A spring microadventure to Elterwater and the Langdale Valley

Gentle Langdale Valley Hike, Lake District

As the clocks ticked over from the Spring equinox, most of the UK including the Lake District was treated to an unusually spell of warm sunshine for March enabling carefree days where you can wander all day without a coat until dusk.

A few weeks earlier, on a mission to make the most of seeing more of the Lakes this year, I booked a night at Elterwater Hostel and was thrilled that the lovely weather coincided with this trip enabling me to hike there from my home in Ambleside.

Hiking from Ambleside to Rydal on a spring evening

Shutting my laptop at 4.30 pm, I dashed around my tiny bedroom to pack an overnight bag of hiking essentials and tucked an evening meal into my mini cool bag.

I set out from the northern edges of Ambleside and took the footpath towards Rydal which leads away from the main road.

I absolutely love this short walk between the two villages, how the path goes into the woods around Rydal Hall, past the waterfall and Grotto. The Quiet Garden opposite the hall was covered in golden daffodils nodding gently in the spring breeze.

I took the footpath which winds up the hill just before Rydal as my usual more direct route had been closed due to a falling tree. This turned out to be a happy division as I stumbled across this quirky little honesty shop with local products and refreshments – so cute!

With a cup of homemade chai tea in hand, I made my way down to the lakeshore with the last of the evening light dancing on the fells. With many visitors now back home, I passed only a dozen people as I watched the ducks and Candian geese glide serenely over the water.

There is an intimacy about hiking at this time of day.

At the other end of the lake, I took the steep path which joins the Loughrigg terrace heading towards Grasmere.

Loughrigg Terrace path at dusk

Clusters of daffodils punctuated the rusty brown bracken of last summer, and the emerald shots of hawthorns were sweet signs of the season gently shifting into spring.

I paused on one of the benches on the terrace path and unwrapped my homemade frittata, revelling in the joy of eating outside. A mountain biker whizzed past me by, concentrating hard on navigating the rocky uneven path. The last of the sun melted behind the fells and I felt that rush of excitement to be heading towards a new path.

Grasmere Lake at dusk

I made my way through a small section of Red Bank Wood and onto the road near High Close Arboretum where I met a quiet road. I pass by Langdale YHA with a sense of nostalgia.

The last time I was at the hostel was just before the first lockdown in March 2020, brimming with excitement after starting my new job with the YHA running activities for school groups. It was sadly the one and only session I helped run before we went into lockdown.

Read more: Lockdown life in an empty Lake District hostel

Rounding the corner, the road descended steeply into the Langdale valley with the lights of Elterwater twinkling below and the famous Langdale Pikes silhouetted against the multicoloured sky. I chose to stay on the road rather than venturing off into the grassy paths in the fading light.

I’m met by a flock of curious Herdwicks as I make my way into the village, who dart along by my side.

Elterwater at dusk
Sheep in the Langdale Valley

Checking into Elterwater Hostel

I find the hostel easily, heading through the tiny village and over the bridge to the large stone building. I’m met with a friendly welcome from Charlie who gave me the lowdown on the hostel and directed me to my private bunkroom upstairs.

Elterwater Hostel, Lake District

The cosy room was perfect for my solo night with a bunk bed, bedside table and a small unit to store gear. Down the corridor were shared sinks and toilets, plus a few individual shower cubicles. After dumping my bag and making my bed, it was time to head into the village.

An evening by the fire at The Britannia Inn in Elterwater

With a nip in the evening air, I made my way straight to The Britannia Inn, a famous Lakeland walkers pub and I’m thrilled to find a crackling log fire. I order a half pint of the local Bowfell Blonde and settle into reading my book, occasionally tuning in to the gentle chatter of friends who’ve spent a day in the hills. A black labourer wandered in and out, looking hopeful for anyone to give him a pat.

It’s a glorious way to spend an evening, and I strangely felt like I’m on holiday despite only being 5 miles from home.

Exploring Elterwater Hostel

Back at the hostel, I had a quick wander before bed – a cosy lounge full of books and maps on the Lake District and a well-stocked kitchen with free tea and coffee. I could see myself coming back here with a group of friends, the perfect base to explore the Langdale valley.

I head up to bed with a brew for a peaceful night’s sleep in my bunkroom.

An early morning walk around the village and to Elterwater

II wake up just before 6 am as dawn is breaking. I was momentarily drawn to stay snuggled in my warm bed, but I knew how magical sunrise walks could be when it’s just you and the hills so I hastily got dressed and headed out to the village.

The sheep were quietly grazing in the square outside the pub and a pheasant meandered down the main road.

I followed the easy, flat path towards the lake at Elterwater just as the sun began to peek from behind the hills.

One of those quiet, simple moments of beauty.

Early morning at Elterwater
Early morning at Elterwater

I veered off the main path and through a small patch of trees to the lakeshore and quietly gasped at the still, mirror-like reflection in the water.

After a short while, I walked back to the hostel and spotted a perfect place for a wild dip. I’ve set myself the challenge in 2022 of trying to do at least one wild dip a month in a different location. I had eyed up Elterwater but there had been so many reeds and debris – plus this was close to the hostel where I could dash straight back to for a warm shower!

I grabbed my kit from the hostel and waded in, dunking myself in the icy water at the same time as a tractor passed over the bridge.

It’s bracing and I have to consciously control my breath to keep myself in there for 20 seconds. But stumbling out, I have that beautiful rush of adrenaline that cold water dips bring and I’m buzzing for such an awesome start to the day.

And it wasn’t even 9 am yet.

Back in the hostel, one of the staff smiles at me as I ran back in and asks if I’d been swimming? Yes, I triumphantly reply and he remarks how brave I am – or possibly he’s just being polite! I race upstairs for a hot shower and dive into bed with blankets, reading a couple of pages of the famous Swallows and Amazon book I found in the bookcase outside my bedroom.

I pack my kit up and head downstairs for a bowl of warming porridge, enjoyed on the outside bench in the bright March sunshine.

I bid my farewells to Charlie who is varnishing furniture in the main room and explained she is off down to Coniston for the day to help volunteer at the Steam Gondola.

Hiking from Elterwater to Sticklebarn in the Langdale Valley

I had half planned for a day in the hills today, but after a busy month of hiking and an early start, I decided to opt for a chilled hike along the Cumbria Way section in the Langdale Valley with sweeping vistas over the Langdale Pikes.

I paused by a stream under a tree for a while, listening to the sound of the river and feeling thankful for the sweet sunny days.

Lunch at Sticklebarn in the Langdale Valley

Just before the end of the valley, I dropped down to Sticklebarn, a pub and casual restaurant owned by the National Trust.

I was thrilled to find they had an imaginative new menu and took a little time trying to decide before settling for the smashed pea and avocado with chilli, coriander and seeds, the perfect refuel after the morning walk.

The staff were really friendly and I moved to a deckchair in the sunshine to finish my drink and to continue admiring the view.

Sticklebarn, Langdale Valley Lake District

I had intended to continue on down the valley in the afternoon for a potential wild dip at Whorneyside Falls but with the once every two-hour bus due, I decided instead to head home early and chill out – I could always return to the waterfall in summer.

As the bus to Ambleside wound back through the valley I walked this morning, I thought about how this valley would be added to my ever-growing box of Lake District memories.

It was a reminder that even a night away only a couple of miles from home can feel like a whole new world.

Sticklebarn, Langdale Valley Lake District

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, I paid in full for my night at Elterwater Hostel and would highly recommend staying here!

Read more about my mircoadventures in the Lake District

A car-free budget adventure to Borrowdale in the North Lake District

Hiking to England’s highest hostel: a birthday adventure to Skiddaw House Hostel

My experience of hiking the Ullswater Way over two days

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