The Langdale Valley is one of the Lake District's best kept secrets. The valley stretches from Ambleside through Clappersgate, Skelwith Bridge, Elterwater and Chapel Stile and continues down to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and Mickleden. The valley is surrounded by some of the best known fells, Pike O’Blisco, Crinkle Crags, Pike O’Stickle, Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark.
As you drive down the valley road, coming over the cattle grid at the rise into Elterwater, you are greeted by one of the best views there is. Open common land covered in bracken, sheep grazing, traditional white washed cottages and the Langdale Pikes rising up behind to frame the view.
Elterwater is the gateway into the Valley and it’s a pretty place. The Britannia Inn enjoys a great position in the centre of the village, situated opposite the bowling green, it has an abundance of outside tables, taking advantage when the sun decides to shine. The pub is a relaxed affair, no stuffy menu’s or pretensions. You are welcome in a suit and you’re welcome in your muddy walking boots with the dog! A great choice of ales, Britannia Gold, Neddy Boggle Bitter, Britannia Special and Bluebird Bitter both brewed by the Coniston Brewing Company, the pub also features a guest beer each week. The food choice is fantastic, the portions are huge, even the kids portions are generous. A wide selection for both lunch and dinner with an evening specials menu which changes daily.
A short stroll from the centre of the village is the Eltermere Inn. The bar area is beautiful, in winter a roaring fire takes pride of place to lull you into blissful comfort, not only that, but the selection of rums, gins, vodkas and whiskies, makes having ‘just the one’ almost impossible. The Inn is unique and the owners have a style all of their own, not to everybody’s taste, but definitely to ours. They are warm and welcoming, the effort they have lavished on the building shows. The gardens have been a labour of love, and if you are lucky enough to be there when the sun shines, you should enjoy your lunch or drink outside.
The National Trust car park is well located, being in the centre of the village and also next to the start of one of the easiest and best walks to Skelwith Force at Skelwith Bridge. Perfect if you’re walking the dog, or you’re walking with children. There’s plenty to see and it’s an almost level path, great if you’ve not brought an off road pushchair with you, although we do hire out child carriers and all terrain pushchairs from our office. Once you’ve enjoyed watching the water flow down the river and over the falls, keep following the path and you’ll come to Chesters by the River. Chesters is a cafe, bakery and shop tucked in by the River Brathay. They serve breakfast and lunch, and an awful lot of delicious cakes. Watch out, although quite expensive, you do get rather a large piece, enough to share in our house! You’ll welcome the walk back to Elterwater if you’ve had a bite to eat here.
There are so many places to walk from Elterwater…One such walk would be over the top to Little Langdale, only a couple of miles, with some easily achieved great views and then stop for a drink at the Three Shires Inn in Little Langdale, named after the Three Shires stone 2 miles away. They have a wide variety of local ales, a good selection of wines and over 50 malt whiskies to choose from, they serve lunch and evening meals (reservations preferred).
Little Langdale is surrounded by Wetherlam and Swirl How on the South and South West and Lingmoor Fell and Pike O’Blisco on the North and North West. The road through the village leads over Wrynose Pass and Hardknott towards Eskdale and is not for the fainthearted or those towing a caravan! Cathedral quarries are a small network of quarries above Little Langdale, best known for it’s main chamber standing 40ft high, a huge rock pillar supporting the roof, lit by two windows off the main quarry, referred to as Cathedral ‘Cave’. The quarry features at least 25 named rock climbing routes and is very popular with climbers.
Another walk from Elterwater would be to continue through Elterwater Quarry onto the old road that runs to the back of Baysbrown Farm and then on further towards Oak Howe and down to Great Langdale Campsite, if you didn’t bring a packed lunch, then the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel towards the end of the valley, would be the best place to stop for lunch. A practical and friendly pub with grub, stone floored so don’t worry about trekking mud in on your boots, or about the wet dog! The back bar also features a welcoming fire and friendly atmosphere. On your way back to Elterwater you’ll pass Blea Tarn and depending on your choice of path, Little langdale Tarn and Slaters Bridge, eventually bringing you back through the quarry and into the village.
I have to mention how close Elterwater and Chapel Stile are to Grasmere. There are so many paths to choose from, but my path of choice would take me over the top of Huntingstile, passed Langdale YHA, down to the gate signposted Deer Bolts Wood. This is a great walk through the wood and onto the stunning Loughrigg Terrace giving you views of Easedale, Dunmail Raise and Rydal, eventually leading you into Grasmere (we never make it that far with the kids). You really do get the views in a abundance and a chance to test your skimming skills at Penny Rock Beach.
We are very lucky to still retain a quality village shop in the valley, situated in Chapel Stile centre (1 mile from our Elterwater cottages), it has great selection of food, frozen and fresh, and showcases a number of local producers which is great as Cumbria really does make some excellent quality food. The shop also has a wide variety of maps and walking books, plus daily papers and magazines. If you’ve forgotten something, ie your waterproofs, a corkscrew or flask, then go to the Coop as they’re bound to have them. Upstairs has a plethora of essentials whether you’re camping or staying in one of our Lake District Cottages. Upstairs also has a unique little cafe called Brambles. They make a great breakfast, perfect for a treat whilst you’re on holiday. They also make lots of their own cakes Tiffin is a family favourite, as is their flapjack, you get quite a slab of it too. They make their own soups and sandwiches, and you can even order to take away, great if you’re staying in one of our Chapel Stile cottages or enjoying a days walk.
The village also has its own pub, Wainwrights Inn, owned by the Langdale Timeshare Group. The outside seating at the front of the pub is in a perfect position to watch the Langdale Gala each year, on the first Sunday in July. The pub serve a choice of standard pub menu fare, we’ve been told by many of our guests that the beer is very good, they have the annual ‘LangdAle Beer Festival’ here, showcasing different beers. The pub does get very busy, so you may need to wait for a table if you’re ordering food though.
Chapel Stile is on the banks of the Langdale Beck. The Church, built in 1857 is at the foot of Silver Howe and looks over the village, has a number of interesting stained glass windows which are worthy of a visit. The village has also kept it’s Junior School open. A school like no other that we know of, not only do the children get to stay at school when it snows, they get asked to bring their sledges with them, and as a treat get to go to Brambles Cafe for hot chocolate! For those self catering in Elterwater, there’s an easy ‘off the main road’ path that runs along the river from The Wainwrights Inn, back to Elterwater.