As the days get longer and the weather warmer it’s a great time to begin exploring a bit further afield and heading into the higher fells. This loop of around 20km is an interesting circumnavigation of some of the lower reaches of Great Langdale, with a steep climb up to the beautiful Stickle Tarn and an exploration of the ridge overlooking the Vale of Grasmere and Elterwater. This is a long outing with some rough, boggy ground and potentially confusing route finding, so be prepared!
The Three Shires Inn to Oak Howe
For those who may have read our previous walking routes, this one begins in familiar fashion by turning right in front of the Three Shires Inn and heading up the road passing the telephone box (now filled with a defibrillator) on the right. Follow the road around for a short distance until you see a tarmac lane on the right with a blue sign and walls on either side. Head along this lane, passing Dale End farm on the right. The tarmac becomes gravel after the farm eventually you will begin to head slightly downhill to a gate leading into Baysbrown woods.
Go through the gate and take a left fork which heads through the woods next to a wall and then drops down quite steeply to a tarmac lane by a house. When you hit the lane turn left and follow it until it emerges from the trees to Baysbrown Farm. At the farm you will see a sign pointing the way to the right, across the valley, to the Cumbria Way. Ignore this and head straight on (signposted Oak Howe and Great Langdale).
The gravel track rises slightly through woodland from the farm and passes an incongruous road sign. The path then emerges from the woods and after few hundreds metres makes a sharp turn towards the barn at Oak Howe.
Oak Howe to Stickle Tarn
At the barn turn left and follow a lovely path that skirts around the fellside below Oak Howe crag with good views of the Langdale pikes at the head of the valley. This path undulates pleasantly before dropping down to some farm buildings and then crossing the river to the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and Stickle Barn.
Walk through the National Trust car park at Stickle Barn and follow the path by Stickle Ghyll. In the summertime this path is usually busy with people heading up to Stickle Tarn. A bridge crosses the ghyll and the path continues up its right side (as you look uphill). This is a good sweaty climb guaranteed to get your lungs and legs working. For the more adventurous there is also the option of scrambling up the ghyll itself, but this is proper scrambling rather than walking and requires some experience and a steady head for heights.
The path grinds its way up to some boulders which act as stepping stones to cross back to the other side of the ghyll. After another final steep section, the lovely sight of Stickle Tarn and the impressive crags of Pavey Ark are revealed. Stickle Tarn is understandably popular with everyone, from wild campers to wild swimmers, and Pavey Ark is criss-crossed with rock climbing routes of all difficulties. It is also home to one of the Lake District’s best and most popular scrambles, Jack’s Rake, which heads diagonally up the face.
Stickle Tarn to Elterwater
Cross the ghyll where it emerges from the tarn (this can be challenging after a lot of rain, especially if you want to retain dry feet) and follow the path around the shore. Cross some boggy ground via boulders and look out for a faint path heading away from the tarn. Take this path and keep following it as it winds gradually upwards. It can be indistinct at times and some map reading and navigation may be necessary, especially in poor visibility.
Eventually it hits the ridge line of Blea Rigg and merges into a good clear path running south eastwards. Keep on this path, which passes a pleasant tarn at Lang How. This section has great views back towards Stickle Tarn, as well as across to the Helvellyn ridge, Loughrigg and Windermere. However, it can be confusing as the path winds between various hillocks and occasionally disappears. The key is to not get drawn down to the left or right and end up in Grasmere or go down to Langdale too early. Instead keep on the higher ground until the ridge runs out and drops down steeply to the minor road above Elterwater. Once you hit the road follow it downhill towards Elterwater and into the village.
Elterwater to the Three Shires Inn
Walk through the village, passing the Britannia Inn on the right and the National Trust car park on the left. Cross the river and keep on the road until you see a lane heading off to the right with a blue cycling sign saying: ‘Coniston challenging option’.
The tarmac passes the Elterwater Hall hotel and where the road bends right a track heads left through Baysbrown woods, eventually leading all the way back to Dale End farm. Head past the farm down to the junction and turn left back down towards the Three Shires Inn. You’ll probably feel like a drink and decent meal after this one and we’ll be more than happy to oblige.