Aug 05

The Langdale Valley, majestic heart of the Lake District World Heritage Site

by in Accommodation, Cumbria, World Heritage Site

Blea Tarn Langdale Valley in the Lake District World Heritage site - photo Zoe Dawes

The hard work and commitment of a great many people has paid off and the Lake District World Heritage site now joins other renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia, Mount Teide in Tenerife and the Rocky Mountains in Canada. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know how much I love the Lake District and also visiting World Heritage Sites, so to have this on my doorstep is VERY special. You can read more about the Lake District World Heritage site here. A few days after the result was announced I went to stay in the very heart of Lakeland, in the Langdale Valley. Here are some of its highlights.

Great Langdale Valley

Langdale Valley in the Lake District World Heritage site - photo Zoe Dawes

The Langdale Valley includes some of the most impressive mountains (called ‘fells’ in the Lakes) in England. These craggy peaks provide a dramatic backdrop to an area where man, beast and nature live together in relative harmony. Langdale means ‘Long Valley’ in Old Norse, a hint to the ancient history of this quarrying and farming area. Very often the fells are shrouded in mist in this valley, adding to its moody magnificence. Dry stone walls ribbon across the mountain sides, sheep meander willy-nilly and picturesque farm buildings create its architectural charm. The peaks of Crinkle Crags, Pike o’ Bisco and the jagged ridge of the Langdale Pikes are the grand masters of this landscape.


Elterwater Common Langdale Valley Lake District World Heritage site - photo Zoe Dawes

The village of Elterwater (meaning Swan Lake) spreads out across valley, vying for space with the Herdwick sheep which wander its lanes and graze on the Common.  An easy stroll takes the walker to Elterwater tarn; good flat path but can get very muddy if it’s been raining recently. The Britannia Inn is the hub of the village, serving excellent ales, an interesting choice of wines and superb food. There’s also a cafe and a bus stop, a couple of hotels, a large time-share property and plenty of self-catering cottages for all the visitors who come to stay here. Good Life Lake District Cottages has their main office here, housed in a quaint stone building which usually has a Herdy wandering about outside the door.

Chapel Stile

Chapel Stile village in Langdale Valley, Lake District World Heritage site - photo Zoe Dawes

The Langdale Rambler (Bus 516) stops on the main road through Chapel Stile, dropping off visitors and locals in this tiny hamlet. A narrow lane of old quarrymen’s cottages wends it way up twards Silver Howe. The 19th c Parish Church of Holy Trinity was built on the site of the original chapel, in the local green slate which has been quarried here for centuries. Chapel Stile is well-served by the excellent Langdale Co-Op. This shop sells absolutely everything you could wish for, whether you’re camping, self-catering or out for the day. Tasty Cumberland sausages, Hawkshead Relish (I can highly recommend their Black Garlic Ketchup!), micro-brewery beer, tent pegs, wet-weather gear, fridge magnets, tea towels and oh so much more. Upstairs in Brambles Cafe, gossip is exchanged and walkers rest their feet whilst having a cuppa or more hearty meal. Every year they hold the Langdale Gala here, a classic Lake District show with Cumberland Wrestling, fell races and dog show.

The Old Dungeon Ghyll

Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale Valley in Lake District World Heritage site

Towards the end of the valley lies the Old Dungeon Ghyll, one of the most famous pubs in the Lake District. Tucked right up against the mountain side, this venerable old hotel was the meeting place for climbing clubs from around the country, drawn by the challenging peaks outside the door. I love the Hiker’s Bar, which has remained unchanged for decades and features the original cow stalls and stone floors.

Hiker's Bar Old Dungeon Ghyll - Langdale Valley

You can get a great pint, a coffee, lunch, dinner and if you’re lucky with the weather, sit outside and enjoy the scenery.

Little Langdale Valley

Little Langdale Valley in the Lake District - photo Zoe Dawes

From the Old Dungeon Ghyll the road winds up towards Blea Tarn and into the charming Little Langdale Valley. Driving up here takes nerves and good brakes as the road has some steep, sharp twists and is very narrow. Kamikaze Herdwicks wander out in front of the car and the view is most distracting.

Blea Tarn

Blea Tarn Langdale Valley Lake District - photo Zoe Dawes

There’s a National Trust car park for Blea Tarn (tarn = little lake); it’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with brown pike in the water, alpine flowers in spring and tiny orchids in summer. However, it’s the view of the Pike o’Bisco and the Langdale Pikes laid out for your delectation that tops all that. I’ve walked here a few times but Blea Tarn has never looked as lovely as it did that July afternoon with marshmallow-soft clouds reflected in the shallow water and sunlight flittering across the peaks.

Three Shires Pub

Three Shires Inn Langdale Valley

Voted Cumbria Tourism’s Pub of the Year 2017, the Three Shires Inn is at the conjunction of the three old counties of  Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire, now bundled together as Cumbria. It’s a pretty pub with decent food and lively atmosphere, though limited parking which meant on this recent visit I had to give it a miss. The road heads off towards the twin passes of Wrynose and HardKnott; not for the faint-hearted. A short walk brings you to one of the most photographed sights in the Langdales, Slaters Bridge, an old pack-horse bridge and also enormous Cathedral Cave.

Stay in Church Gate Cottage

Church Gate cottage in Chapel Stile Langdale Valley Lake District

I stayed in Chapel Stile with Good Life Lake District Cottages in a charming holiday home called Church Gate. Tastefully restored and attractively decorated, it sleeps four people in two bedrooms. The kitchen has a large fridge-freezer, dishwasher and large oven. A cup of tea tastes so much better in one of the cute Herdy mugs. There are games and books in the dining area and a wood-burning stove for cosy nights in. The back door leads out to a sheltered little cottage garden, ideal for evening drinks outdoors. Impressive views can be seen from the bedrooms across the village towards the mountains. I slept really well in the very comfy double bed and on Sunday morning woke to the sound of church bells and sheep bleating in the field opposite – perfect.  More details and how to book Church Gate cottage here.

With the village shop just down the hill and a pub, Wainwrights Inn, five minutes’ walk away, Church Gate is an ideal place to stay and enjoy the Lake District World Heritage site. Many thanks to Natalie and the team at Good Life Lake District Cottages for another very enjoyable weekend.

More lovely places I’ve stayed in and around the Langdale Valley.

Daw Bank Cottage, Chapel Stile

Jonty’s Cottage, Elterwater

Braegarth Cottage, Elterwater

Knipefold Barn, Outgate 

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Langdale Valley in the Lake District World Heritage Site


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17 Responses to “The Langdale Valley, majestic heart of the Lake District World Heritage Site”

  1. From Zoe Dawes:

    Of course I am totally biased, but really, the Lake District is a unique place and being awarded World Heritage status brings it much-deserved international recognition. Some people have voiced concerns about the increase in visitors; there will hopefully be measures put in place should that be the case. (They could ban the big coaches from the smaller roads which cause some serious tail-backs in summer.) My advice to tourists; visit off-season when the Lake District is quieter and you can appreciate its scenery in relative peace.

    Posted on August 11, 2017 at 11:43 am #
  2. From Jan:

    I am certainly a country girl at heart. We love our urban Kendal hostel but like to get out of town as much as possible and head to the Langdales for some quiet reflective time. Come and stay with us at the Kendal Hostel if you’re in the area – the Langdale valley is not far away.

    Posted on August 11, 2017 at 3:03 pm #
  3. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thanks for the comment Jan. Your hostel is a great addition to the accommodation on offer in the area. There’s something for everyone’s budget and preference here 🙂

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 1:42 pm #
  4. From Renuka:

    Your photographs are so charming! I’d love to explore Langdale valley. Looks so beautiful!

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:18 pm #
  5. From Zoe Dawes:

    I do hope you get a chance to stay here Renuka. It truly is a magnificent part of the world and sure you would love it 🙂

    Posted on August 14, 2017 at 11:33 am #
  6. From Usha Mistry:

    There are so many great places in your article that I have been to and agree they are fab and so many more that I haven’t ticked off yet. Also, I keep meaning to get myself a bottle of that garlic ketchup!

    Not only is the landscape beautiful in its own right but it’s worth remembering that part of the reason the Lake District got World Heritage status is because the stunning views, lakes, fells, valleys and natural wildlife and flora have inspired some of the greatest artists, writers and thinkers in the world. When people visit some of the places in your article, hopefully they’ll leave feeling refreshed and inspired.

    For some cultural inspiration of what to do when you’re in the Lakes check out (sorry for the self-plug).

    Posted on August 24, 2017 at 11:35 am #
  7. From Jason Evans:

    Oh we must come back and stay now! Congratulations to the Lake District – very well deserved.

    Posted on August 24, 2017 at 11:47 am #
  8. From Zoe Dawes:

    You’re so right about the many wonderful places Usha and, as you know well, they are not limited to the scenery. This area is so rich in its cultural heritage and the Lakes Culture is an excellent resource for anyone looking for more information on what to see and do in our new World Heritage site 🙂

    Posted on August 24, 2017 at 12:02 pm #
  9. From Zoe Dawes:

    Do hope you come back very soon. Check out the link to Church Gate Cottage – there are plenty of other options there too. It’s wonderful to be able to stay right in the centre of the Lakes and have all that beauty on your doorstep.

    Posted on August 24, 2017 at 12:07 pm #
  10. From James Kaye:

    Congratulations to the Lake District. We have had many happy holidays with the family there. Looks like a pretty place to stay. Maybe next year …

    Posted on August 26, 2017 at 11:57 am #
  11. From Zoe Dawes:

    Do hope you return soon James. Good Life Cottages are really comfortable and ideally situated to explore the Lakes 👍

    Posted on August 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm #
  12. From Sophia Newton:

    I too am immeasurably proud of the World Heritage status afforded to us earlier this year and from this piece it’s easy to see why we won it! The Lake District has so many layers of history and culture wrapped up in world class landscape, when reading about it it’s easy to forget I actually live here. I think having that external view or stamp of approval can help us view our own localities with fresh eyes and maybe even more positively. Thanks for a beautiful article about a beautiful area and re-opening my eyes to where I live.

    Posted on October 3, 2017 at 1:44 pm #
  13. From Zoe Dawes:

    So agree with your comments Sophia. It’s easy to forget just what an exceptional area this is and to have achieved such an outstanding accolade is very special indeed.

    Posted on October 3, 2017 at 2:05 pm #
  14. From Janett:

    It’s a privilege and an honour to live here in the Lake District. Reading your blog I am reminded about all the wonderful places right here on my doorstep. Whilst there are some issues to be resolved (or at the very least communicated to us if plans to resolve them are already in place) receiving WHS is the icing on what is already a pretty phenomenal little corner of the world.

    Posted on October 3, 2017 at 11:09 pm #
  15. From Zoe Dawes:

    Well said Janett 🙂 It’s not all wine and roses winning such prestigious recognition; the potential increase in visitors and maintenance of the area will all have to be managed carefully.

    Posted on October 4, 2017 at 11:59 am #
  16. From Pat Sills:

    After reading all about the Langdales, we really wanted to experience it! We have been staying in beautiful Rose Cottage, which is one of The Good Life’s cottages and it has been so cosy and comfortable. It’s been wonderful to stay right in the centre of Elterwater, to wake up to the lovely views and to know that after a day exploring the delights of the well deserved award of World Heritage Site, we can walk a few metres to the Britannia Inn and then adjourn to the crackling fireside. I would thoroughly recommend it!

    Posted on November 10, 2017 at 10:57 am #
  17. From Zoe Dawes:

    So glad you enjoyed your stay in Elterwater. It’s the ideal location to explore the beauty of the Langdales and further afield in the Lake District. Hope you come back one day to see more!

    Posted on November 13, 2017 at 10:47 am #

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