hopes that I would get at least one swim in before reaching Ravenglass. Rain clouds were forming as I reached Muncaster Tarn, so I stripped off quick and got in. There was a bit of mud underfoot and the tarn isn’t that deep – I never got to a point where I couldn’t touch the bottom - but it was cool, not cold, and soothing on the muscles, and a very romantic setting too. The path had been an empty one all day, I think I’d seen 2 couples in the 5 hours I’d been walking, and Muncaster Tarn was just as quiet. 

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I splashed around for 10 minutes, got dried off and carried on down Fell Lane, as the rain began. At the end of this I could have continued back to the campsite on footpath, but I was tired out, the rain was getting heavy, and also, there was live football due to be shown on the ITV website, and since the Ravenglass Campsite offers free Wi-Fi I was looking forward to ending off the day watching it in my tent. So I stayed on the road, which looked to be a slightly quicker route, and this led me back into the village, and the campsite, in about 15 minutes.

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