Mini Guide: Langdale

© cat22

Great Langdale may be just one in a sea of characterful Lakeland valleys, but few can match the mountain charms of its famous Pikes, its easy access from Ambleside, or its wealth of classic walks, scrambles and climbs. Dan Aspel has the lowdown on this high ground.

Sitting an easy seven miles west of the popular town of Ambleside, Great Langdale could rightly be described as one of the most readily reached of the classic Lake District valleys. And that's borne out in the wealth of infrastructure available here. You'll find great walkers' pubs, campsites, glampsites, B&Bs, and - at the busier times of year - plenty of other visitors throughout the length of the valley too. But even if that doesn't sound quite enough like "getting away from it all" to you, it's inarguably worth your time to visit.

Langdale  © john1963
© john1963, Aug 2014

Within this small, green horseshoe you'll find Langdale's spectacular "Pikes" (Pike of Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Loft Crag) which soar up from the valley bed in dramatic conical forms. You'll find one of the most thrilling scrambles in the District, courtesy of the technically simple but hazardously exposed scramble of Jack's Rake on Pavey Ark. You'll find hillwalking rounds that take in dramatic "biggies" such as Bowfell and Crinkle Crags. And you'll even find waterfalls (such as Dungeon Ghyll Force), charming bodies of water (such as Stickle Tarn), and climbing crags aplenty in the valley as well. All Lake District lovers should consider an exploration of Great Langdale's charms a lifetime essential, whilst those with young families may well find it the ideal place for their nascent explorers to find their adventurous feet.

Gimmer Crag from Pike o Stickle  © Seymore Butt
Gimmer Crag from Pike o Stickle
© Seymore Butt, Dec 2014

No mountain profile in Lakeland arrests and excites the attention more than that of the Langdale Pikes and no mountain group better illustrated the dramatic appeal of a sudden rising of the vertical from the horizontal… Nor is the appeal visual only: that steep ladder to heaven stirs the imagination, and even the emotions, and this is especially so whenever the towering peaks come into view suddenly and unexpectedly. The difference in altitude between top and base is little more than 2000 feet, yet, because it occurs in a distance laterally of only three-quarters of a mile, it is enough to convey a remarkable impression of remoteness, of inaccessibility to the craggy summits surmounting the rugged slopes.

Alfred Wainwright

Topping out on Pavey Ark, February
© cat22

Great Langdale in a nutshell

1 Discover what may be Lakeland's most "complete" walkers' valley

2 Test your mettle on the exposed Grade 1 scramble of Jack's Rake

3 Summit the delightful spires of the Langdale Pikes

4 Enjoy a fine hillwalking round to take in the high and shattered summit of Bowfell

5 Treat yourself to food and drink at much loved climbers' pubs at the valley base

Principal summits

Bowfell, 902m

No match for crag id:"Crinkle Crags", 815m

Harrison Stickle, 736m

Pike of Stickle, 709m

Pavey Ark, 700m

Pike of Blisco, 705m

Bowfell  © john1963
© john1963, Oct 2016

Must do routes

Bowfell and Crinkle Crags

A misty Langdale at dawn from Bowfell  © london_huddy
A misty Langdale at dawn from Bowfell
© london_huddy, Aug 2013

In the words of UKH editor Dan Bailey: "This Cumbrian crowd pleaser is an oldie, but a goodie. The route visits two A-list Lakeland fells, following Langdale's impressive western skyline from the charismatic biggie Bowfell and along the well named Crinkle Crags - which do exactly what they say on the tin. It's a justifiably popular round, so expect some company."

This is undoubtedly the most time-efficient and exciting way to explore the western end of Great Langdale, making for one of the great fell walks of the area.

  • See the UKH route card here

The Langdale Pikes via Jack's Rake scramble

High up on Jacks Rake  © Migsy
High up on Jacks Rake
© Migsy, Jul 2011

"They may not be the highest peaks in the land (they're not even the highest in the valley)," says photographer Nick Livesey "but for many Lakeland habitués they are firm favourites, inspiring regular pilgrimages to their modest heights. The reasons for their popularity are manifold and this tight knit family exhibit in one compact group all that is good about the Lakeland Fells. This classic route has it all and is justly popular but don't let the crowds put you off; wait until later in the day and there's a good chance you'll have it to yourself!". He's not wrong, and mingling a truly thrilling Grade 1 scramble with a vintage hillwalking round makes for a truly life-list-worthy day out.

  • See the UKH route card here

Lingmoor Fell

Lingmoor Fell, with a panoramic view of Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and Langdale Pikes.  © Rog Wilko
Lingmoor Fell, with a panoramic view of Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and Langdale Pikes.
© Rog Wilko, Jan 2012

Small but perfectly positioned, the view from this rugged mini mountain encompasses all the high peaks of Langdale and includes the classic angle on the skyline of the Pikes. Starting in the little village of Elterwater, the ascent takes in the pastures of the valley bottom, its wooded flanks and the heathery heights above, giving you a microcosm of Landgale in one short circuit. Worth a couple of hours of anyone's time!

  • See the UKH Route Card here

Langdale skyline

Clouds above and below Mickleden (Great Langdale)  © Tim Andrews
Clouds above and below Mickleden (Great Langdale)
© Tim Andrews, Dec 2006

If you're looking for an exceptionally excellent circuit that takes in the full grandeur of Great Langdale, then walking the entire skyline is the only way. And if you're going to take on such a walk, then fitting a wild camp into the middle of it seems the logical way to make it a journey to savour rather than to sprint. It's possible to do this by starting up the Langdale Pikes, making your way around the north side of the valley to Angle Tarn, heading up Bowfell via Ore Gap and then pitching up around Three Tarns. The following day's a simple task of nabbing Pike of Blisco before heading back to the valley bed via Oxendale.

The bold rock peaks and rambling crags of the well-named pikes form an attractive frieze above Langdale, a familiar Lakeland skyline that has kept postcard publishers in pennies for centuries. A sunny outlook and acres of quality rock mean that whatever grade you operate at, there's something superb here.

Dan Bailey, The Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland

Pavey Ark and the Langdale Pikes
© Tim Andrews, Dec 2006


OS Landranger (1:50,000) 90

OS Explorer (1:25,000) OL6

Harvey British Mountain Maps (1:40,000) Lake District


The Central Fells by Alfred Wainwright (Frances Lincoln)

Scrambles in the Lake District - South by Brian Evans (Cicerone)

Great Mountain Days in the Lake District by Mark Richards (Cicerone)

Weather forecasts

Lake District forecast from MWIS

Mountain Weather forecast Lake District from the Met Office

Pike of Stickle-specific forecast from YR.NO

Best bases

Thanks to the presence of both a campsite and hotels, it's entirely possible to stay directly within Great Langdale. This is definitely the best choice if you'd like to be straight up and out onto the fells without any other traveling each day. However, plenty of other options abound as there are also accommodation choices in Elterwater and Skelwith Bridge on your way out the valley. For those looking for the highest levels of amenities it's only a 15-minute drive to the bustling town of Ambleside. Langdale is an extremely accessible place from all directions but the west (where the Scafell range lies), so you could even stay in Coniston or Grasmere if the mood took you.

Elter Water and the eastern fells from Lingmoor Fell  © Dan Bailey -
Elter Water and the eastern fells from Lingmoor Fell
© Dan Bailey -, Nov 2014


Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel has been going since the 19th century, and since 1983 has been owned and run by Neil and Jane Walmsley. There are 12 bedrooms, no televisions (phew) and you'll pay roughly £58/person. The Hiker's Bar is a popular choice and offers live music on the first Wednesday of each month.

New Dungeon Ghyll is - as the name implies - a more recent construction than its neighbour. Staying in one of its 22 rooms starts at roughly £59/person and there is both a walkers' bar and a higher-end restaurant section.

Great Langdale National Trust campsite has a great location at the end of the valley and offers both standard pitches and even camping pods too. A pitch for two people for two nights (the minimum time period required for booking) starts at £34.

Basecamp Tipi is located right next to the NT site and offers some characterful Nordic tipis which sleep three people and can hired for as little as £50/night in the low season (up to £65 in the high).

YHA Langdale provides the Association's presence in the valley, though it's nearer to Grasmere than it is to the Langdale Pikes.

Bit breezy on Pike O Blisco  © john jennings
Bit breezy on Pike O Blisco
© john jennings, Feb 2016


Langdale is easily accessible by car, although the car parks (such as the NT-operated one at Stickle Ghyll) tend to fill up quickly on busy days. It's possible to park on the road along some parts of the valley, but make sure not to obstruct any gates… or the road itself. If taking the train to Windermere, catch the 505 or 599 bus to Ambleside, from which you can pick up the 516 Langdale Rambler - see for details.

Pubs and food

Both the Old and New Dungeon Ghyll Hotels serve food in their restaurants and bars from midday to roughly 9pm. They're also amongst the best places to have a pint of beer or other refreshment. The nearby Sticklebarn pub (run by the NT) is a good choice too. There are plenty more options in Chapel Stile, Elterwater and Skelwith Bridge. Actually, you could go on a very productive pub crawl in and around Langdale without having to climb any hills at all: now that's walking!

After Gimmer, the Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale, Cumbria  © Michael Ryan
After Gimmer, the Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale, Cumbria
© Michael Ryan

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