If you’re looking for a pretty Lake District stroll, at low level and mostly on the flat, the walk from Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge is ideal. In fact, it has all the ingredients you could possibly want… a lovely view over Elterwater towards the middle of the walk, a waterfall en route, and places to seek refreshment at either end!
My gem-hunting companion and I had a couple of hours free one Friday afternoon, so we thought we’d give the route a go.
We started from the National Trust car park in the tiny village of Elterwater, where a gate leads you immediately onto a flat stone footpath following the flow of the Great Langdale Beck towards the small lake, also named Elterwater. At this time of year, the path is in quite a bit of shadow, but the sun still shines on the hills, and the whole scene looks lovely. The water in the river was so clear that you could see all the stones on the river bed.
Bearing in mind that this was the first time I’d done the walk, I was eagerly anticipating the moment the path would meet the shore of the lake. It was made all the more exciting by coming across areas where the path met the river (there’s a lovely section with a bench, where you can watch the water running past), and then the path would divert away from the water again, with only glimpses of sparkling water to be seen through the trees and reeds. Eventually, after a short walk through woodland, there’s another gate, and at last the path leads you to the open view over Elterwater.
It was at this point that we stopped to admire the scenery and to take pictures, before turning back to the village. However, you can continue to follow the curves of this route along the River Brathay until you reach further woodland and the slightly steeper path down to Skelwith Bridge, where there’s a popular café called Chester’s by the River. We’d walked the final part of the walk before, from the opposite direction, and here you pass Woodburn Bridge, a lovely ornate crossing over the River Brathay, as well as Skelwith Force en route (be cautious during wet weather, because the surfaces can be extremely slippery here).
One of my favourite pictures from our walk was actually taken on the way back towards the village as the sun began to set.
If you’ve held out until now for refreshments, you have the choice of the Elterwater Café, or the Britannia Inn, which had attracted many thirsty walkers when we passed it, despite the chilly late afternoon temperature.
One of my favourite things about Elterwater is that the Herdwicks wander freely around the village like woolly hoovers! The cottages here have lovely character too.
Just as we were about to leave, we were treated to a fabulous display of colour on the hills behind the village. Whereas the buildings had been cast into dull grey shadows, the fellsides were lit with a red and golden glow, making a wonderful contast.
Elterwater has a really lovely feel to it, and when you’re there, it’s like you’re a million miles from anywhere – yet it really isn’t that far to drive from Ambleside. It’s mainly walking territory (there are no shops, or visitor attractions as such here), and I will definitely be reading up on other routes to explore soon.
Please note: None of the posts on Lake District Gems are intended as walking route guides. There is however a guide to the Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge walk on the Lake District National Park Authority’s online resource, Miles without Stiles.
Have you any top tips on great ways to spend time in and around Elterwater? If so, do share your thoughts with other readers by leaving a comment below!