The valley of Great Langdale is the definition of majestic.
A classic U-shaped glacial valley, the rocks which make up its mountainous terrain were formed some 450m years ago before the Ice Age came and went, carving it into the shape we see today.
The valley is an understandably popular spot with walkers, climbers, ghyll scramblers and anyone else who enjoys the outdoors, even if it is just to sit and marvel at the impressive scenery from the valley floor.
However, for those who want to climb the mountains as well as look at them, there are endless opportunities for hiking.
It is even possible to complete a full circumnavigation of Great Langdale from the door of the Three Shires Inn. However, be warned, this is a very, very long day out with around 35km of walking and well over 2000m of ascent, which could take up to 12 hours. Long daylight hours, excellent mountain fitness, good navigation, high energy levels, the right equipment and good navigation skills are all required.
The reward for your efforts is a tour taking in some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the UK, stunning views in every direction and utterly guiltless enjoyment of a well-earned meal at the Three Shires Inn when you finish.
From the Three Shires Inn to Elterwater
The walk starts easily enough. From the Three Shires Inn, turn left down the road until you reach a wooden signpost on the left. Follow the sign, walk past buildings and continue following the path by a small stream and fence until it emerges into a field.
Follow the path across the field and through a gate to reach a gravel track. Follow the track north east until it passes through a gate to enter woods. Continue following the path downhill until it eventually becomes tarmac and then meets the main road running into Elterwater.
Elterwater to Blea Rigg
Follow the road through Elterwater, passing the Britannia Inn on the left, and cross the main road heading towards Chapel Stile. Stay on the minor road, which now winds up the hillside. Before the road reaches the top of the hill take a footpath coming off it and then another path which ascends steeply up an escarpment. The path then undulates over the many lumps and bumps which make up the ridge of land that leads in a northwesterly direction towards Blea Rigg.
There are many paths which criss-cross this area of land. The key is to keep heading in a roughly northwesterly direction and not be led into dropping down too steeply on either side. In bad weather a compass bearing is very helpful.
The route eventually leads to a tarn, which is now more of a swamp filled with reeds, and the terrain becomes gradually more rough and rocky as you approach Blea Rigg. Blea Rigg is a rising shoulder of land which leads towards the pointy top of Sergeant Man in the distance.
Blea Rigg to High Raise
Head up Blea Rigg, following a small and sometimes indistinct path between cairns until you reach the foot of Sergeant Man. From here the way flattens out considerably as you cross boggy moorland to reach the large cairn which marks High Raise.
High Raise to Stake Pass
The summit of High Raise is hardly distinguishable from the flat, soggy terrain which surrounds it. However, despite this it has incredible views in every direction and is a good place to sit and refuel before beginning the next section of the mission.
Paths head north and south from the summit. Ignore these and take a narrow but distinct path in a westerly direction, dropping downhill. This path eventually leads all the way down to the boggy banks of Stake Beck, which it crosses to meet the large path crossing Stake Pass.
Stake Pass to Angle Tarn
Cross the main path and continue following a rough and sometimes boggy path that trends south west with the valley of Langstrath below it. Keep following this to eventually reach Angle Tarn Gill and then Angle Tarn itself.
Angle Tarn to Esk Hause
Angle Tarn is one of the Lake District’s most visited and most magical mountain tarns. To the north east the valley of Langstrath gives way to wonderful views towards the northern fells of the national park while, in the other direction, it is overshadowed by the huge bluffs which make up the ramparts of Bowfell and Esk Pike.
From the tarn stone steps lead uphill before the path descends slightly and then climbs once more to reach a cross-shaped stone shelter. From the shelter head in a southwesterly direction gradually uphill. This path will bring you to another cross-shaped shelter at Esk Hause.
Esk Hause to Crinkle Crags
Esk Hause is one of the Lake District’s famous mountain junctions, with routes heading in various directions, including to Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.
However, our way goes south east, gradually ascending Esk Pike and then dropping again and turning to the south before climbing Bowfell. From Bowfell a steep, slippery path of scree descends to Three Tarns before continuing in a southerly direction to roll across the ‘crinkles’ which make up Crinkle Crags. In bad weather it can be easy to get confused on Crinkle Crags and end up heading in a westerly direction into upper Eskdale. The key is to stay on the high ground and keep heading south and following the cairns and path.
Crinkle Crags to Pike of Blisco
The crinkles finally give way to a relatively gentle slope and wide path which heads south east towards Red Tarn, below Pike of Blisco. The path crosses over the path in the valley bottom before launching up the side of Pike of Blisco to reach its rocky summit via a winding and rough track.
Pike of Blisco to Lingmoor
From Pike of Blisco the path heads almost directly east, including some very steep and slippery sections which require great care. The path eventually enters a V-shaped valley, heading steeply downhill beside a beck, before crossing Redacre Gill.
From the gill make for the road and turn right (uphill) to climb into the bowl of terrain which is home to Blea Tarn. Blea Tarn is another much-loved Lake District tarn, with beautiful backdrops in every direction.
Follow the road past the tarn and cross a cattle grid before beginning the final real climb of the day to the top of Lingmoor. Immediately after the gate and cattle grid a small path grinds steeply up the hillside. Follow this until it crosses a shoulder and then drops into a little valley and climbs again beside a fence.
Keep on the path until you reach the summit of Lingmoor.
Lingmoor to the Three Shires Inn
From the summit of Lingmoor a well-trodden path follows various rises and dips before zig-zagging down the hillside to pass through a gate and reach a gravel track. From here it is simply a matter of following the track south west to reach the main road and then turning right to walk back along the road to the Three Shires Inn.