Scafell Pike can be accessed from three different Lake District valleys: Borrowdale, Wasdale and Great Langdale. All three are beautiful in their own unique way, with each valley offering you a different route to the summit of Scafell Pike.
Down in the valleys themselves, you’ll find everything from cosy pubs where you can relax with a well-earned pint after your hike, to spectacular views of England’s deepest lake. With a range of accommodation to suit most budgets, as well as fantastic shops, sights and attractions, you should find the perfect base for your hike up Scafell Pike (and somewhere to rest your head, and feet, afterwards).
Read on to find out more about these scenic valleys that surround Scafell Pike – and to choose your favourite!
The beautiful Borrowdale valley lies to the north of Scafell Pike, and is home to the small farming hamlet of Seathwaite and the magnificent oak trees of Brandlehow Woods (the National Trust’s historic first purchase in the Lake District). From the remote fell-top sheep farms and wild rugged landscapes at the head of the valley, Borrowdale runs down to the bustling town of Keswick, on the shores of one of the area’s most scenic lakes, Derwentwater.
Borrowdale valley is overlooked by some of the most dramatic mountains in the Lakes: Catbells, Skiddaw, and Castle Crags – to name but a few! From the head of the valley, the River Derwent runs down through the narrowest part of the valley, known as the “jaws of Borrowdale’, gathering pace before flowing into the deep waters of Derwentwater.
Borrowdale has some interesting historical sites to visit, such as the Castlerigg Stone Circle, which dates back to Neolithic times. The circle is also one of the valley’s best viewpoints, with stunning panoramic views to breathe in. Or venture out to explore some of Derwentwater’s islands, such as St. Herbert’s island, once the hermitage of a 7th century saint, and the inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s ‘Owl Island’ in her story about the naughty Squirrel Nutkin.
The market town of Keswick is a favourite destination among visitors to the Lake District, offering colourful markets, friendly cafes, great outdoor gear shopping, and plenty of traditional pubs to shelter from the good old Cumbrian rain in! You can also take to the lake in a rowing boat for a fun family experience.
Where to stay
You’ve got plenty of accommodation options if you opt to stay in Borrowdale. Keep it simple with a stay at the laid-back Chapel House Farm campsite, surrounded by dramatic crags and awe-inspiring views on all sides. Or go for a cosy B&B among the Lake Districts’ famous smiley Herdwick Sheep at Yew Tree Farm.
Route to Scafell
The route up Scafell Pike from Borrowdale is perhaps the least challenging of our three routes, offering a gentler ascent than the route from Wasdale and a shorter walk than the route from Great Langdale. That’s not to say it’s a walk in the park however!
Your route starts at Seathwaite farm, takes you up to Esk Hause, towards Lingmell and along the famous ‘Corridor Route’, with jaw-dropping views on either side of you, past Styhead Tarn and up to the summit of Scafell Pike.
The dramatic valley of Wasdale is the starting point for the shortest (although not necessarily easiest) route up Scafell Pike. Located to the west of the mountain, Wasdale is perhaps the most remote and unspoilt of the three valleys surrounding Scafell Pike, boasting spectacular views with steep sloping screes dropping down to the shores of Wastwater, England’s deepest lake at 258 feet deep. Come sunshine or rain, Wasdale valley has an imposing presence that is truly formidable on a dark day.
The view from the lakeshore up to the head of the Wasdale valley was deservedly voted ‘Britain’s favourite view’ in 2007. From vast panoramas, to something more small-scale, Wasdale is also the place to visit the tiny and picturesque St. Olaf’s church, thought to be the smallest church in England. And of course, the deep, cold waters of Wastwater are popular with divers, kayakers and swimmers alike.
Wasdale may be remote but it has a strong community – and most importantly, some great pubs! The small hamlet of Wasdale Head is home to a fantastic inn of the same name, offering accommodation, camping and the handy Barn Door Shop alongside pulling pints. Further down the valley, Nether Wasdale has a small group of lively traditional pubs, where you can find cosy log fires, hearty food, a microbrewery and occasional live music.
If you are staying in Wasdale, it’s an easy journey to the neighbouring valley of Eskdale, where you’ll find more great pubs and the famous ‘La’al Ratty’ steam train of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway that runs from Eskdale through seven miles of stunning scenery down to the pretty seaside town of Ravenglass.
Where to stay
There are a few accommodation choices in Wasdale, from camping, to pub B&B’s, to the more luxurious Low Wood Hall Hotel, set within a grand Victorian house. You can also choose to stay in one of the country’s grandest-looking youth hostels, the lakeside Wasdale Hall Youth Hostel, which is housed in a 200-year-old manor house and offers private en-suite rooms as well as dorms.
Route to Scafell
The starting point for your route up Scafell Pike is the Wasdale Head car park. From there you’ll cross Lingmell Beck and climb steeply up to the summit to enjoy those breath-taking views.
Situated to the east of Scafell Pike, the U-shaped valley of Great Langdale is home to dramatic crags, cascading waterfalls, and the small calm lake, Elterwater. The neighbouring valley of Little Langdale is located just over the Lingmoor Fells, and is home to some lovely pubs and pretty tarn. Great Langdale is a great(!) place to escape the busyness of everyday life and relax in peaceful, unspoilt surroundings.
The most famous feature of Great Langdale is the view of the craggy Langdale Pikes to the north of the valley, made up of the Pike of Stickle, Loft Crag, Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark. Their rocky outline dominates the skyline of Great Langdale, treating you to spectacular views for waking up to. The rock climbers among you won’t be able to resist scaling some of the fantastic climbing routes on offer, such as Gimmer Crag or Raven Crag.
Running down from the Langdale Pikes is the narrow Dungeon Ghyll and the more open Stickle Ghyll, which takes you on a lovely route up to Stickle Tarn. The waterfalls of Dungeon Ghyll Force tumble down the ravine, creating small pools along the way – perfect for a paddle!
Great Langdale’s natural landscape is undeniably beautiful, but you’ve also got the shops, restaurants and hotels of nearby Ambleside within easy reach should you want to venture back into civilisation. Ambleside is one of the Lake District’s most popular tourist towns, boasting pretty buildings, cosy cafes, and a fantastic location right on the shores of Lake Windermere, the largest natural lake in England. Beatrix Potter fans young and old will love a visit to the Armitt Museum, or why not take a cruise on one of the traditional steamers to explore the vast silvery lake?
Where to stay
You’ll find a selection of accommodation in Great Langdale, from a fantastic National Trust campsite, to self-catering cottages, bunkhouses and luxurious hotels. The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel is perfectly placed for beginning your ascent of Scafell Pike, you can leave right from your door. Their Hiker’s Bar is a lively place to relax, with real ales and great whiskies. Or if you fancy some serious indulgence, opt for the Langdale Hotel and Spa, set within acres of tranquil woodlands, and treat yourself to some well-earned spa treatments after your hike.
Route to Scafell
The route up Scafell Pike from Great Langdale is the longest route of our three routes, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views across the fells. The route begins at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, takes you up Bowfell, across to Esk Pike, and to the summit of Scafell Pike. You’ll then return past Angle Tarn and the waterfalls of Rossett Gill so there’s plenty of opportunities for a refreshing head dunk if you need it!