As far as I can tell, Ennerdale is even less visited than Eskdale. This is partly because there is nowhere to stay beyond the western end of Ennerdale Water, the lake that plugs the mouth of the mountainous part of the dale, unless you are happy to hostel-it (there’s a hostel at Gillerthwaite, 5k into the dale, and another at Black Sail, a further 5k into it). Apart from that, there’s a sprinkling of b&bs and pubs around the western end of Ennerdale Water but most of them are at least 2k from the lake and the mountains. Of course, nowadays most people drive to the start of their walk but that’s another problem with Ennerdale – you can’t drive beyond Bowness Car Park which is a long way (roughly 7k) from the most attractive mountains near the head of the dale: Pillar, High Stile, Steeple and Haystacks. A third reason for Ennerdale’s lack of visitors compared to the rest of the Lake District is that its floor is besmirched by a carpet of conifers. Here is Wainwright in 1965 (10):
“Afforestation in Ennerdale has cloaked the lower slopes….in a dark and funereal shroud of foreign trees, an intrusion that nobody who knew Ennerdale of old can ever forgive, the former charm of the valley having been destroyed thereby….Far better the old desolation of boulder and bog when a man could see the sky, than this new desolation of regimented timber shutting out the light of day.” (The Western Fells, Pillar 3)
Although there are now attempts to ameliorate this affliction by planting different trees and preventing further growth with grazing cattle, Wainwright’s complaint still applies – and nobody wants to walk through 10k of conifers. I have always steered clear of Ennerdale for this reason.
Given all this and having previously climbed all the well-known peaks at the head of the dale, I wanted to explore the much less-frequented area around the western end of Ennerdale Water. This choice was also forced upon me by a dodgy left leg incurred during my summer exertions in Norway and Eskdale which meant that I couldn’t manage a walk of more than 12k. So I’m going to describe for you four short walks of no great length or height that nevertheless lead to exceptional spots, three providing some of the best views over Ennerdale and one affording unusual views towards Grasmoor and Robinson. Here is a map of Ennerdale to give you the general lay-out of this ‘dale less travelled’ (Photo 1700).