You’ll be surprised how happily children will go for a walk in the Lakes if there’s some excitement along the way. Here’s five great little walks easily done from Elterwater Independent Hostel.These are recommendations, not detailed guides. You will need a good map, and we sell the AA/OS maps which cover the routes here. If you want more detailed route descriptions, we recommend a good guidebook by Ian and Jill Rimmington, 7 Walks from Elterwater. Best of all, talk to our staff; they are THE local experts and can check timings and find a detailed weather forecast for you. And a packed lunch!
1: Skelwith Force and the Brathay. Especially when young children are involved, there’s nothing wrong with an out and back walk, and this one is easy enough for pushchairs, small tricycles, and little legs. The very good thing about a return route in this part of the world is that the view is completely different each way. And while there’s absolutely no danger of getting lost, there’s the thrill at Skelwith of one of the finest waterfalls in the whole of the Lake District. Children will want to scramble down close to the river; there’s a healthy absence of railings and fences, so keep them supervised. All you need to do is cross the road from the hostel and take the footpath that leads from the main car park. 3 miles.
2: Slaters Bridge and cathedral cave. Who can resist the appeal of a cave, especially when it’s as spectacular as this one. Cathedral cave is actually an old quarry working, set into the hillside between Little Langdale and Tilberthwaite. There’s a good path over to Little Langdale; turn right from the hostel then right again on the path that climbs through Sawreys Wood. When you reach the tarmac road, turn left, then right on a small path that leads to Slaters Bridge, an old packhorse bridge over the River Brathay after it leaves Little Langdale tarn. The path to the cave is on the other side; a tunnel leads to a 40 foot high chamber of strikingly dramatic slate. To return a different way, head back to the main road, turn right and pass the Three Shires Inn, then take the path on the left back via Fletchers Wood. 4.5 miles.
3: A visit to Faeryland. This will encourage the most reluctant of little walkers. Faeryland is a tiny open-air lakeside café on the shore of Grasmere, where there are also a few rowing boats for hire. There’s a vardo (gypsy caravan) in the grounds, and a few faeries hidden among the bushes. From the hostel, go left to the crossroads at the main Langdale road, cross over and head uphill past the Wayside Pulpit, before cutting up to your left on a well trodden path that leads past the High Close electricity switch station….it looks like a sheepfold from a distance. Follow this path up and over into Red Bank wood, to where the track meets the road at a house called Hunting Stile. Walk down the road until you reach Faeryland on the right.
Coming back, take the alternative path through the arboretum at High Close, a stunning 11 acre estate full of trees and shrubs imported from all over the world. A number of paths lead through the trees; all bring you back on the winding road back down to Elterwater. 4.5 miles.
4: An expedition to the heart of the Lakes..Dungeon Ghyll. You can take the bus to the head of Great Langdale for this mini-adventure, and climb up to Stickle Tarn, by way of Stickle Ghyll. This is a very well-defined path behind the Stickle Barn and new Dungeon Ghyll hotel, and the tarn itself is truly atmospheric, lying at the foot of towering Pavey Ark, and the Langdale Pikes themselves: Harrison Stickle, Pike o’Stickle and Loft Crag. It’s a steep climb, and though the path has recently been restored and improved, it’s still a tough undertaking, so make sure little feet are wearing decent boots. Or just potter about exploring the lower reaches of Dungeon Ghyll in the ravine to the west.
5: A real mountain, Loughrigg, and another cave. Here’s one to offer a reward for hard effort, an ascent of Loughrigg Fell followed by a visit into another cave, a real Tolkien-esque experience this time. Loughrigg is only small in height but covers a vast area, and offers brilliant views from the top. You can walk from the hostel, following the path through the arboretum to a short ascent of the fell from Intake Wood beside the road south of the Red Bank junction. From the summit take a path north easterly down to Rydal Cave. The interior is easily accessed via stepping stones. There are sometimes concerts in here, notably just before Christmas when the cave is filled with hundreds of candles and lanterns. Coming back, take Loughrigg Terrace, a splendid high level walk back to Red Bank, and from there down to Elterwater. Allow four/five hours for this; take a packed lunch (ask our staff to prepare one for you).