Stanley Ghyll Force walk

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A short walk from Trough House Bridge through autumnal Eskdale woodland to the stunning waterfall of Stanley Ghyll Force

Changes to Stanley Ghyll due to storm damage

I originally wrote this blog back in 2016 and had heard that storms in the years since had caused damage to the footpaths in Stanley Ghyll. However it was only recently that I headed back and tried to retrace my steps. Having done so I think this blog needed rewriting as the original walk is currently not possible due to a closed footpath. On the plus side there has been some work done at the top of the gorge so I thought I’d visit that too.

Dalegarth Hall car park directions

I have walked from Dalegarth Hall car park in Eskdale in the western Lake District a number of times in the past. Its the starting point for a number of great walks, not least the half mile woodland walk to Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall.

After a particularly gorgeous autumnal visit recently I thought I’d write a blog entry about the area.

Eskdale is well worth a visit at any time of year as its a stunning, little valley with only a scattering of small, quiet hamlets – a great place to escape the crowds. And in autumn when the trees are ablaze with colour it really comes into its own.

The car park at Dalegarth Hall is not the easiest to find. If driving up Eskdale about two miles beyond Eskdale Green there is what used to be Boot School house (now a holiday home) on the left and a small single lane road immediately opposite. This is the turn to take.

However what I normally do is drive further on to a coach company on the left before realising I have totally missed the turn! And so I turn the car round, return back down the road and turn down the lane. Its easily missed!

The short road leads over the River Esk via Trough House Bridge to a small (and free!) parking area near Dalegarth Hall.

Trough House Bridge in autumn woodland
The road over Trough House Bridge

The walk to Stanley Ghyll Force

From Dalegarth Hall car park, the way south is clearly signposted through the woodland. The path soon heads up the gorge within which the falls are found, crossing the Birker Beck ravine over a series of wooden bridges.

The walk up the path just gets better and better as the foliage gets greener and thicker. The scenery takes on an almost Jurassic feel thanks to an abundance of ferns, mosses and rhododendron. There is a price to pay for all this greenery though: it is very wet and the rocks do get very slippery so care should be taken.

Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall

This next section was from the original blog entry written in 2015 and I’ll keep it in as the waterfall is very photogenic. Sadly it is this bit that can’t be visited at the current time though.

Eventually, after crossing a few more footbridges over the Ghyll the waterfall comes into view and the source of the sound of thundering water is seen.

Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall plunge pool in summer
Classic view of Stanley Ghyll Force

There is (or was) a well-located viewing platform from which all my photos of the falls are taken. I think it might be possible to climb down closer to the waterfall’s plunge pool but I haven’t had the courage/stupidity to try as the rocks are very slippy. I’m not convinced its worth risking breaking my camera, or my leg for that matter!

Having visited here a number of times I can say that one of the biggest challenges a photographer has keeping water of their camera’s lens. At least one of my previous visits here resulted in no photos whatsoever thanks to this. Luckily I have also had a few successful visits though. This was not due to any wise moves on my part, just good fortune that it was a very still day.

It was on one such day in the autumn of 2015 that I paid a visit and took my favourite photos of Stanley Ghyll Force to date. Although it was autumn there was still a lot of greenery around, there was no wind and I had the place to myself (it was midweek so that was no surprise). Perfect.

As well as taking a photo of the waterfall complete with the pool I thought I would try something different so focussed in on the top section of the falls.

It was only when processing the photos later on that I realised how much I liked this shot.

Path closure at Stanley Ghyll Gorge

Back to the current time and here’s the view from the final footbridge before reaching the lower falls.

closed footpath leading to lower Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall
The point at which the footpath is closed

The lower falls are just visible in the background. And the line of the path leading to them can be made out on the cliff on the left hand side. I suspect this closure will be in place for some time yet, if not permanently. A Lake District National Park Authority sign here says the plan is to reopen the path to the lower falls in May 2023 although that will depend on any subsequent damage from rockfalls and landslips I guess.

Viewing platform over Stanley Ghyll Gorge

To compensate for not being able to get to the lower falls I headed to the top of the gorge and the new viewing platform that opened in 2021. A path that climbs up the right side of the gorge from the closed footbridge leads there. It is steep but the footpath is easily followed and soon enough the top of the climb is reached. Turning left here leads to the edge of the gorge and quite a big drop.

hidden drop sign 150 feet at stanley ghyll gorge cliff edge
Sign near the edge of Stanley Ghyll gorge

There are a number of such signs lining the cliff edge should anyone fail to spot the cliff edge itself. Apparently since my original blog there has been a lot of work done in this area to remove rhododendron bushes as they are an invasive species. I’m guessing the cliff edge was hidden by bushes and wasn’t so obvious in the past.

The footpath leads to the new cantilevered viewing platform, designed and built by a company called CB Arts.

stanley gorge cantilevered metal viewing platform designed by CB arts
Stanley Ghyll gorge viewing platform

The platform juts out over the edge of the gorge and the metal grilled section in the floor allows a view of the full drop.

view through grill of stanley ghyll viewing platform down 150 feet to bottom of gorge
Looking through the grill to the bottom of the gorge

According to the signs thats 150 feet to the bottom and is quite a drop. Just as well the platform seems very sturdy!

A quick wander from here to the head of the gorge gives a better view of the platform itself and the drop below it.

viewing platform jutting out over edge of stanley ghyll gorge amidst autumnal trees
Viewing platform from the head of the gorge

All very impressive.

River Esk at Trough House Bridge

Having walked back from Stanley Ghyll, its also well worth walking along the stretch of the River Esk near Trough House Bridge.

River Esk flows under arch of trough house bridge
Trough House Bridge and the River Esk

The views of the river from the bridge itself are also worth checking out.

The deciduous woods in Eskdale are full of species such as birch, beech and oak. For my final photo I decided to concentrate on a particular beech tree on the riverbank. As it was part way through autumn its leaves were a mix of green, orange and yellow. A backdrop of the dark rocks on the banks of the River Esk really make them stand out.

Even though it is a long drive to Eskdale as its on the ‘wrong’ side of the Lake District for me, it is well worth the journey. My pictures from this area of the Lakes are all in the Eskdale gallery within my collection of Lake District photography.

Stanley Ghyll Force walk was last modified: July 1st, 2023 by Gavin Dronfield

Further reading:

  • Great Gable and Green Gable from Borrowdale
    May 2015 : A day that started out in a murky Borrowdale turned out to be one the most memorable days in the Lake District fells, taking in Great Gable and sunset from Green Gable

  • Visiting Lacy’s Caves from Little Salkeld
    November 2017 : A walk along the River Eden near Little Salkeld in Cumbria to visit Lacy's Caves - a series of small caves carved into a sandstone cliff above the river

  • Great End wild camp in summer
    June 2016 : The tale of a nine mile walk from Seathwaite Farm at the head of Borrowdale in the Lake District to the summit of Great End for a great night’s wild camping

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