Every good list should have a wildcard entry. Greatest mountains. Top ten albums. Best chocolate bars. An entry that makes you stop and ponder, one that ensures debates will rage in pubs across the land. Devoke Water is my wildcard for this guidebook. Depending on your point of view, Devoke Water is the biggest tarn in the Lake District, or one of the smallest lakes. The dividing line between lakes and tarns is arbitrary at best. Their altitude is often a deciding factor as well as size.
Many of them, rather helpfully, have tarn in their name, such as Bowscale Tarn or Red Tarn. These bodies of water are miniature lakes in elevated mountainous terrain. They are usually more demanding to get to, although tarns can also be found on valley floors. Devoke Water is one of the more accessible wild places for non-hillwalkers. Situated half a mile from the steep winding fell road between Eskdale and Dunnerdale, Devoke Water feels a million miles from civilisation, although it feels less wild knowing your car is only ten minutes away. The wild and desolate location is over 200 metres above the Eskdale valley, hidden from sight as you drive along the road. Devoke Water stretches for just over a mile, perfectly proportioned in its sequestered setting. From the middle of the water the view west is unique; the lack of hills in this direction creates an infinity pool effect.
Devoke Water Map – Devoke Water – Visit Cumbria Photo Gallery
On my most recent visit I met an architecture student involved in a project to rebuild the boathouse before it crumbles beyond repair. The plans includes a conversion to holiday accommodation, information I met with slight reservation. The structure is undoubtedly worth saving. I just hope this familiar and much-loved ruin does not become modified beyond recognition and access becomes out of bounds. There is a small island in Devoke Water called Watness Coy. Ancient cairns can be found south-west of the water and there is evidence of Bronze Age industry and activity too. Local historians believe the area was an important trade route and small settlement. The oak trees of this period are long gone, replaced with typical upland vegetation that is often wet underfoot. The dilapidated boathouse at the head of the water adds to the air of solitude and is an obvious pausing point.
The area around the boathouse is one of the better locations to launch yourself into the water, a place I favour for sheer simplicity. It’s the area you are most likely to have company or an audience though and for not much more effort you can seek out a quieter spot along the fringes of the water. 1 Devoke Water 2 Seat How and boathouse 3 Underwater light © Suzanna Cruickshank Devoke Water is often deserted. It’s a place to while away a summer’s day, somewhere I never hurry home from. After a swim, I relish the grassy pathless walk over the unfrequented tops. These modest hills make for a lovely walk, offering views of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man and, nearer to home, upper Eskdale, Sca Fell and Scafell Pike. Devoke Water has a metallic tang to taste; the rusty hues stem from the presence of peat and iron ore in the landscape. Devoke Water is relatively shallow, averaging under six metres, and crisp for most of the year. Those few extra metres of elevation and lack of shelter from stiff coastal breezes see me packing a hot-water bottle and an extra jumper. 4 The boathouse
Technical information MAXIMUM DEPTH 14 metres AVERAGE DEPTH 5.5 metres LENGTH 1,160 metres MAXIMUM WIDTH 420 metres PRIMARY INFLOWS Rigg Beck, Hall Beck OUTFLOW Linbeck Gill.
Getting to Devoke Water does push the limits of including it in the lake category. It’s as remote as Wast Water with the added spice of a steep road to climb. There is no public transport to Devoke Water. Cyclists can grit their teeth and tackle the challenging incline and hairpins. Parking is possible for a handful of cars near the crossroads on the verge but don’t block the access to High Ground. The ground is rarely dry; vehicles can easily get stuck in wet weather. For walkers, it’s a steady trek of nearly three miles from Eskdale, going via Stanley Force for the full tourist experience.
Sim’s Travel in Eskdale offer a reasonably priced taxi service. Getting a taxi to the road top and then walking back down after a swim is a very civilised afternoon outing indeed. The Millom and District Angling Association hold fishing rights to the water, so take care not to disturb their activities; there is plenty of room for everyone around the water. Refreshments Lonely Devoke Water does lend itself perfectly to a lazy undisturbed picnic. Take a stove (and a torch) and watch the sunset. Then go to the pub on your way home! You will pass the King George IV Inn at the road junction on your way up Birker Fell. It’s a real spit-and-sawdust-type pub with a huge open fire and decent real ale.