20081021_Elterwater – Little Langdale – Colwith Force – Skelwith Force Circular Walk – Post-2

20081021_Elterwater – Little Langdale – Colwith Force – Skelwith Force Circular Walk – Post-2
When :
21st October 2008
Who : Me and my sister Janet
Where : Lake District, Cumbria, England
Maps : 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map no.7, The English Lakes – South East
Start + End Point : 329,050
Approx Distance : 6 miles, 9.5 km
Heights : 875 ft (about 270m) up and down
Parking : Free at Waithwaite Bottom on B5343 a little way outside Elterwater Village.
                         [Other parking in Elterwater Village]
Public Transport : Yes, Elterwater is serviced by Bus, possibly a limited service

Summary : Waithwaite Bottom Car Park ; Elterwater (The Village) ; Little Langdale ; Slater Bridge ; Colwith Force ; Skelwith Bridge ; Skelwith Force ; River Brathay ; Elter Water (The Lake) ; Return to Elterwater (Village) and Waithwaite Bottom.

Continued from Post-1.


Reluctantly, we pulled ourselves away from the spectacle of Colwith Force waterfalls to follow the river downstream through the woods to meet a minor road. (Turning left here and then right at a fork in the road would give a short route back to Elterwater Village, but that wasn’t for us). We turned right for a short distance, before crossing the road to enter a small field and then into some more trees where it leaves the river to climb to Low Park and Park Farms.

Even more views opened up again, as the path dropped steadily before entering some more woods as we approached the A593 road.

There was a parting of paths in the woods … left or right branches, which to take? … Just as I started to peruse my map a passing walker queried where we were heading. Upon mentioning Skelwith Bridge, he kindly pointed to the left hand route (where he’d just come from) … We promptly took his directions, as he headed off up the path we’d come from. I should have trusted my own skills! As within a hundred yards or so, I realised we were swinging round in the wrong direction and had to double back to the dividing of the paths again to pick the right hand option which soon brought us out onto the A593.

A short bit of road walking brought us to the main road bridge over the river and soon after into the village of Skelwith Bridge and headed straight for the Chesters café attached to the slate-works gift shop.

We were now well over half way round the walk and a posh cup of coffee on the café terrace above the river was a welcome touch of civilisation, alfresco style despite the slight chill in the air.



After a brief look around the gift shop (didn’t buy anything) we set off again to find the path which takes you through the slate works itself. It’s not often a country walk takes you through an industrial landscape, and this adds another bit of interest for a very short while. 


The path continues westwards now effectively sandwiched between the river and the B5343 road. Within minutes of heading upstream we reached the next highlight … Skelwith Force … another plunging cascade.


As waterfalls go, the drop isn’t very far, but the water is channeled between large stone outcrops on both banks and the volume of water pushed through the gap makes an impressive sight.


A couple of little metal bridges and some steps in amongst the craggy rocks allows you to get quite close up, albeit a little wet and slippery from the ‘falls spray.

Leaving the noisy torrent behind, we soon reached a very modern footbridge crossing the river to a path heading off downstream on the opposite bank …. In hindsight I think this may have been the bridge we were directed to by the gentleman at the parting paths in the woods … maybe he’d assumed we wanted “The Bridge by Skelwith Force”, Not “Skelwith Bridge” village itself.

We ignored the crossing, to continue onwards on the northern bank-side, soon emerging from the lightly wooded area into an open field.


The view ahead dominated by the brilliantly shapely and instantly recognisable Langdale Pikes in the distance. I’ve heard these are the single most photographed place in the Lake District, and you can see why :-

They’re perfectly photogenic and probably aided by their central location and that they can been seen from many different places and angles around the national park. Today they looked absolutely stunning, highlighted by the afternoon sun.

I felt I could almost reach out and touch them even though they were some miles away.

A glimpse of Stickle Ghyll waterfalls descending from the pikes, reminded me of the first “proper” lake-land walk I did with my Dad in the late 1970’s during a family holiday; the “tourist route” climb to Stickle Tarn from Great Langdale and back again; little more than a couple of miles, but a good climb on a hot summer’s day. Little did I know where that first walk would lead … not really to a single view point or a cool tarn to paddle in (though both superb here), but rather to a life-long love of walking, high fells and mountains (especially The Lakes), moors and dales and more views and experiences than you could shake a stick at (a walking stick that is!!!).

I’ve digressed again, the walk continued on a made up path through the meadow ahead, staying quite close to the river, now almost serene and benign in total contrast to the waterfall left behind.

A closer look showed just how fast flowing it really was, swelled almost to the point of breaking its banks.



The route was now a pleasant stroll to where the Brathay flows out of Elter Water (the lake not the village) and a swan decided to glide over to join us as we stopped for the latest photo’ opportunity. It was obviously looking to share some of our lunch, but it shouldn’t have banked on cajoling some tit-bits from a Hadden … It had no chance! My lunch is for ME! … (you can call me mean if you want, but I don’t care!).

From what I’ve read in various places “Elter Water” actually means “Swan Lake” in old Norse language … The swan joining us sort of added a touch of romance to this useless but fascinating little play on words.

It’s surprising, but for such a large body of water, you don’t actually get to see much of the lake at-all, as it is split into almost three separate sections, divided and hidden from view by reed beds, thickets of trees, etc. The path only touches the shore line briefly where spindly trees had their feet flooded forming a kind of mini mangrove preventing full view across the waters. They did give some super little reflections though.


The final stretch alongside Great Langdale Beck felt almost anti-climatic, as the path is a wide shingled track, only remarkable by the repair works going on with JCB’s and the like where the surface had been washed into the adjoining field, obviously from where the stream had burst it’s banks to flood the area. We soon arrived back in Elterwater (The village) and then back to Waithwaite Bottom and the waiting car.

Yet another cracking Lake District walk … spoilt by only one thing … it had ended! and we had to come home. Still, a good short break.

Now that Christmas and The New Year are well and truly behind us, it’s probably time to get planning the next one, which 2nd sister wants to join us on … 3 siblings, all now middle aged (sorry Julie but it’s true!) and all able to get on together, in our bustling busy worlds … I like that … very much!

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….


Next walk = **************

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