Walk: Stanley Ghyll Force, Cumbria

Rising from the crags of the Lake District’s south-western fells, this timeless flow drops through a verdant forest of moss and ferns and overhanging trees into quiet Eskdale

Stanley Ghyll Force, Lake District

Plunging 20m into the surprising seclusion of a deep gorge in Eskdale, Stanley Ghyll Force feels miles from the tourist trappings and rambling hikers found in much of the Lake District.

Advertisement

The landscape and flora of the woodland makes this place feel typically English yet somehow tropical at the same time, adding to the enchantment of the gorge, of which the waterfall is the main attraction.

River Esk at Eskdale, Lake District
The River Esk runs through Eskdale
Getty

Between dale and hill

Across the valley to the north, the village of Boot is surrounded by drystone walls that slice the land into a patchwork of pasture, grazed by Herdwick sheep; the ground above the dale comprises heathland and unfenced fells.

Tumbling over the wooded ridgeline between this cultivation and the hinterland is Stanley Ghyll Force. It’s believed the waterfall had been called Dalegarth Falls and was renamed by a member of the Stanley family who lived at Dalegarth Hall. There’s a car park beside the hall, a half-mile walk from the falls.

Herdwick sheep
Look out for the Lakes Herdwick sheep
Getty

Ravine to falls

Another route leaves Boot along bridleways via St Catherine’s Church. With no tower, the church sits squat on the farmland, simple and humble. It’s said a sixth-century hermit lived at a holy well on this site, offering a blessing to anyone dedicated enough to find him.

From here, use the stepping stones to cross the Esk. If the river is in full flow, there’s a footbridge a short distance upstream. When it’s calm and safe, wild swimmers dive into the plunge pools at the base of Gill Force near the bridge. Here, the emerald waters of the Esk have cut ravines into the bedrock with their flow.

Stanley Ghyll Force, Eskdale, Lake District
After toppling through a wooded gorge, Stanley Ghyll Beck flows into Eskdale, described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the loveliest of Lakeland’s valleys”
Alamy

Once across the river, you enter woodland where mosses cover boulders and encroach upon the bark of trees. Red squirrels inhabit the area. Closing in on the gorge on the fern-lined path, a gathering of fir trees gives way to more native trees and exotic-feeling rhododendrons. The way clings to the edge of the beck as the land rises either side and trees hang above. Several footbridges cross the granite streambed, polished smooth by the water’s flow.

Advertisement

Arriving at the base of the sublime Stanley Ghyll Force, it feels like you’ve entered an ageless sanctuary where time and water flow past in equal measure.