Eskdale is perhaps the prettiest of the unsung Lake District valleys, reached on a long and twisting drive from Ambleside, over the dramatic Hardknott Pass. It can also be accessed from the Cumbrian coast by the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway – either route ends up in the heart of superb walking country around the dead-end hamlet of BOOT. Here, there’s an old mill to explore and several local hikes, not to mention the three-mile walk or drive back out of the valley to the superbly sited Hardknott Roman Fort (always open; free), which commands a strategic and panoramic position. There’s plenty of rustic, hideaway accommodation in Eskdale, including a great selection of old inns – if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track stay in the rural western Lakes, with walks off the doorstep, you won’t find better.

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