3. Langdale - Lake District Photoguide Plus
3

Langdale

Stretching to the west of Ambleside is the Langdale valley, which reaches deep into the high mountains at the centre of the Lake District. For most of its length the valley is dominated by one of Lakeland’s most distinctive mountain skylines, the Langdale Pikes (height 736m). The rugged outline of the Langdale Pikes is a classic sign of the volcanic rock from which much of these mountains were created 450 million years ago. The volcanic eruptions lasted for thousands of years, producing a range of different rocks, one of which became highly-prized in Neolithic times. This particular rock, known as Greenstone or Hornstone, was quarried at a couple of sites high up on the Langdale Pikes, then polished to make stone axes. The axes were traded across the British Isles, many of which were never used and appear to have been tradeable, trophy items.

Although the Langdale Pikes are Langdale’s most famous mountains, they are far from being its highest. Just across the head of the valley is Bow Fell; at a height of 902m this is England’s sixth highest mountain. With its neat little peaked summit, Bow Fell has something of a classic mountain form, while its neighbour to the south, the gnarled ridge of Crinkle Crags, measures in at 859m.

The main valley, Great Langdale, stretches for over 6 miles and has three small villages; Skelwith Bridge, Elterwater and Chapel Stile. A favourite flat walk follows the River Brathay from Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater, a walk of about 1½ miles each way. A short way along this route the river pours over the flat crags of Skelwith Force; this is not a high waterfall, but it can still be very impressive after heavy rain. After about half a mile the path brings you to the shore of Elterwater; this is the smallest of the Lakes, with much of the shoreline hidden under trees, but from the foot of the lake there is a stunning view of the Langdale Pikes. A mile further on brings you to the village of Elterwater, where refreshments are available from the small but perfectly formed Britannia Inn.

Running alongside Great Langdale is the quieter Little Langdale. Although more secluded than its famous neighbour, this is still a beautiful valley. It is perhaps best-known for Blea Tarn which sits in a hollow near the head of the valley, where the Langdale Pikes form a magnificent backdrop.

Slightly larger than Blea Tarn is Little Langdale’s main sheet of water, Little Langdale Tarn, which sits in the centre of the lower valley. The tarn is surrounded by farm land and marshes so is not accessible, but being almost circular it is one of the prettiest of lakes when seen from the hills above. Nearby walkers can cross the beautiful, little packhorse bridge, Slater Bridge; the name probably comes from the slate miners who would have crossed the bridge to the caverns on the south side of the valley. A mile down-stream are the impressive waterfalls of Colwith Force, almost hidden in the woods near Colwith Bridge.