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5 Must-Visit Spots in South Lakeland You Don’t Know Exist

Perhaps you've overlooked them, or maybe this is your first visit to South Lakeland. Either way, here are our 5 "must visit" places to visit when here.

Yewdale Valley

Tarn Hows” by Pete Reed is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Nestled in the heart of South Lakeland, there’s a place where the buzz of the city seems like a distant memory. Yewdale Valley is its name, and it’s as peaceful as a deep breath on a Sunday morning. Imagine a spot where the trees are so tall they seem like they’re tickling the clouds, and the grassy meadows roll out like green carpets for miles — this is where a walk can turn into an adventure without even trying. Yewdale Valley gets its name from the Yew trees which historically grew in the valley, and Yew Tree Farm — A 17th century farm, which still operates today. It was named so, after a Yew tree that was 700 years old when it allegedly blew down in 1896. Legend has it, souvenir hunters took most of the tree, but parts of its trunk still lay about the land.

As you wander along the trails, you might run into a stream or two, chattering away as if to guide you through the woods. Who knows, a bashful deer might peek out from behind the foliage, or a red squirrel could scamper by, giving your day a pinch of that wildlife magic. With every step, the valley seems to reveal something new; a tiny flower you’ve never seen before, or a bird’s song that stops you in your tracks. Spring is a show-off in the valley, with rare orchids popping up to say ‘hello.’ You don’t need to be an expert in local fauna to enjoy them; their colors are bright enough to make anyone smile. In the evenings, the valley often feels like it’s not just home to plants and animals, but to stories as well. Chat with someone from roun’t these parts, and they’ll likely tell you a tall tale or two about the place. With every legend that’s shared, the valley doesn’t just stay a chunk of land, but turns into a living storybook.

Truth be told, stepping into Yewdale Valley is like stepping out of time. It offers a break from the screens, the schedules, and the noise. Take a walk around Tarn How’s and discover a plethora of wildlife, including over 140 species of birds, Otters, Lizards, Red Squirrels and more, or visit the Coppermines, or head into Coniston village for a bite at Herdwicks. So, for anyone looking to swap out the fast lane for the simple joys of nature, this little slice of the Lake District is a pretty good place to start.

Near & Far Sawrey, Claife Heights and Wray Castle

a stone building with a stained glass door
Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

Near Sawrey is a place that hardly anyone I know talks about, yet if you visit it, you will be confused about why you don’t hear about it as much as some of the more popular spots. That being said, Near Sawrey is most famous for 17th century Hill Top farm, once owned and lived in by Beatrix Potter herself, the creator of Peter Rabbit, many of her tales inspired by the very surroundings you can still see today at Hill Top and Moss Eccles Tarn, which she frequently fished on.

Claife Heights, home to Claife viewing station is located nearby, which astoundingly was built in the 1790’s! It’s a beautiful view across Lake Windermere, and well worth a visit. Just below the viewing station, to the right, is Ash Landing nature reserve, a small reserve, but worth a visit nonetheless if you are in the area.

You can access the Westside of Lake Windermere shore, by continuing the following the road toward the Ferry from Claife Viewing Station, turn left at the signposted Ferry, continue all the way down and there is a further car park across a cattle grid. The path here runs alongside Windermere West, all the way to Red Nab car park and onto High Wray. You can find Wray Castle in the area, which has been many things in it’s time. Built in the 1800’s for a wealthy Liverpudlian surgeon and his wife, it has since been used for many things, including the offices for the Freshwater Biological Association, a Youth Hostel and even a training facility for Merchant Navy radio officers.

Gummer’s How

green grass field near river under cloudy sky during daytime
Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

Situated in the southern part of the Lake District, Gummer’s How graces the eastern shore of Windermere, near its southern terminus. The name “How,” originating from the Old Norse word “haugr,” is a local term denoting a hill or mound. Despite its modest elevation of 321 meters above sea level, Gummer’s How stands as the loftiest among the foothills in the region, offering splendid vistas across Windermere.

The summit provides breathtaking views, especially along the expansive Windermere, where the sight encompasses the impressive Town Head House estate and extends towards the lake. Gummer’s How also treats observers to panoramic scenes of the Coniston fells, the central fells, and the vast stretch of Morecambe Bay. Crowned by an OS trig point, the summit serves as a captivating vantage point.

The ascent to the summit typically begins from Astley’s Plantation car park, positioned at over 200 meters above sea level and a mere 700 meters from the summit. Although a relatively short and family-friendly walk, Gummer’s How incorporates features reminiscent of higher Lakeland fells, including some brief but steep slopes, rock formations to navigate, and a landscape adorned with rowan, bracken, and heather. While the lower slopes are cloaked in forest, the upper reaches unfold into a picturesque moorland.

Gummer’s How receives accolades from Simon Jenkins, who ranks its Windermere panorama as one of the top ten in England, showcasing the enchanting landscapes of the Lake District, Pennines, and Morecambe Bay. In essence, Gummer’s How proves that size is no hindrance to the grandeur of the views it generously unfolds to those who venture to its summit.

Rusland Valley

Rusland Moss National Nature Reserve – geograph.org.uk – 2127562” by Karl and Ali is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Rusland Valley has to be my favourite place in the whole Lake District. When I first started going out to the Lake District, I explored Rusland first, Bouth, Grizedale, all of the places I now frequent. I instantly fell in love. The sheer array of wildlife and scenery in the area, is perfect for photography and in general. Rusland Moss is home to England’s only indiginous Red Deer herd, and it’s a very large herd of 100-200 deer, perhaps more some years. Osprey can often be found roosting in the area, as they come back to the same roost year to year.

I have walked plenty of trails through Rusland. One of my favourites is Great Ellerside, up to High Dam and back through Finsthwaite. Lots of gems in this area, I won’t get started with Grizedale, I’ll be here all day. If you’re first time visitor, I suggest heading into Bouth, or onto Grizedale, where endless fun can be had on the trails.

Sandscale Haws National Nature Reserve

Sandscale Haws is a gem in its own right. Tucked away in the armpit of the world, Barrow in Furness, it’s easy to overlook. But if you’re in the area, and visiting the Lake District, it’s quite likely you might be staying in Barrow in Furness, and travelling up the Lake District on your days out. If that’s the case, don’t overlook Sandscale Haws. It’s truly a place of beauty, at the end of the Duddon Estuary a National Nature Reserve (NNR) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in one. Home to an estimated 15% of the UK’s protected Natterjack Toads, whose secretions, when in danger, can cause mild hallucinogenic effects in humans when consumed (but please, don’t go licking them ????).

A beautiful Dune habitat, hundreds of common blue butterflies flutter about, joined by the dingy skipper; the silvery grayling, wall brown, and dark green fritillary that traverse the dunes all through the summer. Dragonflies, including the emperor and four-spotted chaser, or often seen navigating the ponds and marshes.

This 700-acre reserve boasts a rich record of over 600 recorded plant species. In the dune slacks, the grass of parnassus and round-leaved wintergreen stand out in their pristine white hues, while bee, Northern marsh, and coralroot orchids showcase their unique beauty as dune specialists. The landscape is dotted with the common sea holly, and the delicate dune pansy adds a dash of purple across the area.

Year-round, the mudflats and sandbanks serve as a feast for various bird species, including ringed plovers, terns, turnstones, and oystercatchers, along with the melodies of skylarks, whitethroats, and pipits. Raptors, such as peregrines, buzzards, and hen harriers, grace the skies. Winter unveils a spectacular avian display, with 70,000 knots, redshanks, and dunlins feeding amid small flocks of sanderlings. Deer are also often seen nearby, along with a small herd of wild sheep.

Have you visited South Lakeland recently? We’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

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