From the Three Shires Inn to Skelwith Bridge
The easiest way to start the walk is to simply turn left on the road outside the Three Shires Inn and follow it all the way down to the junction (with Elterwater to the left). At the junction turn right and cross the bridge over the river.
Almost immediately after crossing the river a footpath (signposted Skelwith Bridge) heads off to the left towards a quite steep set of steps. Keep on this path, which ambles through various farms and collections of buildings. It then enters woodland and emerges onto the A593 between Coniston and Ambleside. If you’re so inclined, you can take a quick detour here to have a look at Skelwith Force falls.
From Skelwith Bridge to Loughrigg
Once on the road take care as you follow it down the hill and then over the bridge by the ever popular Chesters by the River cafe. After the cafe you will reach a left turn where the road heads up Great Langdale. In front of you there is a minor road. Follow this (steep at first) until you pass a parking area and reach a junction.
At the junction turn right, crossing a small beck, and then turn left up a lane (footpath and bridleway sign) opposite a post box. Follow the track past some cottages and then take the right strand where it splits.
This path climbs gradually onto the hillside below the flanks of Loughrigg and runs beside a wall before climbing to a wide saddle. At a little wooden footbridge head north on a wide grassy path. There really are so many criss-crossing paths on Loughrigg that describing one particular route to follow is almost impossible. However, the best thing to do is to keep heading generally north, picking your way along various different tracks.
The top of Loughrigg is lumpy and strangely featureless and can be very confusing in poor visibility, so it is best to take a compass bearing, rather than risk the embarrassment of getting lost on such a small hill!
Loughrigg to Elterwater
After you head north for about 1.5km the slopes of Loughrigg drop down steeply towards Rydal Water. Pick up the wide, popular path on the hillside heading east to west. Don’t drop down too far to the lakeside because this will only mean you have to climb again to get up to Loughrigg Terrace.
The wide path along the hillside leads to the terrace; a wonderful viewing platform across Grasmere and towards Helm Crag and Dunmail Raise. The terrace leads to a path through woods where a left fork heads up to a road junction. At the junction follow the road uphill (signposted to the YHA). After passing the youth hostel the road then snakes down the hillside to Elterwater.
Elterwater to the Three Shires Inn
At Elterwater just follow the main road through the village, cross the river and continue until you reach a lane on the right (with a blue signpost for cyclists saying ‘Coniston challenging option’). Follow this lane, which turns into quite a rough, rocky path and climbs up to a gate. Go through the gate and follow a gravel track to Dale End farm.
The gravel becomes tarmac and leads to the Little Langdale road. Here turn left and walk a short distance downhill and back to the front door of the inn.