Going: A mixture of tarmac and unsurfaced tracks. The first section
into Little Langdale is easy, followed by a rougher section to Fell Foot Bridge. The track
out of Elterwater has a steep climb, littered with chunks of slate.
Total distance: 11½ miles - allow 2½ hours.
This circuit of the Langdale Valleys blends stunning Lakeland scenery with a combination of interesting on-road and off-road cycling. The first section would make a gentle outing for those with youngsters, a short return is possible via Little Langdale, while the full route has a couple of stiff climbs to overcome. An O.S. Map is recommended to supplement the sketch map.
The starting point is Tilberthwaite, reached by following the Ambleside road out of Coniston, and bearing left after 1½ miles. There is plenty of parking space at the end of the lane. Set off towards the farm, and go through the farmyard (1) to the gate in the far right hand corner. (There's another gate to the left).
A delightful wooded section along an unsurfaced track follows, passing by vast heaps of slate spoil, and ending at a shallow river ford, which seems a popular paddling spot. Bear left here (dont cross the river), and look out for the quaint Slater Bridge(2) across a field to the right. If you want a closer look, leave the bike by the stile, and cross the field on the footpath. Keep ahead past the cottages, where the track rises and becomes rougher for a short section. Little Langdale Tarn (3) sparkles below, bulky Wetherlam towers above, while our stony route drops away to the right at the fork. The left fork (4) by the way continues as a footpath to Greenburn, below the high cliffs of Little Carrs and Great Carrs.
At the tarmac road at Fell Foot Bridge (5), turn right, then acute left (6) soon after. (If you want a short return via the road through Little Langdale, go straight ahead here instead.) There follows a climb which steepens to 1 in 4 for a stretch, but at the top make a welcome pause opposite (7) the car park for one of the classic Lakeland views, over Blea Tarn to the Langdale Pikes. The prominent rock high above the road immediately to the right is called Side Pike.
The outlook becomes even more breath-taking at the cattle-grid ahead, with the line of Crinkle Crags to the left leading on to Bowfell, the Pikes in front, Oxendale and Great Langdale below.
There follows a severe, twisting descent (8), requiring brakes to be in full working order if theres any doubt, walk down! The flat valley floor makes a pleasant contrast to the high fellside, and progress is straightforward through Chapel Stile, to the signposted right turn (9) to Elterwater. Continue into the village, past the pub, to the bridge over the river.
Bear left over the bridge, and at the sign to Colwith and Little Langdale ahead, turn right (10). This soon becomes an unsurfaced and rough climb, which will have most people pushing for a while, until a gate eventually heralds a good surface again. At the T-junction go left, and soon after the church turn right down a narrow lane (11). This leads back to the ford, and a footbridge over the river, where the starting track back to Tilberthwaite is rejoined.
A detour can be made at this point via the former slate workings at Hodge Close (12), which feature a spectacular 'hole in the ground', which is totally unfenced by the way. Use the O.S Map, and pick up the track from Stang. On approaching Hodge Close, cottages are passed on either side of the track - go past these to see the workings. To return to Tilberthwaite, go back to the cottages, and take the track heading downhill, on the left, directly opposite one of the cottages. This curves left, and then right, until there appears to be a choice of left or right. In fact the route goes in the middle, downhill in a narrow slate-covered cleft, still rideable. After crossing a stream, the outgoing track from Tilberthwaite is reached - turn left here.
This is a grand circuit, which has countless places to stop and stare at the magnificent surroundings, and even features several opportunities for refreshments!
Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel in Great Langdale.
Village shop in Chapel Stile.
Britannia pub in Elterwater.
Three Shires Inn, Little Langdale. Near to (11) on the map.
Slater Bridge, Little Langdale. Now, would this meet modern health and safety standards?
Little Langdale Tarn, and the rising Wetside Edge. The high cliffs in the background are Little Carrs and Great Carrs. The route in this ride enters this picture halfway up the left hand edge, traverses between the far side of the tarn and the hillside, and leaves the picture in front of the farm bulidings at the far right.
Blea Tarn and the Langdale Pikes beyond.
The view from the cattle grid beyond Blea Tarn, before the descent to Great Langdale. The foreground hill is The Band. On the valley floor, Oxendale lies to the left, Mickleden to the right. Bowfell is on the skyline behind The Band.
Information on the former gunpowder industry at Elterwater.
Some local history, centered on Ambleside.
History of the slate industry in Cumbria.
The site of the Langdale Mountain Rescue Team. Should be essential reading for all hill-walkers!
Any comments on the cycling pages would be gratefully received!
Copyright J Chambers 2005. Unauthorised reproduction not allowed. May be printed for personal use only.
Open Country Prints, Main Street, Baycliff, Ulverston, Cumbria
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