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.
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.
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!
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.
The trail comes out at the carpark in 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.
This is signposted to Coniston and marked as a “Challenging Option” for cyclists!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One advantage of taking the detour to Chapel Stile is to see the slate quarry along the way.
The walk along the river at Chapel Stile is beautiful. There are several picnic benches here which makes it an ideal stopping place.
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:
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