First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A beautiful day of blue sky over the Lake District, and Elterwater was already stirring with walkers as we climbed away up the stony old cart track that goes over from Great to Little Langdale. A big old pine by the track held out its branches like a cormorant drying its wings. Ahead the fells over Little Langdale Tarn rose as crinkled as old men’s faces, an ancient landscape looking sharp in the sunlight.
We turned off up a steep fellside path, snaking up the rocks of Bield Crag. A holly and a juniper clung together to a crack in the rocks, blown back on themselves by the winds of a century into a graceful concavity. At the top a stone wall rode the crest boldly and purposefully, a Lakeland Hadrian’s Wall that roller-coastered over crags and into gullies, leading us westward unerringly.
We sat on the short turf of Lingmoor to savour the absolute silence – absolute except for bee hum and wind whistle, the snick! snick! of a Herdwick ewe’s teeth in the grass, and the rattle and rush of a raven’s wings overhead as it flipped upside down and upright again in a joyful display.
At the cairn on Brown How a breath-stopping view opened northwards across the cleft of Mickleden to the Langdale Pikes, three-headed and magnificent, with the tiny crescent of a paraglider swooping round Loft Crag. Down beyond the summit we found the faintest of sheep paths running back east, suddenly cresting a shoulder to deposit us on the shore of lonely Lingmoor Tarn. The stems of horsetails and water lilies pimpled the surface of this beautiful little lake, and three tiny silver birches grew out of one of the flat circular islets.
A place to linger all afternoon, really. But shadows were beginning to lengthen. Back on the ridge path we scrambled down beside the dark cliffs of Side Pike, and got down to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel just in time to catch the bus back to Elterwater in a crowd of reeking, tired but happy hikers.
Start: Elterwater car park, Elterwater, near Grasmere, Cumbria, LA22 9HP (OS ref NY 328048)
Getting there: Bus 516 (Ambleside-Dungeon Ghyll)
Road – B5343 from Skelwith Bridge (A593, Ambleside-Coniston)
Walk (5½ miles, strenuous, OS Explorers OL6, OL7. NB: online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): Left across bridge. In 200m, opposite Eltermere Hotel, right (327045, ‘Coniston, Cycle Route 37’). In 200m, fork left (‘Little Langdale’ fingerpost) up stony track. In ½ mile, pass public bridleway on right, then through gate (321041). In ¼ mile, pass reservoir on right; in 100m, right through gate (318039) up fellside path. After nearly ½ mile, reach a col with little cairn (314041). Don’t turn left or right; keep ahead over col (cairns). Bear left on path parallel with wall, sometimes 100m away. In about half a mile wall bends right and becomes fence – follow it to summit of Brown How (302046).
Continue along ridge beside fence/wall. In 500m fence turns left and stops (299050); but continue on path beside wall parallel with ridge for ¼ mile to angle of two walls (297052). Detour – a faint path runs right from here and curves ESE for 500m to Lingmoor Tarn. Main walk: At angle of walls, left over stile; continue with wall on right. Just before wall meets cliff face of Side Pike, turn left (294053) and descend. Near road, right over stile/fence. Path runs parallel with road; then (288052) down fellside; through successive belts of trees to campsite car park (286058). Left to road; right to bus stop on B5343 (286060) with Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel beyond.
Return to Elterwater by Bus 516.
Conditions: Rough and rocky underfoot, some short steep climbs – hill-walking clothing and boots.
Lunch: Picnic; or Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel (01539-437272, odg.co.uk)
Accommodation: Eltermere Inn, Elterwater, Ambleside, Cumbria, Postcode (01539-437207, eltermere.co.uk) – comfortable hotel, fantastic views.
Information: Ambleside TIC (01539-432582)