Tag Archives: lake district

How we adapted to make you welcome

21st August 2020


Manager Nick explains what we’ve done to bring visitors back to Elterwater and make you welcome, and reflects on a strange season in the Lakes 


‘Furlough’ and ‘lockdown’… the first, a word that if asked previously to define I would have suggested something agricultural. The second, a word I’d normally associate with a second-rate sci-fi movie. But not anymore… now words firmly embedded in my vocabulary.

If I’m honest, lockdown in this beautiful part of the world with very few people around and almost zero traffic was blissful. I certainly can’t complain. Instructions from our glorious leaders to exercise locally didn’t place too much of a burden either. Ever-present were all the same challenges as for everyone else, i.e. seeing family and friends and all the usual social interactions. Skype, Teams, Whatsapp, social media… where would we have been without them?

View from Loughrigg: always here to make you welcome

Elterwater from the summit of Loughrigg: amid all the changes, the Lake District remains glorious

It was certainly odd seeing the place so quiet. The last time that even comes close to comparing was the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. The obvious difference was that this was affecting human health, and the financial impact was global rather than to a few mainly rural areas.

I was furloughed at the end of March having enjoyed a week-long holiday earlier that month, skiing, walking and exploring in Norway. I arrived back to the early stages of the UK response, managing one trip to Liverpool for a concert before lockdown.

Then I spent about a week ‘closing down’ the hostel, dealing with cancellations of bookings and then preparing the hostel to shut down… a surreal experience especially as we’d only just fully reopened after the switch from our winter business pattern.

Much of the rest was played out in everyone’s lives and on the news.

A return to work in June was welcome and I enjoyed the challenge of making the hostel ‘COVID secure’.   The ‘reopening’ of the area was a very mixed bag. The hostel was still closed under the restrictions, but rapidly growing visitor numbers caused mixed feelings among the local population.

Hostel front

The hostel looking lovelier than ever

There was a feeling of isolation and vulnerability among some of our older and isolating residents and the emergence of an apparent new type of visitor. These new visitors seemed unaware of the need to clean up after themselves and respect the environment, causing some conflicts with more careful visitors and residents.

This still prevails now in August, with significant problems caused by litter, poor parking, damage caused by portable barbecues and trespassing. I admit to be looking forward to the end of the holidays and the return of our ‘normal’ visitors who respect the area. It’s great that new people are getting to see the Lakes, but I’m not sure all appreciate it in the way our traditional visitors do. Hopefully there’s a balance to be found; we certainly want to make you welcome.

Nick Owen, ready to make you welcome

Manager Nick Owen

The boost to some elements of the local economy is welcome but others, including ourselves, are still severely restricted in how we can operate (none of which I disagree with) but it does make for very challenging times for a small business

The regulations prevent us from having the self-catering kitchen open, showers have to be allocated to ‘bubbles’ to reduce the chance of cross infection, guests affirm that they are COVID symptom free and we have a programme of frequent disinfection of touch points e.g. light switches, door handles etc.

We have portable screens that we can use to separate and protect guests and sanitiser stations located around the building and, in accordance with most recent changes, are requesting that guests wear masks in public areas when not eating or drinking. So far everyone has been happy to comply and a fairly relaxed atmosphere prevails.

During all this I have been involved, as usual, with my local mountain rescue team. That too has presented many challenges, not least the need to protect team members and the team operation from the virus while dealing with a fairly significant increase in incident numbers.

We’ve been pushing our #beadventuresmart hashtag and www.adventuresmart.uk via social media to try and alert visitors to the need to keep safe. The jury is still out on whether that has been successful or not.

So where are we now? We’re up and running, albeit in a limited way but there’s little by way of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s good to be able to make you welcome again and though it’s a different experience than any of us are used to, we’re trying to make it as normal and enjoyable as we can.

Feedback so far suggests our guests are generally as happy as usual, happy to comply with restrictions and feel safe and comfortable. It looks like we’re in this for a while yet, and the next challenge is how to function efficiently and sustainably through the winter season, since it’s looking unlikely our normal successful model of welcoming groups will be possible.

And then to 2021… the challenge continues …and we won’t speak of home haircuts!


We’re a Cool destination: it’s official!

7th February 2020

We are cool; it’s official. Well, to be honest, it’s been pretty chilly rather than cool over the last few weeks, but we’re rather pleased to see that Cumbria has made the annual Cool List.

The cool Langdale Pikes

Doesn’t get much cooler than this!

This is a judgment by the revered National Geographic magazine who’ve selected the 20 must-see destinations you should have on your travel horizon. And Cumbria is the only place in England that makes the top 20.

National Geographic say they scoured the globe for 2020’s most interesting destinations. The magazine says that from hiking trails and culinary hubs to luxury lodges and landmark attractions, “it’s a list that gives you plenty of inspiration close to home, as well as further afield.”

National Geographic Traveller has always championed responsible, sustainable, authentic travel. “Considering how, where and why we choose to travel is an ethos now firmly in the public consciousness. Exploring the world this decade means doing so responsibly and with purpose: tour slowly, spend locally and show support.”

The National Geographic list: we’re in good company

We know how well Cumbria and the Lake District fits into this description. And here at Elterwater Independent Hostel, we encourage all that’s best about sustainable tourism. We are happy when visitors arrive on foot, or a bike, or on the bus. We’re very pleased when they come back dripping wet (and happy) after a day on the fells (on in a lake) because getting out in all weathers means you’re making the most of a holiday.

The magazine’s editor, Pat Riddell, says: “Travel can be a powerful force for good. It can change lives, including yours.”

We have seen that here, especially when young people come here for the first time and experience something they’ve never known before: wide open spaces, communal social spaces, mixing happily with strangers from all over the world.

So a big thank you, National Geographic. And here’s the full list, so you can see what company Cumbria is keeping!

The Cool List 2020: Namibia; Baja California; Lebanon; Cumbria; Slovenia; Wales; Panama; Brisbane; Salt Lake City; Yerevan; Lyon; Ethiopia; Cairo; Los Angeles; Puerto Rico; Pakistan; Galway; Vietnam; Tel Aviv and Rio.

Five best books about the Lakes

26th January 2020

Here’s a list of the best books to start a debate in  book clubs and reading groups. The dramatic and romantic landscape of the Lakes has always inspired writers as well as artists, and we would be keen to hear what are YOUR favourites.

We’ve welcomed several authors to stay with us here at Elterwater over the past few years, many of them setting their stories, or their research, right here.

They include novelists and historians, an expert on Roman Britain, and an actress with impeccable and detailed insights into the work of Arthur Ransome.

What each of them appreciates is the rise in numbers of book clubs, where people get together to share thoughts, recommendations and literary criticism – and often a glass of wine and a bit of gossip at the same time.

Book clubs don’t just encourage reading, they encourage readers to step outside of their comfort zones, says a novelist friend of ours. “People are much more likely to try a new author, or a new genre, on the recommendation of friends, rather than just Amazon review,” she said.

In Cumbria there are village book clubs in places like Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick, and regional groups in the Eden valley and beyond, as well as the annual literary festival in Keswick, Words on the Water http://www.wayswithwords.co.uk

They meet in each other’s homes, in village halls, in cafes, and one group we know has an occasional night away, staying in the heart of our inspirational landscape. So if that might be of interest to YOUR book club, do get in touch.

You’d be welcome to have an overnight stay (or two) when we have the space, mid-week, low-season. Have dinner cooked by our own chef before starting your discussions in the sitting room, or opt for self catering. We have some good wines to offer; cosy, small shared bedrooms, and a splendid cooked breakfast if you wish. Let us know when you’d like to come.

And meanwhile, here’s OUR top five. It won’t be the same as yours, so tell us what are YOUR favourites.

Pigeon Post: Arthur Ransome. One of the Swallows and Amazons series and considered by many to be his best. It won the Carnegie prize for children’s literature when published in 1936. Set in the Coniston fells near the Coppermines valley, as an adventure story it remains as gripping as ever, and has the most wonderful, surprising and funny finale.

The Plague Dogs: Richard Adams. The third novel by the author of Watership Down, this is an unusual tale, narrated by Rowf and Snitter, two dogs who have escaped from a government research station which has an animal testing facility. There are location maps drawn by the guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright, and a cameo appearance by the world famous naturalist Sir Peter Scott. The fictional research station was set near Grizedale Forest.

Silent Traveller in Lakeland: Chiang Yee. Exiled from China in 1933 ,Chiang Yee spent more than 40 years away from his homeland. Adopting the name the Silent Traveller, he threw himself into writing, painting and poetry, and produced some evocative and enduring travel books. The Silent Traveller series began with this imaginative book on the Lake District, which was an immediate success on its first publication in the 1930s, selling out several reprints in a matter of months. It also caught the critics’ attention, praised for providing an entirely new angle on the Lake scenery.

Scratch and Co – The Great Cat Expedition: Molly Lefebure. Molly, who had a house at Low High Snab, in the Newlands Valley, is another writer whose work was illustrated by Wainwright. This witty story is an account of the first ascent of the H.K.P., the Highest Known Peak in the Kingdom of Catland, originally published in 1968. It’s written in the tradition of classic mountaineering stories and over the years since its first appearance it has built-up an enthusiastic readership among the mountaineering fraternity. It’s a glorious send-up of a mountaineering book – complete with “Alpine Club” type characters, hair-breadth rescues and all the tensions of a Himalayan expedition.

Rogue Herries: Hugh Walpole. Out of fashion at the moment, but described by John Buchan as the finest English novel since Jude the Obscure, this is the story of the larger than life Francis Herries – the rogue of the title – who uproots his family from Yorkshire and brings them to live in Borrowdale where their life is as dramatic as the landscape surrounding them. Herries is a violent and impetuous man, a faithless husband and a capricious father, but the Borrowdale valley (his home for 40 years) and his unrequited love for gypsy Mirabell Starr are the two forces which drive him. It’s the first in a series of four books in this family saga. Deeply atmospheric.




Lighting up the Pikes as rescue team reaches 50

6th January 2020


The most famous outline of all the Lakeland fells will be lit up spectacularly to celebrate a rescue anniversary this spring.


The Langdale Pikes – Harrison Stickle, Pike o’ Stickle and Loft Crag – will be lit over the mountain summits by hundreds of torches to mark 50 years of the Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team.


The illumination, on the evening of Friday April 3, will be part of a series of events throughout the year to mark the efforts of the volunteers who have saved hundreds of lives on the hills, and rescued injured walkers and climbers. Last year they were called out 101 times.


It is the first mountain light-up in the southern Lake District and will be hosted by Lakeland Mountain Guides, who have organised something similar on Catbells in the north.


“It promises to be an exceptional sight,” said LAMRT leader Nick Owen. “The Langdale Pikes can be seen from many miles away on the approaches to the Lakes. It’s an outline which is familiar to everyone who has been to the Lake District, but they will never have seen anything like this before.”


Nick, who by day is the manager of the Elterwater Independent Hostel, leads a team of around 40 volunteers from all walks of life, including doctors, paramedics , an insurance expert… and an architectural and sculptural metal worker.


The event is being co-ordinated by deputy team leader Sarah Anderson – one of six women in the team – who said that anyone could take part if they were competent in the hill environment after dark. “The route will be marshalled but we do expect people to be able to look after themselves,” she said.

Hundreds of torches

So far nearly 200 people have indicated that they will take part, with more than 1000 expressing interest on the team’s Facebook page.


The LAMRT was formed in 1970 from the amalgamation of two separate teams, who would use the now familiar base on Lake Road in Ambleside.


The team has some notable ‘firsts’ to its credit, including the invention of the now universally used Bell stretcher by team member Peter Bell, an engineer who also developed the Reviva, an early device to give first aid treatment to hypothermia victims. Due to its location in the centre of the Lake District, the team has also become one of the busiest in the UK.


Climbing legends


Previously, rescue from the fells was done on an ad hoc basis by local climbers, notably Sid Cross of the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Langdale. The 1950s had seen a huge increase in the numbers of people who took up rock-climbing as a sport. And with post-war increase in affluence and personal mobility, many youngsters from the northern cities began to make weekend tracks to the Lakes, camping rough or in farmers’ barns, especially in Langdale, many of them later to become climbing legends.


“Inevitably this led to an increase in the number of people getting lost, or having mishaps and accidents,” says Nick Owen.  “Volunteers came from among the local climbing fraternity but this relied on enough climbers being in the right place when an incident occurred.”


Lost on the hills


Call-outs were not as frequent then, but often were very lengthy affairs and the heavy and cumbersome equipment available, such as old Thomas stretchers, took its toll on rescuers and victims alike.


In the 1960s as more and more people wanted to experience ‘the great outdoors’, the Lake District saw the beginning of a huge boom in tourism. For mountain rescue, it meant that the client changed dramatically. Instead of climbers, it was the new breed of fellwalkers who were coming to grief on the hills, getting lost, breaking limbs and falling victim to hypothermia and heart attacks.


Rescue teams in Langdale and Ambleside were merged, and the LAMRT has
proudly defended its position as a self-funding organisation, with a dedicated membership of unpaid volunteers.




Thanks to its good relationships with local people and to many small contributors and fund-raising helpers, together with larger individual donations, the LAMRT has managed to bring itself to the present day with huge experience and expertise in its field, a formidable range of rescue and para-medical equipment, a high degree of communications technology and a training programme second to none. It has won the respect of and developed excellent working relationships with the Police, the County Ambulance Service and the coastguard whose Search and Rescue Helicopter Service often assists local teams with emergency evacuations.


Be prepared


Today their role includes education, putting across the message that those heading onto the hills should be well equipped and well prepared, and able to use a map and compass, not just rely on a mobile phone.


The team has been at the forefront of the Be Adventure Smart campaign. Says Nick Owen: “The mountains of the Lake District are not high by international standards, and severe snow and ice conditions are rare, but they should not be underestimated as they can be unforgiving for even the most experienced and well-prepared walkers.


“Severe weather conditions can set in within minutes and navigation can be difficult at the best of times due to a scarcity of obvious paths and tracks. We encourage hill goers to be adventure smart, asking, do I have the right gear, do I know what the weather will be like, am I confident I have the knowledge and skills for the day?”

Nick Owen introduces hostel visitors to the Rescue Team


Welcome to the bottom bunk club

11th September 2019

This is not an age-related offer, but……

We know that life can get a bit more challenging as you get older.

We know that the young at heart, of all ages, love coming to stay here at the hostel. They love our home cooking with a glass of wine or good local ale available, and they love coming away with friends for a few days of companionship in this beautiful location.

But when they need to get up in the night to go to the loo (maybe a little more often than in their youth), the climb back to the top bunk can be more, well, challenging, than it once was.

Which is why we’ve launched the Bottom Bunk Club.

This is aimed at those groups who are happy to share a room but fight to avoid the bed ladder.

So here’s the deal. Get together a group of at least ten people, and the whole hostel can be yours for a mid-week break (Monday to Thursday) in November or December.

You need to book a minimum of two nights, but we’re offering a great bargain: bed, breakfast and dinner for just £80 per person for TWO nights. That’s with sole use of the hostel for your party…and no bunk ladders to climb.

front door
Welcome to Elterwater
Dining room
Time for dinner

Our dormitories are small ones, so it’s just three to share at most. There are good hot showers and a great drying room if you are back from a day on the hills and the cosy sitting and dining area for scrabble, reading, knitting or parlour games, if you prefer to stay ‘home’. For dinner you might be offered homemade steak pie or mushroom stroganoff, followed by Nick’s fabulous sticky toffee pudding; and the next morning there will be a Cumbrian full cooked breakfast available.

So, whatever your age, however your group is made up, book the Bottom Bunk Club for a great deal. Call us on 01539437245 or email bookings@elterwaterhostel.co.uk for more details.

Bunk beds
Avoid the ladder

Twenty three before tea: can it be done?

11th September 2019

Twenty three before tea? Well, we were certainly fortified by a hostel breakfast before we set off on this challenge, inspired by Paul Tierney’s record-breaking run around all the Wainwrights.

Place Elterwater at the middle of the map, take a photo, and there are 23 Wainwright tops in the rectangle. And when some fellrunners on social media wondered if they could be linked to form a challenge route, we decided to give it a go.

However, when a friend and I tried it recently, a combined bad ankle and a lack of proper training scuppered us right from the first peak.  So although we had near perfect conditions, we only managed 14 peaks (42km). We could probably have done more – but not the full 23, and it would have taken longer and it’s highly unlikely that we would have made it back in time for tea!

The real challenge is the amount of up and down. To do the 23 (even with the adjustments we made) requires doing valley-floor to top-of-Wainwright at least four times. We did three of these (not counting Wrynose pass between Great Carrs and Cold Pike) and still covered over 3000m of climbing.  Looking at Paul Tierney’s route, he covered these on very different sections of the run and maximised staying high in a way we couldn’t on this run.

We certainly weren’t at full fitness, but I do think it’s a big stretch to do those 23 in a day. More doable, perhaps, would be to allow people to pick their own 23 – I’ve eyed up a route that goes further including Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, for example, and wouldn’t necessitate the drop-downs and back-ups into Great Langdale, or the Grasmere valley.

So it’s over to someone else to find a good list of 23 that can feasibly be linked together in a day. Or a 23-mile route (or 23k) that doesn’t necessarily include lots of summits?

Meanwhile it might also be good to have something that “mortals” can achieve, or have a good crack at. Maybe “how many can you do in 12 hours from the gate”, or “Nine Before You Dine”? For less extreme walkers, there are wonderful potential challenges from here. A waterfalls walk, perhaps..

Let us know when you come to stay…we can have a leaderboard here on the wall, as well as a record on our Instagram pages.

Five best pubs around Langdale

4th September 2019

A pint or two after a long day in the hills: what could be more satisfying. There are some great pubs in the Lake District and we’ve chosen our favourite five “locals” to share with you.

OUR nearest is the Britannia, virtually stumbling distance away from our front gate. A traditional Lakeland inn, it’s at the heart of the village overlooking the green where visitors sit outside – when the actual beer garden overflows. A fire in winter, good pub food. Range of speciality beers including the locally brewed Langdale Blonde and Langdale Pale, and they have a beer festival in late autumn.

The Britannia at Elterwater

UP at the head of Langdale you’ll find two of our favourites, that are also loved by walkers and climbers. The more modern Sticklebarn is actually owned and run by the National Trust. It lies at the foot of Stickle Gill (which tumbles down from the Langdale Pikes, via Stickle Tarn) and here they recognise that just about every visitor will arrive foot-weary and often muddy after an exhilarating hike. So there’s a clothes dryer over the fireplace, towels for wet dogs, books for you to curl up with on the sofa. Some nights they show films in the upstairs bar. Oh, and there’s food and drink all day and all evening, of course.

ANOTHER half mile along the road is the legendary Old Dungeon Ghyll, that’s been welcoming visitors for more than 300 years. The Hikers’ Bar has seen the great and the gritty of the climbing world gather after epic adventures, and was the “local” for the notorious Wall End barn gang, which included the likes of Don Whillans and Joe Brown. It’s soaked in atmosphere and the dubbin of ancient hiking boots.

ODG, the Hikers' Bar

Of course, you might not want to move from our cosy sitting room before or after dinner, and you’ll be pleased to know that we sell a range of locally brewed beers including Coniston Bluebird and Jennings’ Cockerhoop. What are your favourite pubs – and beers?

The best family day out in the Lakes

15th July 2019

We’re looking forward to Ambleside Sports next week,  the best family day out in the Lakes, when we will see young fell runners competing for the Elterwater Independent Hostel trophies.

We stepped in last year with prizes for the new “under-nines” category in the hugely popular Guides races, and we saw some fantastic performances from champions of the future.

Ambleside Sports is one of the highlights of the year in this part of the world. The gala atmosphere, the stalls and side shows, the craft tent and the children’s rides all combine to make this one of the best day’s entertainment anywhere in the country.

Raffle tickets will be on sale throughout the day, and one of the prizes will bring you here; it’s a two-night stay in one of our ensuite rooms!

But the emphasis, obviously, is on Sport. We are very happy to encourage youngsters to take up running and to see their efforts rewarded. Many of our guests take their first steps onto the fells – walking or running – while staying with us, so this is a great way for us to be involved. The Guides races are easily viewed by spectators as they follow a direct course up and down the fell side.

Ambleside sports: the best family day out

The Sports day is always the last Thursday in July, so this year will be held on July 25. The first event of the day is the major fell race, the Heart of the Lakes Rydal Round, a nine mile race around one of Lakeland’s best known routes, the Fairfield Horseshoe.

You have to be a pretty serious walker to even consider walking this magnificent route, never mind running it. We hope that the juniors who start in our race might go on to take part in this and other classic Lakeland fell races.

Marjorie Blackburn, chair of the Ambleside Sports committee, said: “There’s been a massive demand for a race for the youngsters thanks to the coaching efforts of our local club, Ambleside AC. We are delighted that our friends at Elterwater Hostel stepped in and are making it happen again this year. Their support means we can offer five trophies to the boys and five to the girls.”

Manager Nick presenting the trophy last year

Our Wainwrights, inspired by Tierney’s new record

21st June 2019

Paul Tierney’s new record for completing all the Wainwrights in the Lake District has captured the attention of the world. (BBC news / ITV news)

It’s a remarkable new record, six days six hours and five minutes to run over 214 Lakeland fells, breaking Steve Birkinshaw’s record by seven hours.

Climbing Harter Fell at night. Photo: Gary Thorpe

Paul’s a good friend of our team, and the staff here helped his challenge by paying for his first aid kit. So we’re excited to realise that our hostel lies in the middle of 23 of those peaks, which can all be climbed from here.

We took a photo of the map that Tierney’s support team was using during his challenge, a map specially created for them by Harvey Maps based on Birkinshaw’s route. The photo placed Elterwater at its centre, and then we traced the route lines to the south, west, north and north east, and listed the summits within that box.

See our list below.

Visiting all 214 Wainwrights is a common form of peak bagging. They are one man’s personal choice of mountains over 1000ft in height, and while there are other lists – our neighbour Bill Birkett has 541 of them, which ultra-devotees set out to tick off – doing the Wainwrights has become part of our language here.

Our manager Nick’s own “casual and largely accidental collection of Wainwrights” extends to 104 and has taken him over 40 years so far. He says: “There’s no real likelihood of completing them due to liking the hills around here so much that the incentive to travel all the way to Cockermouth for a Binsey Bimble is very small.”

Sunset on Green Crag

The guidebooks to the different areas are bibles that many of our visitors carry with them on the fells. They have sold in biblical proportions, more than two million of them since the first of the seven-book Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells series was published in 1955. The fells on which we are centred are described in the volumes for the Central, Southern and Eastern Fells. So we recommend that you use these, in association with a map and compass.

Your challenge can be one at a time, or several linked together. We would love you to share your challenges with us!

The Wainwrights around Elterwater are:

Southern Fells:

  • Pike o Blisco
  • Lingmoor
  • Black Fell
  • Holme Fell
  • Wetherlam
  • Swirl How
  • Great Carrs

Central Fells:

  • Sergeant Man
  • Thunacar Knott
  • Pavey Ark
  • Harrison Stickle
  • Pike o Stickle
  • Loft Crag
  • Helm Crag
  • Tarn Crag
  • Blea Rigg
  • Silver How
  • Loughrigg

Eastern Fells:

  • Nab Scar
  • Heron Pike
  • Low Like
  • High Pike
  • Stone Arthur

*The first continuous round of all 214 Wainwrights was completed by Alan Heaton of Clayton le Moors Harriers, a running club in Lancashire, between 29 June and 8 July 1985 starting and finishing at Keswick Moot Hall, with a total time of 9 days and 16 hours. Joss Naylor set a new record of 7 days 1 hour between 26 June and 2 July 1986. This was beaten by Birkinshaw between 14 and 20 June 2014, who completed the round in 6 days and 13 hours.

Alfred Wainwright lived and worked in Kendal for most his life but he was born into a working class family in the Lancashire mill town of Blackburn and experienced the difficult times of the 1920s and 30s. Being a bright lad, however, he worked hard at improving his position, taking night school classes and later correspondence courses to qualify as a local government accountant. This eventually enabled him in 1941 to obtain a position in the council office in Kendal, just where he had wanted to be since taking a holiday with a cousin walking in the Lake District.

After his move to Kendal walking in the Lakeland fells occupied as much of his spare time as possible, becoming his obsession. His view of the Lake District is clearly expressed in the opening sentence of his first guide: “Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland.”

* Paul Tierney ran the route in memory of his friend Chris Stirling, who died earlier this year, raising money for MIND

Five best walks with children in the Lakes

29th May 2019

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!

Skelwith Force

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.

Cathedral cave

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.

Faeryland at Grasmere

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.

Dungeon Ghyll

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.


Summit cairn on Loughrigg

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).