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Britain > Lake District > Wastwater

England's deepest lake, next to England's tallest mountains

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Scafell Pike
St. Olaf's Church
World's Biggest Liar Competition
At 4-and-a-half kilometres long and 600 metres wide, Wastwater may not be the biggest body of water in the Lake District. However, it's certainly the deepest. It goes 79 metres down, sinking even lower than sea level.
The famous poet William Wordsworth described the place as “long, narrow, stern and desolate” - and you can easily see what he meant! Wastwater's eastern bank is completely taken up by a gigantic steep slope, which looms ominously over the water. It starts below the lake's surface, and rises up over 600 metres. There are hundreds of loose rocks covering its surface, making it seem impossible to traverse. Scarily though, there is a thin path just next to the water. Occasionally a walker or two dares to cross it.

The view across Wastwater towards Great Gable
Photo AndrewH.uk
Despite this gloomy feature, Wastwater is a striking sight. In fact, in 2007 a television programme nominated it as the best view in Britain! It beat off competition from Welsh beaches, Irish lakes and English castles. Part of this victory was down to the solemn-looking mountains that stand next to the lake. The leader of the pack is Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in the whole country. Other nearby peaks include Great Gable, and Lingmell. The area is thought of as the home of British rock climbing.

Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike
Photo TerryA McDonald
In England, Scafell Pike is as far upward as it's possible to go. At 978 metres (3,209ft), its summit is the highest point in the country. Nevertheless, you don't need to be a mountaineer to make the journey. With a good pair of boots and a bit of puff, anyone can do it. The most common route is the steep, but easy trail from Wasdale Head. It takes around 5 or 6 hours. More ambitious types should consider going from Borrowdale or Langdale. These are much longer, more tiring trips, but the scenery is definitely worth it. The paths are easy to find; they've been hammered into the mountain by countless pairs of hiking boots. Be aware that - especially at weekends - you'll be sharing your experience. The summit itself is grey, rocky and not particularly attractive, but the view is unsurprisingly spectacular. You can see every other mountain in the Lakes, laid out beneath you.
Just next to Scafell Pike, at the north edge of the lake, is a tiny hamlet called Wasdale Head. It's the traditional starting point for people attempting to scale the mountains. The village is home to the country's smallest church, St. Olaf's. It's hidden from view by a handful of yew trees - but these stand in the middle of a flat, open field, making them quite easy to spot! Despite being so tiny, the church still manages to include all the proper features, from pews to stained glass windows.
As well as having the smallest church, the tallest mountain, and the deepest lake, Wasdale Head also has the world's biggest liar. This title was first claimed by the old landlord of the Wasdale Head Inn. 30 years ago they started an annual competition in his memory, to find the greatest fibber on the globe. The event is now held in Santon Bridge, south-west of the lake. Competitors come from all over the globe to tell outrageous stories, where points are awarded for the frequency and inventiveness of the lies.

Wasdale Inn

Photo AndrewH.uk (cc)
Situated at the head of remote and unspoilt Wasdale about 9 miles from the A595 the nearest main road. Dramatically surrounded by Englands tallest mountain and deepest lake. The Inn's bar is called Ritson's Bar named after the first landlord William Ritson, the first 'worlds biggest liar'. The bar is where everyone congregates after a day on the fells to talk and enjoy the wholesome food.
There's one local story that proves truth is really stranger than fiction. A few years ago, news emerged that someone had placed an entire set of garden gnomes on Wastwater's lake bed. Tragically, this resulted in several fatalities, as divers spent too long searching for this unusual sight. The porcelain figures were promptly removed by the police. However, recently there have been rumours of another gnome garden down there. This time it's been placed even deeper, where the police divers aren't legally allowed to go. No-one is really sure if the gnomes are there or not!
Being separated from the rest of the Lake District by its mountains, Wastwater tends to receive fewer visitors than some of the other large Lakes. Consequently it is a serene place having changed very little over the years. Though its remoteness makes it difficult to get to, all who make the effort will certainly be rewarded with one of the best views in England.
Visitor Information
The best place to climb Scafell Pike is from Wasdale Head, which is reached via the A595. From the south, turn right at Holmrook. From the north, turn left at Gosforth. Cumbria Tourism: 01539 822222

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