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Walks around Elterwater

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Langdale: Elterwater to New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel

Length: 3.25 miles. Rise and Fall: Modest at start. Thereafter negligible. Underfoot: Very good but may be wet in part. Car Parking: Car park in Elterwater village, opposite Britannia Inn.

Langdale is one of Lakeland's most accessible and understandably popular valleys, easily reached from Ambleside. The scenery throughout is splendid, the gentle wooded country between Skelwith Bridge and Elterwater suddenly opening out to reveal the steep slopes and precipitous cliffs of a ring or impressive mountains as Elterwater Common is reached. At the valley head the jagged outline of Crinkle Crags and the shapely triangle of Bowfell dominate, while closer at hand are the Langdale Pikes, notably Pike 0' Stickle and Harrison Stickle. The latter two have perhaps the most characteristic shapes in all Lakeland, quite unmistakeable when approaching the district along the main road from Kendal. A little behind and to the right of Harrison Stickle is the great cliff of Pavey Ark, sitting over Stickle Tarn, not visible from the valley bottom, but providing the water which cascades down Mill Ghyll in a series of rapids and small falls. The scenery of this upper part of the valley is greatly influenced by the ice covering which disappeared only a few thousand years ago.

Langdale is particularly well provided with long-established hostelries. At the start of the walk the Britannia Inn in Elterwater has long been so popular that the tiny front bar holds only a small proportion of the customers and, even in bad weather, there is overflow to the outside. At the New Dungeon Ghyll, destination of the walk, the Stickle Barn has been provided to cater for casual refreshment, while three-quarters of a mile further up the valley the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel has long been the terminus of the infrequent bus service from Ambleside. Elterwater itself is a pleasant village with a post office/ general store, accommodation including a youth hostel, public conveniences, and a fine area of common land extending up the hillside towards Red Bank.

From the car park turn left along the road, cross the river and turn right into the surfaced quarry access roadway. The road rises moderately steeply, gaining 50-60 feet in less than a quarter of a mile. There is, however, a turning space for cars at the top of this rise which could be used to assist any member(s) of a group in starting what is otherwise a very level walk. Car parking at this point is not possible. As the quarry road bends to the left, take a footpath on the right, signposted on a large rock, and descend to the river. Directly across is the sophisticated Langdale time share development, on the site of the former Elterwater gunpowder mills. The well-made track is part of the Cumbria Way, passing between quarry spoil heaps and the river pool which provided headwater for the gunpowder mills, to reach a footbridge by the Langdale Hotel, latterly Wainwright's Inn. Turn left on the valley road for 100 yards and then left again on to a signposted track at the entrance to Chapel Stile village, rising for the first few yards. Turn left at a junction and pass Thrang Farm. The rows of rather unsympathetic modem houses along the side of the main road are very prominent here. Turn left yet again to cross the river by a stone farm access bridge and follow the river bank, past a farm camping site, with the main Langdale Pikes now in full glorious view. Turn right to cross the river by a footbridge, again heading towards the valley road and noting the slate field boundary stones, much more characteristic of the Hawkshead area. Turn left at the road, and left again in about 100 yards on to a public bridleway, a broad easy track along the comparatively fertile valley bottom leading directly into the car park opposite the New Dungeon Ghyll.

For the return to Elterwater the bus stops by the car park, but there are alternatives. (For a slightly longer walk continue to the Old Dungeon Ghyll, either along the road or, preferably, by a track which starts behind the New Dungeon Ghyll and is best reached from the large car park on the north side of the road. The extra distance is a little more than half a mile. To return to Elterwater on foot, another portion of the Cumbria Way may be used, but there is an ascent of about 170 feet. Walk up the valley road for a little more than 100 yards and turn left on to the farm roadway leading to Side House. Turn left at Side House and follow the footpath steadily uphill round a shoulder of Lingmoor to reach Oak Howe. Bear left to rejoin the outward route by the footbridge, and then right to return to Elterwater. This return route has fine views across the valley, but is rather messy underfoot).


Elterwater and Great Langdale
4 miles [6.5 km]

Park your car in Elterwater village car park. Walk to the bridge in the village and cross it. Immediately on the other side, to the right, a road follows the beck upstream. This is a road to the quarries and there is a right of way on foot. As you walk along the road you will see on the opposite bank a complex of buildings and waterways. Most of this is now holiday accommodation though it was formerly a thriving gunpowder works. The making of gunpowder was once a thriving Lake District industry. The works opened in 1824 and produced 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of the powder per week and was in full production in the First World War until 1918.

Presently you will see that the old quarry workings cut into the hillside on the left and the way leaves the road here, on the opposite side, down a green track to the beck bank. Follow the riverbank past the weir with the old quarry waste heaps on the left. Presently a long wooden footbridge will be reached. Cross it and join the road; but only for a little way. Turn left and the village of Chapel Stile is before you but ignore it by turning left up a track just past the Langdales Hotel. (Public conveniences opposite.) This changes for a short stretch into a road with the village school in the trees to the right, and the graveyard on the left, a simple green field with only an ornate gate and exotic shrubs to distinguish it from any other field. Do not follow road right but continue on past the buildings, Thrang. Go through narrow gate and down green track between walls. This joins a lane; bear left and cross the bridge. (A stone in the parapet is marked 'Built 1818. John & Jane Atkinson.') The path crosses a rock slab and follows beck-bank right. After half a mile the view of the valley head opens up. There are several gates. If they are open, leave them open. If they are closed, close them after you. At this point where the track leaves the bank slightly, there is probably the best view of Langdale Pikes. This is the place for an artist to set up his easel. Ahead to the left the old farm dwelling of Oak How is dwarfed by the large Scots Pines and the yew tree. It could only belong where it is.

The track eventually curves off towards Oak How. But left to Oak How, and beyond it the way bends left, and from here we go back down the valley. It is wet here, and bog avoidance means dancing from stone to stone.

Go through gate and keep wall to the left. The large crags above on the right are Oak How Crags, the eastern face of Lingmoor Fell. Spare time from bog-dodging to look back at these crags after about half a mile, and it will be seen that a jagged section of the crag is detached from the rest. This is called 'Oak How Needle'. Presently there is a sheep fold left, apparently made from an old barn, and below it in the field, a detached crag with large trees growing out of it. Through gate, as we proceed, there is a smooth glaciated slab of green slate. A wood is now entered, and there is more wetness to avoid. The green track eventually ends on a hard road to the quarries above. Go left down hill towards the farm of Baysbrown. The front wall of this farm is faced with green slate. Continue on, bearing right and upwards into another wood. The roadsides here are littered with green slate fragments. Continue on, take a last look at the Pikes over a sea of silver birch.

The road drops between walls covered with miniature rock gardens. Continue directly down until another rough road is joined, after passing a barn on the left. Turn left along this road, and after a short distance the macadam road is reached. Turn left, back into the village of Elterwater.


Loughrigg Tarn, Skelwith Waterfall and Elterwater
4 Miles [6.5 km]

This is a very varied walk through woodlands and fields, taking in a tarn, a green-slate mill, a waterfall and a small lake, with some excellent views. The walk starts at Elterwater Common. From Ambleside take the Coniston/ Langdale road. After 2.3 miles take the branch road, right, for Langdale. The open common is reached after one mile, and there are ample parking spaces with a car park at the far end.

Walk back the way you have driven until you come to the first branch road on the left. Turn left up it. This is a public road, but a quiet one. It climbs gently through woodland. Ignore the junction with road from the right, and continue on to the T junction. Turn round just before you reach it, for a view of the Coniston Old Man range's northern flank, with Wetherlam. nearest, then Swirl How and Grey Friar.

Take the right turn at the T junction, and after two minutes' walk the road widens on the left revealing a gate there. Take the path which goes from it towards the tarn. After the gate you go towards the corner of the old hedge, bear right slightly, then left through another gate. Then go forward to ascend to the lane, through a gate between the beech trees and the oak. Turn right. just along here is one of the best views of the tarn, framed by trees, with Wetherlam in the background. Further on, round the corner, is another fine view, this time backed by the Langdale Pikes.

The lane leaves the tarn now and on the left, unless old age strikes it down, there is a large birch tree with unusually prolific examples of the peculiar twig growths known as 'witch's broom', looking like so many bird's nests. This is caused by a fungus. Bear right at junction near the buildings, then left to join macadam road. Turn right, and almost immediately leave the road, left, to descend the lane which goes past the entrance to the camp site. This lane finishes at the Langdale road, near to its junction with the Coniston road near Skelwith Bridge. Cross the Langdale road, and pass the front of the Skelwith Bridge Hotel.

Walk to the bridge. This is a two-span structure across the river Brathay, which was the boundary between Westmorland, on your side, and Lancashire on the far side. Do not cross the bridge but continue on with the river on your left. This goes by the showroom of the Kirkstone Green Slate Quarry Company, which is worth a visit. The Lake District slate is exported all over the world. The way goes right through the company's mill yard, usually past large blocks of slate waiting to be cut. The special saw, set with diamond teeth which cut the slate, is in the shed on the left.

The path is then alongside the river, and goes by the waterfall Skelwith Force as it is called; 'force' being the local name for a waterfall. It is a short, pounding fall, especially impressive after heavy rain. It can be viewed by crossing the wooden bridge, and then the steel one below that. Take care if wetness makes the way slippery.

The path onward then goes up and through a gate into a field. Head across, aiming to the right of the woody knoll, then bear right for a footbridge across very muddy ground. It is approached by a stone causeway. The narrow gateway beyond is very muddy, but the worst can be avoided by turning right immediately through it, follow the wall for a short way, then turn left again across stepping stones to the other side of the mud patch. Follow the river bank round. The river is quite deep and clear, close to the bank at its normal course. Just before reaching the stone wall there is a fine view, a photographer's dream of a view if the light is right, out across Elterwater to the Langdale Pikes.

Go through the kissing gate. The way then passes through pleasant woods with glimpses of the lake, then eventually leaves them through another kissing-gate. Go on directly across the field path, through a wall gap, and on to a gate at the left of a large oak tree. Follow the grass track which finishes eventually by the bridge at Elterwater village. Turn right, go as signposted 'Grasmere, Ambleside' and the road brings you to Elterwater Common, the starting point.


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