Elterwater and Chapel Stile


The Langdale Pikes are a familiar sight on the skyline of the southern Lakes, visible from a very long distance if you get just the right angle. They tower over the Langdale Valley and can look quite intimidating in some weathers. Our remote British ancestors prized this location highly, and stone axes quarried from here made their way across most of the British Isles and even into continental Europe.

The Langdale Pikes

The Langdale Pikes

But parts of this same valley are easily accessible for a ramble from Lake View Country House, complete with either a tea shop or pub lunch in the village of Elterwater as a midday break. You'll get to see the Langdales from a distance, although to get close up to them will take a rather more sustained effort.

Leave Lake View Country House, turn into the village and then left again by the church and garden centre to follow the road round towards the "Faeryland" tea shop and boat hire centre. This road winds behind Grasmere and eventually rises over a low shoulder between Silver Howe and Loughrigg to drop down into Langdale. On a bike this is the easiest route to follow, but on foot it is better to branch off the road to the right, along an access road ending at a house and then along an easy footpath. 

Looking back at Grasmere

Looking back at Grasmere

Take the time to look back every now and again to see Helm Crag and Seat Sandal on the far side of Grasmere. But before long you'll find yourself over the ridge and looking into a little clusters of valleys. The main valley is Great Langdale, which runs off to your right and curves away behind a shoulder of ridge to end almost at Great End. The smaller Little Langdale is almost straight ahead from this angle, and a wooded ridge which has been heavily quarried divides the two.

Our target for today is Elter water - the small lake visible slightly to your left, and the village straight ahead. Unless you're gasping for refreshments at this stage, let's visit the lake first. Head down the shallow hillside, aiming a little to the left of the village if you can, and in the valley floor you will find an easy track running alongside the river Brathay. Turn left - away from the Langdales - and follow the track as it winds roughly parallel to the river and the extent of Elter water.

Across Elterwater to the Langdale Pikes

Across Elterwater to the Langdale Pikes

You don't actually get very good views of the lake until you get to the far end, but it won't take long before you get to a shallow beach beside the water. From here you get a clear and very dramatic view of the Langdale Pikes. Pause for a moment and imagine yourself as a Neolithic stone axe worker, making your way towards the axe factories and the settlement nearby. 

If you want you can carry on in the same direction - the track ends up at Ambleside but this journey will only be feasible if you're on a bike! But by now it's probably time to head back for a snack. Go back along the track until you reach the village of Elterwater and turn right just after the car park. You will soon see two choices ahead of you - the Britannia pub on the left and the Elterwater cafe on the right. They're both good, in different ways, so pick whichever takes your fancy!

The Britannia Inn The Elterwater Cafe
The Britannia Inn The Elterwater Cafe

When you're done there, you have a choice to make. You can either work your way back to Grasmere or head further up the Langdale Valley. If you want to turn back, then rather than simply retracing your steps, turn right as you cross the ridge and first see Grasmere again. This brings you across the front of Loughrigg. Then you can drop down to the lakeside and follow it on either shore back to Lake View Country House. 

If instead you are keen to linger in Langdale, there's plenty to see. Actually reaching the Pikes is a fair-sized walk from here, so it would be better to put that on hold for another day. But the little village of Chapel Stile, tucked in against the northern valley wall, is interesting to explore. As well as a village shop and tea shop, the church is worth seeing, and you can find a track which runs behind it through a series of old quarries. 

 

Brambles Cafe, Chapel Stile The church at Chapel Stile
Brambles Cafe, Chapel Stile The church at Chapel Stile

Take a last look at the Langdales, and then turn away from them and follow the path back home again. We will return another day to find out more about both their natural splendour and historical importance.

 

Map or the route to Elterwater and Chapel Stile

(The distance shown is for a one-way journey)

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