The ford at Eskmeals Viaduct

The combination of fording the River Esk and the beach walk to Ravenglass, are the grand finale of the Lakeland Way. However, a low-tide window is required to be able to cross the river at the Eskmeals Viaduct, and to continue the mile or so to the Market Cross in the centre of the coastal village.

The length of this window is subjective, and can be 1 hour (comfortable) or 2 hours (doable) each side of low tide; both being very safe, and in my own experience the water level didn’t reach above my knees at 1.5 hours before low tide. With all this in mind, it is important to plan your Lakeland Way adventure when there is a low tide in the afternoon, due to this crossing being at the end of day 12. Ideally, a low tide at around 4pm would be my preference.

The Lakeland fells seen from the River Esk

Tide Times
The tide times tell you what time the water will be at its highest point (high tide) and at its lowest point (low tide). In the UK there are usually two high tides and two low tides in a 24 hour period. The time at which the high and low tide occur will change day to day. For example, if the tide was at its lowest at 3pm today, the lowest tide is likely to be later tomorrow.

Tide times are generally available for the next 7 days for around 500 port locations around the UK, and can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy. However, due to storm surges and other factors, predicting tide times a long way into the future could be less accurate.

Websites that provide weekly or monthly tide charts:

To plan your walk way ahead, QuickTide provides a two-year tide chart:

Although tide times are generally reliable, long periods of bad weather can cause the sea to swell and push tides into the estuaries before the predicted times, so it’s important to look at the conditions and make an informed decision on the day. Other factors may also play a part, for example you could be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances or you may have misjudged the time it’s taken to walk the last day.

The Irish Sea and the River Esk seen from Stainton Tower

It is at Stainton Tower where a decision can be made on which route to take to Ravenglass, whether to continue on the Lakeland Way to Waberthwaite and Newbiggin, and then fording the River Esk at Eskmeals Viaduct, or to travel by taxi to Ravenglass from the hamlet of Broad Oak, which is located on the A595 less than a mile further along the route from Stainton Tower. The weather and the time are the main factors in this decision.

The local taxi company is: Gosforth Taxis

Please note the following when considering other options to reach Ravenglass: it is not recommended to attempt to ford the River Esk at Hall Waberthwaite, or to walk along the A595 due to fast-moving traffic.

Crossing the River Esk
The south bank and the first part of the river bed is mud, but fortunately you only sink in about an inch or so. However, it is very slippery so it’s best crossed at this point barefoot. For a slightly easier approach with less mud, avoid the slipway into the river and walk 20 yards left along the south bank. Enter the river at this point then divert back to be nearer the viaduct. A few metres across and the mud soon turns to soft sand and the water is shallow. From the centre onwards, the water is deeper and the river bed is a combination of sand and shale. This can be a little uncomfortable on the soles of the feet, so some form of footwear is beneficial at this point.

If the conditions are right, and time is on your side, then I cannot think of a better way to complete “A long-distance walk through the beautiful English Lake District”

The following two photos show the water level at three hours before low tide:

The eastern side of Eskmeals Viaduct
The ford slipway and the western side of Eskmeals Viaduct

The following four photos show the water level at low tide:

“….walk 20 yards left along the south bank”
“….but fortunately you only sink in about an inch or so”
The Lakeland fells seen from the viaduct
“….a combination of sand and shale”
On the coastal path to Ravenglass

The following photo shows the water level at one hour before low tide:

John Falcus and myself crossing the River Esk in July 2023

John Falcus is officially the first person to walk the whole of the Lakeland Way in one go. I was very delighted and privileged to be able to meet him at the end to celebrate his completion of the 144 miles.

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