The Duddon valley remains one of the quietest and least frequented places in Lakeland, yet its timeless charms are just 20 minutes away, over Birker Moor. In contrast the diverse landscape of Furness, bordering Morecambe Bay, has been witness to a constant history of change, from the rich heritage left by the Norman monks to the shipbuilding prowess of the Barrow yards.Leave the valley on the Ulpha road, at the King Georg IV Inn, but remember to pause at the top of Birker Moor for one of the finest panoramas in Lakeland. Soon the moors of rippling grass and sedge give way to the soft, pastoral setting of the Duddon valley.

In spite of the amount of summer traffic at either end of the valley, over Wrynose Pass and the Duddon Bridge respectively, the valley remains peaceful and unvisited.

Although bounded by the high Coniston fells, Harter Fell and the giants looming over Wrynose, it is more a valley of wooded knolls and hows, the small rocky outcrops of the Seathwaite fells and, of course, the lovely cascades of the River Duddon.

No one has captured the mood of the valley better than Wordsworth in his series of sonnets that follow the course of the river. His Faery Chasm, at Birk's Bridge, remains the same today - a quiet magical spot. Close to the tiny village of Seathwaite and Newfield Inn are some lovely beckside walks, including Wordsworth's stepping-stones where 'the Child puts his budding courage to the proof'.

Lower down the valley, in Dunnerdale proper, is Ulpha with its lovely church and pools for quick dips or paddling. High on the skyline is the stark silhouette of a ruined pele tower with its legend of a lady who was lost in the chasm as she fled a wolf. Dunnerdale is flanked to the south by a range of fells in miniature, culminating in the shapely top of Stickle Pike. They may lack the grandeur of Bowfell but their jumble of tarns and crags make for an adventurous afternoon's walk. The best starting point is the beautifully named Stonestar, the site of an ancient settlement with its Iron Age bloomery and mysterious cairns. To give a historical end to the day visit Swinside stone circle, on the windswept fells above Duddon Bridge, and stay until the sun begins to set across the Irish Sea.

 

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