logo Walking Britain

Lake District Walk
An Elterwater circular

Nat Park - Lake District - Lake District Central Fells

County/Area - Cumbria

Author - Peter Smyly

Length - 4.0 miles / 6.5 km    Ascent - 500 feet / 152 metres

Time - 2 hours 30 minutes    Grade - easy/mod

Maps Ordnance Survey Logo Anquet Maps Logo

Ordnance Survey Explorer OL7Sheet Map1:25kBUY
Anquet OS Explorer OL7Digital Map1:25kBUY
Ordnance Survey Landranger 90Sheet Map1:50kBUY
Anquet OS Landranger 90Digital Map1:50kBUY

Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - An Elterwater circular
Click image to visit gallery of 4 images.

This Lake District walk has been named an 'Elterwater circular' in the sense of a walk that starts and finishes at Elterwater village, rather than a circuit of the lake of the same name which would be logistically challenging, given its indented, tree-clad shorelines although public footpaths do offer a possible circular route which goes around the lake without following its shoreline.

This is a walk suitable for a day when the tops are in cloud or simply for people who prefer a walk that is mostly on the level with a few gradients, mostly gentle ones. In places, the route involves walking along secondary roads where care needs to be taken with occasional traffic. The walk includes a visit to the lake of Elter Water and Loughrigg Tarn. This may raise the question of what the difference is between a tarn and a lake and various authors of Lakeland books have attempted to answer this question. While a lake is generally larger than a tarn this is not always the case, for example, Devoke Water, the largest tarn in the Lake District is larger than Rydal Water, a lake. If you were to list all the bodies of water in the Lake District by size, then as a general "rule of thumb", your typical lake is much larger in surface area than any tarn. Elter Water is one of the smaller lakes in the Lake District and an exception to that "rule". Elter Water is also a shallow lake with a maximum depth of only twenty feet whereas, by contrast, Loughrigg Tarn is almost twice as deep at thirty nine feet.

There is a large maple tree outside the Britannia Inn where the walk starts. Follow the Cumbria Way at a left turn just before the bridge over the river. Next, follow the path due south with the river on the right and fields on the left and enter Rob Rash Woods. The lake of Elter Water remains elusively hidden behind trees, until the path emerges from the woods and the view opens out to the right with the lake clearly in view, backed by the Langdale Pikes with Lingmoor Fell on the left. Follow the path ahead, initially across an open field with the River Brathay on the right, then through a gate into woods. The impressive water feature of Skelwith Force soon appears on the right, a rushing waterfall which can be seen from closer to by way of a narrow path leading to a viewing platform. To continue the walk, return to the main path to the small village of Skelwith Bridge where there is a café and a shop (Chesters by the River).

Next cross the A593, the busy main road coming in from the Ambleside direction, and walk up Foul Step, a narrow secondary road ahead that leads to Grasmere which is steep to begin with. After the gradient levels out, take a right turn where the road branches, and then follow a path to the left past houses and along the public bridleway ahead as Loughrigg Tarn comes into view. The Langdale Pikes, one of the most familiar Lakeland mountain profiles, dominate the backdrop to the tarn. Beyond the tarn, the bridleway joins up with a secondary road at a T junction. Turn right here and then take the next path on the left which winds its way up through woodland to Langdale Youth Hostel at High Close. Beyond the hostel, follow the secondary road coming in from Grasmere to the north east past Walthwaite Bottom and back down the hill to the village.

Other walks nearby

Walk 1059 Colwith Force and Skelwith Force from Elterwatereasy/mod4.8 miles
Walk 2715 Skelwith Bridge & Loughrigg from Elterwatereasy/mod5.5 miles
Walk 1684 Lingmoor Fell & Langdale from Elterwater easy/mod7.0 miles
Walk 1823 Fairfield Horseshoe & Loughrigg from High Close mod/hard14.0 miles
Walk 1134 Wetherlam and The Carrs from Little Langdalemod/hard10.8 miles

Recommended Books & eBooks

Walking in Cumbria's Eden Valley

Walking in Cumbria's Eden ValleyGuidebook to 30 graded walks in Cumbria's Eden Valley. The routes, which range from 3 to 15 miles and are best from bases such as Kirkby Stephen and Appleby, explore the region's diverse landscapes and offer dramatic views, either of the Pennines, Lake District or the Scottish hills. Linear routes link with the Settle-Carlisle railway.
More information

Walking the Lake District Fells - Langdale

Walking the Lake District Fells - LangdalePart of the Walking the Lake District Fells series, this guidebook covers a wide range of routes to 25 Lakeland summits that can be climbed from the Great Langdale valley, Ambleside and Grasmere, with highlights including Scafell Pike, Bowfell, the Langdale Pikes and Helm Crag (the Lion and the Lamb). Includes suggestions for longer ridge routes.
More information

The National Trails

The National TrailsThis inspirational guidebook looks at each of the UK's 19 National Trails, with information that allows ease of comparison and contrast, inspiring you to find out more and to take up a long-distance challenge. Some Trails are short and easy, others much longer, many have strong themes - they may follow a coastline, or traverse ranges of hills.
More information

Further Information

Walk Location Map

Walk location map

Lake District Walking

The Lake District National Park is seen by many as one of the scenic gems of the British Isles. The natural beauty has attracted many artists and writers through the centuries and today the same scenery provides the perfect backdrop to a wide variety of walks. The National Park is located wholly within Cumbria with Windermere, Ambleside and Keswick the main tourist towns. For many this is the finest area in England for walking with a wide variety of scenery. Even on the busiest weekends it is possible to get away from the crowds by carefully selecting one of the less-visited fells. More Information

Walk grading - Learn how each walk is assessed and select a walk to suit your ability and experience by going to Walk Grading Details.

Accommodation Nearby

Langdale Estate
Great Langdale
0.2 miles / 0.4 km away
* Featured Supplier
Riverside B&B
2.7 miles / 4.4 km away
Riverside Lodge
2.9 miles / 4.6 km away
* Featured Supplier
Rothay Manor Hotel & Restaurant
2.9 miles / 4.6 km away
Lattendales Guest House
3.0 miles / 4.8 km away

Self Catering & Cottage Holidays - Properties throughout the UK & Europe

Follow Walking Britain for the latest news. Facebook Twitter

Mountain Weather

Stay safe on the mountains with detailed weather forecasts - for iOS devices or for Android devices.