The Langdale Valley
Little Langdale and Great Langdale
The Langdale Valley, or the two adjoining valleys of Little Langdale and Great Langdale, is a breathtaking region reaching out from the bustling village of Ambleside in the Central Lakes towards the mighty peak of Scafell in the Western Lake District. It is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, an excellent choice for walkers of all abilities and is becoming popular with families looking for their own slice of wilderness.
With the striking craggy summits of the Langdale Pikes as a backdrop and the valley floor littered with the picturesque waters of Blea Tarn, Elterwater and the River Brathay, there is plenty to explore. The small rural communities of Little Langdale, Elterwater, Chapel Stile and Skelwith Bridge each have their own unique character, and the entire region is a delight for foodies with its choice of excellent pubs and tearooms.
Take a stroll along the valley floor
Follow the scenic River Brathay as it flows from the quiet hamlet of Elterwater into a small peaceful lake bearing the same name. A lovely walk follows the path along the lakeshore before picking up the river again as it gathers pace and cascades down Skelwith Force towards Skelwith Bridge. There are two choices from here; turn back, or continue to Colwith Falls and the much-photographed Slater Bridge before completing the 2-3 hour circular.
At the far end of the Langdale Valley, the Mickleden Valley has very little sign of habitation, and a walk here transports you to a seemingly forgotten land. A gentle two-hour stroll from the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel follows a well-defined track to the base of two impressive mountain passes: Rossett Gill and Stake Pass. While you can view it as a warm-up to a more strenuous hike, it is also an excellent stroll in its own right and an opportunity to become immersed in stunning scenery. Picnic spots abound in the Langdales, so pack refreshments and make a day of it!
Hike the hills
Stickle Tarn is a hidden gem tucked away on a high ridge behind the National Trust pub Stickle Barn. A steep, rocky scramble is rewarded with spectacular views of the Langdale Valley across to Lingmoor. As Stickle Ghyll falls over the craggy landscape, it is loud and wild in places, so when you reach the top, the serenity of the calm waters of Stickle Tarn offers a delightful retreat. A circular hike continues past the tarn onto open fells and takes in further spectacular views as it ascends Blea Rigg and Great Castle How before dropping quite steeply to the valley floor.
The iconic Langdale Pikes create a breathtakingly dramatic skyline at the head of the valley. A well-trodden 8-mile hike takes in eight Wainwright Fells in a stunning circuit, including Pike Of Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Sergeant Man, Tarn Crag and Blea Crag to name a few.
Enjoy a dip
Blea Tarn and Elterwater have lovely shorelines perfect for whiling away a summer's afternoon. Whether it's skimming stones, paddling in the cool, clear water, spotting wildlife or simply relaxing with a picnic, both spots are easily accessible from nearby National Trust car parks. During spells of consistently sunny weather, the River Brathay at Skelwith Bridge is low enough to paddle in, and kids love scrambling from island to island on the partially dried up riverbed!
Immerse yourself in local life
The delightful hamlets of Elterwater, Chaple Style and Little Langdale ooze quintessential Lakeland charm. The occasional general store provides a place to stock up with supplies and the region has plenty of excellent pubs and tea rooms to enjoy. Chesters by the River at Skelwith Bridge is celebrated by locals and visitors alike for its superb selection of freshly made cakes and savouries, while Stickle Barn, The Old Dungeon Ghyll, The Three Shires and Wainwright's Inn offer well-stocked bars and serve food daily. Most of the pubs in the area promote a calendar of events throughout the year; the National Trust's Stickle Barn is no exception, with its packed timetable of family-friendly activities, film showings and live music nights.
Little Langdale Quarry and Hodge Close are the scars left on the landscape from the once lively green slate industry; they house a small network of interlinking quarries which are now managed by the National Trust and make for fascinating exploration. The highlight for many visitors is the awesome 40-foot high cavern known locally as Cathedral Cave due to its impressive structure. The cavern is one of the most photographed sites in the Langdale Valley due to its striking central pillar and the beautiful lighting at different times of the day. There are a variety of walks that visit the quarry and various tunnels and caverns to explore. It's always worth following the guidance on the signs and noting that some tunnels are up to 100m long so will require a torch.
Dive into an adventure
The Langdale Valley has long been a playground for thrill seekers. The magnificent landscape is ideal for a wide variety of pursuits including ghyll scrambling, rock climbing, abseiling and canoeing and there is an abundance of excellent guide companies happy to organise bespoke activity days to suit your preferences and abilities. Distant Horizons, The Lake District Walker and Crags Adventures all arrange trips in the area, so you can book onto a pre-organised day, or have them create something just for you.