River Esk

The River Esk is probably my favourite Lake District river, running through stunning scenery from its source all the way to the sea.

Esk under Heron CragThe Esk flows through an ever-changing scene. The upper reaches, between Esk Hause and Great Moss, sees a fairly narrow stream run down a steep sided valley, with a very attractive footpath right by the water.

At the bottom of this section the river runs into Great Moss, a large swampy area dominated by the crags of Scafell and Scafell Pike to the west and Bow Fell to the east. This is one of the most dramatic, impressive areas in entire Lake District, with soaring crags overlooking a wild remote area, with little sign of human activity apart from the footpaths and dots of walkers.

From Great Moss the river runs down an increasingly narrow ravine, with rights of way  on both sides (the best path is to the east). This section brings us to Lingcove Bridge, where the valley flattens out once again.

Pools in the EskNext comes a section of wonderfully enticing pools that look inviting even in cold weather. The river flows south-west through a classic U-shaped glacial valley, between Hard Knott fell to the east and the southern slopes of Scafell to the west. Toward the southern end of this stretch the valley is overlooked by the Roman fort on Hardknott Pass.

Just past Brotherilkeld the river finally reaches the road, and turns west to begin its journey towards the sea. Here there is a lovely contrast of scenery, with the river flowing between gentle fields, while still overlooked by attractive fells (and nice pubs). The river passes Eskdale's church on its way, complete with a set of rather difficult stepping stones (under water whenever I've been there).

Some confusion can arise when the valley reaches Eskdale Green. Despite its name, the village is nearer to the River Mite than the River Esk, and the road heads across into Miterdale. The Esk itself kinks south here, and runs through a much quieter valley south of Muncaster Fell. In this final section the river runs past the Muncaster Castle estate, then flows into the sizable tidal lagoon at Ravenglass, passing the remains of a Roman bath house (Walls Castle). At Ravenglass the Irt and the Mite flow into the Esk, and the combined rivers run past Drigg Dunes and flow into the sea through a deep channel in the sandy beach.



The Esk rises just to the south of the true Esk Hause, the pass between Great End and Esk Pike.



Lingcove BridgeThe Esk flows south from Esk Hause into the flat area of Great Moss, surrounded by some of the most dramatic crags in the entire district. At the southern end of the moss the river junks to the east and drops down to Lingcove Bridge, then flows south-west from there through another section of wild valley. At Brotherilkeld the Esk turns west, and runs down the more familiar part of Eskdale, one of the most beautiful valleys in the district. At the western end the river flows to the south of Muncaster Fell, before finally merging with the Irt and the Mite to form the large tidal lagoon at Ravenglass. The combined rivers, still called the Esk, then run between Drigg Dune and the northern tip of Eskmeals to finally reach the sea.

South from source to Hardknott Pass, then west to coast

Named Tributaries

Calfcove Gill
Little Narrowcove
How Beck
Lingcove Beck
Great Gill
Bursting Gills
Scar Gill
Scale Gill
Hardknott Gill
Dodknott Gill
Spothow Gill
Blea Beck
Low Birker Pool
Birker Beck
Whillan Beck
Mere Beck
Whis Gill/ Red Gill
Black Beck
Ridding Gill
Broadoak Beck
Whitrow Beck
Eskmeals Pool


Our walk along the Ravenglass Coast runs along the River Esk

Our ascent of Hard Knott Fell returns alongside the River Esk

Our circuit of Esk Pike and Bow Fell from Eskdale runs along the Esk for large parts of the route

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