Walk: Wasdale Head Inn, Gosforth, Cumbria

This venerable inn, hidden within the valleys and mountains of the Lake District, has housed some of Britain's best novelists and poets – find out what inspired these great writers with a five-mile walk  


Buried in the far reaches of one of the most remote valleys in Britain stands the warm and welcoming Wasdale Head Inn.


Found nestled at the very end of the valley whose name it bears, this stunning little Lakeland outpost is well worth the pilgrimage.

Wasdale Inn in the English Lake District
Wordsworth, Coleridge and Dickens all stayed at the Wasdale Head ©David Robinson

The walks in the area encompass everything that a Lakeland explorer could hope to find but should be treated with the utmost respect in the icy months. A relatively straightforward but still glorious excursion can be had by climbing north-east to the waters of Styhead Tarn.


Where Moses stayed

On this walk you’ll mainly follow the path known as Moses Trod – named after local quarryman and whisky smuggler Moses Rigg. The ascent takes you beneath that famous south face of Great Gable and onto a flattish expanse of scrubland around the shores of the Tarn. But first, head south-east from the Wasdale Head and follow the signs for St Olaf’s Church, which lies just 100m or so down the path. It’s a beautiful place from which to admire the fells at the head of the valley.

Above the Wasdale Inn rises Wasdale Fell, a favourite with trail runners
Above the Wasdale Inn rises Wasdale Fell, a favourite with trail runners ©Martin Jones

To the tarn

From here, head north-east up to the next farm before meeting up with Moses Trod proper. This turns to the right and makes its way east-north-east towards Styhead Tarn. It’s relatively rough and uneven underfoot, but the path sticks to the obvious ground by the beck and should be easy enough to follow.


Fork in the road

Roughly half a mile from Burnthwaite the path splits into two, although, again, this can be easy to miss, even without snow on the ground, so pay attention if you’d like to head out a different way to your return. It’s not a disaster if you continue on the lower path – they meet again at Sty Head – but the higher path is dramatic and gets you closer to the south face of Great Gable.


Taste of grandeur

When the ground levels out you’ve reached Sty Head. The justifiably popular ‘Corridor Route’ could take you southwards towards from here to Scafell Pike, while heading west routes rise up towards Great Gable and onto Ennerdale. To the north, meanwhile, lies the valley of Borrowdale and (eventually) the town of Keswick. These aside, however, with even a hint of clarity in the air this is a breathtaking place to stop and to take in the grandeur of the area. From green valley bed to white-capped mountain top and broken, vertiginous terrain, there’s much to see and to savour from this spot.


The way home

Exploring a little further to the north to the cold waters of Styhead Tarn is well worth the 10-minute walk, and can afford even better views down towards Borrowdale and on to the northern Fells. Once you’ve satisfied your curiosity, return the way you came.


Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route.


Main image ©Getty