from Little Langdale
distance: 10km/6¼ miles time: 4½ hours ascent: 410m/1350ft grade: energetic
PARK All the substantive and well-screened car parking for the Langdales is located in Great Langdale, close to the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, both National Trust and National Park facilities GR 295064 and also the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel GR 286061; the Trust have a further small car park serving casual visitors to the ever popular Blea Tarn at GR296043. In reality this walk works best when begun from the vicinity of the Three Shires Inn in Little Langdale, where there is a short stretch of road able to discreetly absorb a handful of cars close to Greenbank at GR 319033.
WALK SUMMARY The walk takes fullest advantage of Lingmoor’s remarkable position showing off the contrasting dale-heads; Great Langdale dominated by the Pikes, Bowfell and the Crinkles and its junior namesake focused on Little Langdale Tarn and no less grandly rimmed with fine fells. The route climbs onto the spine of the north-westerly trending ridge crossing the 470m/1,542ft summit before heading down via the fat man’s agony access to Side Pike. Swinging round the beautiful bowl of Blea Tarn to reach and follow the Wrynose Pass road down by Fell Foot and Bridge End to pass under the slate quarries by Low Hall Garth and cross the utterly delectable Slater Bridge.
Lingmoor is heavenly favoured, at the centre of the Langdales. The ridge walk genuinely offers a new dimension to one’s appreciation of the much adored twin dale-heads of Little and Great Langdale. Great expectations are fully rewarded with a gallery of fabulous outlooks. For all the slate quarrying the fell remains largely wild and in part luxuriantly clothed in heather, hence the ‘ling’ in the fell-name. The walk embraces two lovely sheets of water Blea Tarn and Little Langdale Tarn to end with the visual delight of Slater Bridge.
The walk begins effectively leading west along the narrow valley road from the Three Shires Inn. The volume of traffic as the season unfolds ensures that the walker needs to keep a alert. Rise by the up-the-steps first-floor chapel and adjacent post office. Take the right-hand bridle lane passing passing through Dale End Farm. After a gate watch for a gate left, rising to a hand gate. The path contouring to a furher hand gate before turning up the combe, zig zagging on a partially pitched path making steady progress onto the ridge and meeting up with a path from Bank Quarry, on the Elterwater side. One may visit isolated cairns left, on top of Bield Crag, and right, over a ladder stile on the eastern end of the ridge, both offer lovely outlooks the latter towards Windermere over the wooded vale. It’s largely grassy all the way. One may choose to follow a lower path from the Bield Crag cairn on the south side of the main ridge, passing along a high lateral valley, at a wall turing sharp right up to the summit. Easier by far to stick to the ridge path proper beside the well-constructed ridge wall, running its switchback course. The path crosses a causewayed marshy hollow before taking a hairpin turn onto Brown Howe, crossing the light fence stile to reachthe summit plinth.
This is Lingmoor Fell living up to its name, there is certainly more heather now! The differing grazing regimes between the north and south sides of the ridge starkly apparent. Bravo for the survival of the heather, which looks stunning come August, one can live with its current brown tone, hence Brown Howe, knowing how it’s purple bloom will duly arrive to greet holiday visitors. Follow the ridge fence and broken wall with the Langdale Pikes direct ahead, the wall pointing straight towards Dungeon Ghyll. Catch a glimpse of the irregular and isle decked Lingmoor Tarn, sitting in a lower hollow of the fell to the north of the ridge.
The path takes a sharp turn right to avoid a steep pitch of the wall and then switches back left to a stile at the wall junction. Follow the wall initially steeply down, the inviting spur leads only to viewpoint and requires you to return to this point. The path eases down towards the abrupt crag of Side Pike. Cross the fence stile and follow the path initially up and then slightly down to the left of the cliff. The key to progress is a flake of rock (see drawing right) that for most walkers requires them to take off their rucksacks and thread it and themselves through. If you fail this test then perhaps you need to do more walking to lose the weight! If alternatively you are not up for this manoeuvre then do not cross the stile, instead follow the fence down to the road to turn right.
Otherwise, having passed through the fat man’s agony the path naturally curves round and up onto the west side of Side Pike, with the pleasing option of completing the modest ascent to its prim summit, a quite unrivalled viewpoint for the Langdale Pikes. Pike o’Blisco, Crinkle Crags, The Band and Bowfell demand scenic attention. Follow the ridge path down crossing the broken wall, lower down stepping over rock bands to reach a ladder stile onto the road, en route spying the new zigzag path climbing up from the National Trust camp site in Great Langdale. Step straight over the road to go through the kissing gate and follow the rough, but hugely popular, path leading down to the woods screening the west side of Blea Tarn. The view back north from the south shore a photographers delight with Harrison Stickle beautifully framed by Side Pike and reflected in the tarn.
Continue south via the handgate gaining a lovely view of the rich shrub and tree growth in Bleamoss Beck tumbling through a small gorge beyond Tarmclose Crag. The path sweeps across the damp lower slopes of Blake Rigg to reach the Wrynose Pass road. Turn left with the open road, with an enclosure wall to the right. The road twists where the shapely crag Castle Howe intervenes, make a point of looking over the wall to the right during this descent to spy the shallow grassy platform behind Fell Foot farm. Of little obvious consequence this is the remains of a Ting Mound, a rare survival from Viking settlement, the term exists in small town north of Inverness, Dingwall and elsewhere, and also in the vague conversational term ‘thing’. “Give me that thing, you know what I mean!”
Follow the road as it winds past the farmhouse with its projecting porch, on a good day providing a lovely subject for another good view north to the Langdale Pikes. The road bears left and then cross the bridge right following the gated lane crossing Greenburn Beck at a second bridge and passing Bridge End, a simple house and lathe National Trust holiday let. The track merges with the old copper miners’ path out of Greenburn and keeps to the left fork to reach a gate entering a narrow walled lane.
Little Langdale Tarn is seen across the rush-filled pasture shielded to the right by a larch crowned knoll. Notice the ageing yew short of High Hall Garth. The lane becomes even tighter during its descent to Low Hall Garth, both former farmhouses are now club huts, the latter belonging to Yorkshire Rambling Club. Slate tip invades between.
The lane leads on beneath the massive slate tips associated with Cathedral Quarry, now enchantingly screened by natural silver birch growth. Go left at the hand gate/wallstile down to a further wall stile and the crossing of Slater Bridge. Without question the most beautiful workaday bridge you will ever encounter. It is rare indeed to have this place to yourself, it’s an open secret, just be thankful that visitors have to walk to the spot. One may ponder how old it is, several centuries at least. The single-arched dinosaur’s back slate footbridge with metal handrail has no peers in Lakeland for sheer visual poetry and is promptly followed by single slate clapper. The sparkling waters of Little Langdale Beck weaving through the bedrock complements the whole.
Follow the wall to the second gap and traverse the pasture over the brow to reach a hand gate onto the road, go left. There will be some pleasure that the walk ends as it began, at the Three Shires Inn, though now the bar door will beckon.
There will be some pleasure that the walk ends as it began, at the Three Shires Inn, though now the bar door will beckon.