A Lake District Walk: Skelwith, Elterwater, Little Langdale

by | Destinations, England | 14 comments

Another post in the English Lake District series! This time we go on one of my favourite Lake District walks, known locally as the Elterwater Loop or simply, the Elterwater Walk. The route from Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater and Little Langdale takes in some iconic Lake District views and, I think, is one of the best low-level walks in the Lake District National Park.

Reflection on Elter Water with view over Langdales

The walk is a loop and takes about two and a half hours (depending on photo stops and picnics!). It is about 10 km, 10.7 km if you extend to take in Chapel Stile (see below). There are a couple of steep, rocky bits, but for the most part it is a fairly flat, easy walk. Going through a couple of small villages, there are also opportunities to call by for a pint in the pub. What’s not to like!

The Route for this Lake District Walk

The map below shows the area. Most people will be driving from Ambleside to Skelwith Bridge, the starting point for this walk. From there, the route goes to Elterwater, Little Langdale and back to Skelwith Bridge to complete the loop. Another map showing the exact route is included at the end of this post.

Skelwith Bridge

There is some parking available at Skelwith Bridge, but it is limited. The key to this is to get there early.

(Top Tip: if there is no where to park at Skelwith Bridge, drive on to Elterwater and start/finish the walk from there.There is a larger carpark at Elterwater, but you do have to pay.)

The trail from Skelwith Bridge winds its way towards the village of Elterwater along the river and past Skelwith Force. This is quite spectacular, especially after it has rained – and rain is a frequent occurrence in the Lake District!

Skelwith Force in the Lake District

Skelwith Force. The bridge in the background over the river is the bridge you cross on the way back to the starting point.

The trail continues along the river and past the lake, Elterwater. It is very easy. The path has been prepared so that it is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs. There are some wonderful views of the Langdales and it is very picturesque at all times of the year.

View of the Langdales from Elter Water on a Lake District Walk

A view of the Langdales from Elter Water

View over Elterwater to Langdales on Lake District Walk

View over Elterwater to Langdale Pikes


The trail comes out at the carpark in Elterwater.

Carpark at Elterwater

There is a pub in the village, the Britannia Inn, which is popular with hikers. In Elterwater, we go left over the bridge and up the road for a few hundred metres before taking the drive off to the right.

Bridge in Elterwater on a walk in the Lake District

This is signposted to Coniston and marked as a “Challenging Option” for cyclists!

Signpost near Elterwater

The drive soon becomes a track. This is indeed rather more challenging and certainly not suitable for wheelchairs. It is relatively steep and very rocky underfoot. When it has rained, the track turns into a bit of a river in places.

Jasper on the rocky trail near Elterwater

Jasper is always out in front, but waits patiently!

Little Langdale

At the top of this track there is a trail off to the left which leads to the tiny hamlet of Little Langdale. This trail crosses a couple of fields and brings the walker to the village. Tiny or not, it does have a pub, The Three Shires. Another possible lunch and libations stop!

Slater Bridge

Alternatively, rather than taking this trail and heading to the village (and the pub), one can carry straight on towards Little Langdale Tarn and turn down to towards Slater Bridge. Again there are some wonderful views across the tarn to Wrynose Pass. Slater Bridge is a very cute, higgledy-piggledy old pack-horse bridge. It is definitely worth seeing.

Little Langdale Tarn

Little Langdale Tarn

Slater Bridge on a walk in the Lake District

Slater Bridge

Slater Bridge near Little Langdale

Our route takes us over Slater Bridge and then left along the trail. The trail eventually joins a quiet single-track road. There are wonderful views across the valley back to Little Langdale and over the fells.

(If the decision is to go to the village – and the pub – it is still possible to take a detour up to Slater Bridge from the village. A little way out of the village the trail for Slater Bridge is signposted off to the right.)

The Cumbria Way and Colwith Force

Eventually, this road joins with the Cumbria Way at one of my favourite tea gardens: High Park Tea Garden. There are fabulous views over the fells from the garden.

High Park Tea Garden on a Lake District Walk

High Park Tea Garden

View over to Langdales from back garden

Peter sitting at table in High Park tea garden with cream tea

Leaving the tea garden, the track then heads back down the hill. The trail off to the left, the Cumbria Way, is slightly more challenging than the main path, but it goes by Colwith Force so is definitely worth taking.

Colwith Force

Colwith Force

Rushing water from Colwith Force

Three streams of rushing water from Colwith Force

And back to Skelwith Bridge

At the bottom of the hill, the route goes to the right and along the narrow road for a few yards. Then there is a stile and a trail back towards Skelwith Bridge. This scenic trail wends its way across various fields and woodlands.

The stile leading to Skelwith Bridge

Eventually, the trail comes out at the bridge near Skelwith Force, back to where we started.  It is just then a matter of crossing the bridge and heading back to the car. A fabulous Lake District walk!

Variations on the Elterwater Loop Walk

One variation to this Elterwater Loop route is to hike it in reverse, crossing the bridge at Skelwith and heading up to Colwith Force first. We did this most recently for the simple reason we wanted to be at High Park Tea Garden at coffee time! A good a reason as any!

Another variation is to extend the route slightly and go by Chapel Stile, a tiny, very picturesque village near Elterwater. We did this on the recent reverse-direction walk mentioned above. Rather than cutting straight down to Elterwater after leaving Slater Bridge, it is just a matter of looking for the path off to the left through the woods soon after passing the signpost to Little Langdale on the right. Heading straight down leads to Elterwater; taking the left fork brings one out at Chapel Stile.

Trail with fork going off to left on this lake district walk

One advantage of taking the detour to Chapel Stile is to see the slate quarry along the way.

Blue green water of Elterwater Slate Quarry

The walk along the river at Chapel Stile is beautiful. There are several picnic benches here which makes it an ideal stopping place.

Path by river at Chapel Stile

Following the path along the river, one eventually arrives back at Elterwater to resume the main trail back to Skelwith Bridge.

Another detour from the main route would be to take in Cathedral Cave from Little Langdale. Cathedral Cave is a series of interlinked slate quarries. Watch this space for a post about Cathedral Cave!

Map for this Lake District Walk



Other posts about the Lake District which you might like: 

One Day in the Lake District

A Walk Around Crummock Water


One Day in Keswick


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  1. I had to look up “higgledy-piggledy”, and it’s my favorite new word! I feel like this walk is definitely my speed, with all the stops for tea and cake 🙂 Beautiful photos, I love how still everything seems.

  2. Love the stonework on Slater Bridge. We are checking into Tiger Run on the first and are crushed that Peter and yourself will not be there, we were so looking forward to hanging out again.

    • We are absolutely gutted that we are not going to make it to TR this year. Will be skiing vicariously through you!

  3. This looks like a great Sunday walk. I love that there are little pubs and villages along the way to stop and enjoy. Plus there are some great natural features and bridges to admire as you wander.

  4. What stunning photos! I have never been lucky with weather when I have visited and attempted walks in the Lake District but it’s such a beautiful part of the UK. I left the UK many years ago but these are the kind of posts that make me nostalgically homesick.

  5. The Lake District is so beautiful! I love the photos of reflection in the lake… And that Slater Bridge looks straight out of a movie! The more I travel, the more I enjoy spending time in nature and hiking has become part of every trip, this is a perfect location for this!

  6. That first view of the mountains and reflections would certainly draw me out to walk in the Lake District. I love that rushing water view from the stop at Skelwith Bridge. And the calm waters under the bridge at Elterwater. Love that the path returns to where you started.

  7. This is just such a special place. I feel through your photos how serene and peaceful it would be. That stone bridge is my favourite. I would love to do some hiking through this area.

  8. Great post, Jane. I remember some of the location names you mention, even though I’m pretty sure we didn’t do that precise hike. Missing the Lake District. Since this morning we’re now in Tier 4 here in the Big Smoke.. not pleased. 🙂

    • It will still be here for you when you are able to return. Stay safe.

  9. Beautiful! The Lake District is so gorgeous – we were in Ullswater a few years ago and did a little hike to Airaforce. I remember looking over the fields and being in awe of how stunning the landscape was. Definitely want to put some time aside next time for a hike!

    • Aira Force is very pretty. You should see it now after all the rain we have had!

  10. Lake District was one of my favourite walking areas when I lived in England. So beautiful. I definitely prefer the easy peasy walks like this rather than scrambling up some edges. Rarely have I seen somewhere more beautiful, Lake District and Cumbria has it all!

    • I agree! We are very lucky to have this on our doorstep.


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Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

We gave up work in order to travel and do all the things we were not able to do in our careers. We know we are incredibly lucky to be able to do this.

We are quite active and love skiing, hiking, biking, exploring etc, but we also enjoy history, art, music, science…..and good food and wine! In this blog, you will find articles on all of these subjects as we discover them on our travels.

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Meet Jasper, our border collie!

Jane and Peter with black and white dog on rocky landscape


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