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.
And within striking distance of its walls you’ll find three record-breaking sights. First, there’s the tallest mountain: Scafell Pike. At 978m there
is no disputing its crown, and its dark, snow-blasted crags and seethingly malign architecture dominate the horizon, towering over the valley and the lonely shape of the Wasdale Head.
DIVING FOR GNOMES
Ticked off England’s highest mountain? Next there’s its deepest lake: Wastwater. At 79m deep, this glacially carved body is regarded by many as being the finest in the Lake District (you’ll even find it on the Park’s official logo) and it is a strange and beautiful place, with steep scree fields on its flanks and a ‘gnome garden’ of novelty ornaments placed on its bed. The gnomes are conveniently just below the 50m mark past, to which disapproving police diving teams cannot legally venture. Thirdly there’s a more disputable claim, that nearby St Olaf’s Church is in fact the smallest in the nation. Though it’s a difficult point to prove, step inside the titchy space and you’ll be inclined to believe it.
With such an eclectic mixture of extremes to tempt visitors, and a wealth of craggy outdoor beauty in the vicinity, it’s no wonder that the area around the Wasdale Head boasts a human history to match its geological one.
Thanks to the southern-facing crags of Great Gable, and in particular the perfectly formed pinnacle of Napes Needle, the region found itself at the centre of a late Victorian Golden Age of rock climbing and mountaineering.
Figures such as WP Haskett Smith (the first to ascend the Needle in 1886) and the Abraham brothers George and Ashley, whose photographs immortalised the various gentlemen climbers’ exploits, flocked to the Wasdale Head Inn, which can rightly boast
of being the “birthplace of rock climbing”. The Inn carries on this heritage well, continuing to welcome scramblers and climbers and displaying a host of mountaineering photos.
Wordsworth, Coleridge and Dickens all stayed at the Wasdale Head. Credit: Alamy
Today, there’s a range of comfortable accommodation for the 21st-century visitor, from camping pitches through to nine main bedrooms, six self-catering apartments and three luxury suites. The wood-heavy Ritson and Residents bars provide an evening’s fare, and the on-site Barn Door Shop is stocked with everything you might need for an impromptu adventure.