Kentmere and Longsleddale drive
The 16 featured Lake District Drives visit many parts of the area and include many of the attractions but there are still a number of more peaceful and isolated areas that are worth a visit. The beautiful adjacent valleys of Kentmere and Longsleddale are such places. Both valleys feed the River Kent upstream of Kendal and although adjacent are only directly connected by high level footpaths and bridleways. By car each valley is a long dead-end but very picturesque and if you don’t mind the single track roads with passing places this is a worthy excursion. Please note that parking is very restricted in both valleys and there is no mobile phone signal.
The Lakeland village of Staveley is a good place to start, the village is featured in the main Kendal-Grange-Windermere drive and has a number of good facilities. From Mill Yard car park, turn right on the main village road and very shortly, just after a pedestrian crossing, take the right turn to Kentmere. The road soon joins the River Kent on the right where there is a big weir and heads out of the village to open country. A wooded section soon leads to a narrow bridge over the River Kent and beyond this views open up of the picturesque valley and surrounding hills. You need your wits about you on the narrow road but there are normally very few other vehicles.
The road tends to hug the steep valley slopes to the right with fields and the River Kent to the left. The valley is quite narrow with some wooded sections and more open sections leading up to a small industrial site hidden in trees on the left. Beyond this the valley opens up more with some great views ahead towards the mountains at the head of the valley and you might be able to glimpse Kentmere Tarn on the valley floor to the left. Ignore a right turn to Green Quarter and soon approach the picturesque small village of Kentmere. Parking is very limited but a field on the left just before a bridge over the river is sometimes open on busy weekends.
There is limited further parking up the following short steep hill beyond the church at the village hall (4.2 miles; N54.42962, W2.83999). There is no public vehicular access beyond this. It is worth stopping to take in the wonderful valley views and enjoy the peace in this remote spot. St Cuthbert’s Church has a majestic setting overlooking the valley and several footpaths go off in different directions if you want to explore. Only a few minutes walk to the west of the church is Kentmere Hall with its impressive 14th century pele tower (can only be viewed from nearby footpath). A popular walk visits stunning Kentmere reservoir at the very head of the valley, approx 2.5 mile walk beyond the village along a reasonable undulating track. No facilities in the village.
Retrace your steps back down the valley to Staveley. At the big weir just before the village, take the left turn over the river and head away from the village through picturesque and peaceful countryside. Approx 1.4 miles beyond Staveley is an entrance to Beckmickle Ing wood on the right which is an attractive wood by the cascading River Kent with abundant bluebells in the spring and a couple of parking places next to the road (9.4 miles; N54.37497, W2.78692). Continue a short distance, passing a small golf course on the right, to take the first left turn on a narrow minor road which ascends to give good views on the right over the River Kent valley towards Kendal. The road then descends to a T junction where you turn left through a wooded section to the attractive hamlet of Garnett Bridge (12.7 miles; N54.38661, W2.73499). Cross the River Sprint on the narrow bridge and turn left at the T junction to start up Longsleddale valley.
Longsleddale is similar to Kentmere in many ways, still very picturesque but probably less trees obscuring views. This time the road follows the River Sprint on the left and again tends to hug the foot of the steep slopes on the right with more open views across the valley. The valley was the inspiration for the children’s TV series Postman Pat, written by John Cunliffe who lived in Kendal. You can see why with the narrow twisting road, stone walls, green fields full of sheep and some lovely houses and farms dotted around the narrow valley.
Approx 2.7 miles beyond Garnett Bridge is the church and village hall where there is a small car park, a couple of picnic tables and toilet facilities (15.4 miles; N54.41911 W2.77058). The attractive St Mary’s Church and garden provide wonderful views across the valley. Continuing up the valley, views towards the mountains at the head of the valley become more impressive and there is a small parking area with bench at Tom’s Howe farm entrance where you can fully appreciate the surroundings (16.7 miles; N54.43543, W2.78578).
Just beyond this the road meets the river on the left where there is a small area of grass and a picnic table next to a lovely bathing pool and parking for 2 or 3 cars (17.0 miles; N54.43798, W2.78814). It is now only a short distance to the hamlet of Sadgill where the tarmac road ends and there is an old packhorse bridge over the river with rough parking for a few cars and another well placed bench (17.6 miles; N54.44397, W2.79793). Again this remote and beautiful place feels a long way from civilisation.
A rough track continues up the narrow, steep sided valley and provides an excellent level(ish) walk for a mile or so to where it begins to climb steeply up and over to Mardale and Haweswater. A pedestrian gate to the field on your left here takes you to some wonderful cascading falls and pools in the crystal-clear stream. The main Haweswater aqueduct, which supplies drinking water from the reservoir across the north west of England, leads down Longsleddale valley travelling south but being underground you will struggle to find any sign of it. No facilities at Sadgill.
Retrace your steps down the valley to Garnett Bridge. You can either turn right over the river to retrace the route to Staveley or straight ahead soon leads onto the main A6 road for onward travel. A return to Staveley the way you came would make the whole trip 27.6 miles and you might be ready for refreshments at one of the fine hostelries in Staveley.