A low-level walk from Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge

Staying at home: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Lake District

At this time, Cumbria Tourism and the Lake District National Park Authority are urging visitors not to visit the Lake District, despite the change in lockdown rules on exercise which come into force on 13 May 2020.

Cumbria and the Lake District have sadly experienced some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the UK, and there are many anxieties related to this (e.g. the Lake District National Park Authority has expressed concern for the welfare of Mountain Rescue Team members, volunteers who often work for front line services).

I am also deeply concerned about the welfare of visitors, with many local walks containing ‘bottle necks’ such as stiles, gates and narrow walled paths, which will not allow for social distancing.

All visitor attractions, cafes and non-essential shops are currently closed in line with government rules.

For guidance and official advice on visiting the Lake District during this difficult time, please take a look at the websites of the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria Tourism.


The view over Elterwater
The view over Elterwater

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.

The Great Langdale BeckBearing 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.

The Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge walk

Looking back towards the village of Elterwater
Looking back towards the village

The walk also passes briefly through woodland

Looking across Elterwater
Looking across 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).

The path from Elterwater towards Skelwith Bridge
The path from the lake towards Skelwith Bridge
The path through woodland near Skelwith Bridge
The path through woodland near Skelwith Bridge
Woodburn Bridge near Skelwith Bridge
Woodburn Bridge
Woodburn Bridge
Woodburn Bridge
Skelwith Bridge
Skelwith Bridge

One of my favourite pictures from our walk was actually taken on the way back towards the village as the sun began to set.

Heading back towards Elterwater village from the lake
Heading back towards Elterwater village from the lake

The Great Langdale BeckLooking towards Elterwater from the Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater routeIf 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.

Outside the Britannia Inn in Elterwater village
Outside the Britannia Inn in Elterwater village
Herdwick Sheep in Elterwater
This is ‘our’ car park…

The Elterwater CaféThe Elterwater caféElterwater villageElterwaterA cottage in ElterwaterJust 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 villageElterwater 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!


  1. Miles without Stiles is a fantastic resource if you’re looking for accessible walks at low level – I would highly recommend it.

  2. Some changes since I was last there, but this is a favourite of mine. Nice photos.

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