Grasmere Lake to Chapel Stile round
Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.
The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District. It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.
Grasmere village is a very pretty and popular tourist destination. It is situated on the River Rothay which flows into Grasmere Lake from where the village takes its name. Surrounded by hills the village is overlooked from the north-west by the rocky hill of Helm Crag also known as “The Lion and the Lamb” or the “Old Lady at the Piano”. These names are derived from the shape of rock formations on its summit depending on which side you view it from. To the east it is overlooked by Heron Pike and Great Rigg on the western ridge of the Fairfield horseshoe. To the south-east by Loughrigg Fell and to the west the long ridge comes down from High Raise. There are a number of walks that start from Grasmere and the village is also on the route of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk. Grasmere is home to Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread and the famous Grasmere Gingerbread Shop can be found at Church Cottage tucked away at the corner of St Oswald’s churchyard. Church Cottage which was built in 1630 was originally the village school. William Wordsworth who described the village as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found” lived in Grasmere for fourteen years. Dove Cottage located on the main road just outside the village was once an inn and became the home of the famous poet William Wordsworth for 8 years in 1799. He married Mary in 1802 and three of his five children were born there. Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth Museum next door and Dove Cottage Garden, which has been restore to the half wild state that William and his sister Dorothy created, are all open to the public. Wordsworth moved to Allan Bank in Grasmere village to accommodate his growing family and finally in 1813 to Rydal Mount in Rydal until his death in 1850. He is buried in St Oswald’s Parish Churchyard alongside his wife Mary, daughter Dora and other family members. Next to the church is a Daffodil Garden in memory of the poet. Grasmere Lake, one of the Lake District’s smaller lakes, is both fed and drained by the River Rothay which rises close to Rough Crag above Dunmail Raise and flows through the village of Grasmere before entering the lake and then exits downstream into Rydal Water then continues south to merge with the River Brathay. The rivers then continue into the northern end of Windermere. The lake containing a single island known simply as The Island is leased by the Lowther Estate to the National Trust.
Great Langdale and its neighbouring valley Little Langdale are known simple as Langdale. Great Langdale beginning at Skelwith Bridge is a u-shaped valley formed by glaciers whilst Little Langdale is a hanging valley. The Langdale valley contains two villages Chapel Stile and Elterwater and a hamlet at High Close. The two villages were centres of the Lakeland slate industry. Elterwater Quarry, being the largest, and Spout Cragg Quarry are still working using modern methods and are operated by the Burlington Stone Company. Other local quarries have now fallen into disuse. Langdale was also an important site during the Neolithic period producing stone axes created on the slopes of the Pike of Stickle. It also supplied stone for some Bronze Age items and Neolithic cup and ring marks are found on the Langdale Boulders at Copt Howe. Langdale is home to Crinkle Crags, Pike O’Blisco, the Langdale Pikes and Bow Fell which is the highest fell in the dale attracting walkers, climbers and fell runners. Scafell Pike, Cumbria and the Lake District’s highest mountain can also be climbed from Langdale.
Chapel Stile is a small village located at the foot of Great Langdale on the banks of the River Brathay and is quite distinctive with its 19th century green slate houses which were built to house the quarrymen. During the same period a gunpowder works was also established to supply the slate quarry mines. The village church, built in 1857, sits on the hillside overlooking the village and has a few interesting stained glass windows.
Elterwater the village which was a farming and quarrying community now depends on tourism because only a quarter of its houses are permanently occupied the rest are holiday cottages, there is also a youth hostel and the Britannia Inn which is a former 17th century farmhouse. The village first prospered with the quarrying of slate at Kirkstone Green. In 1824 a gunpowder manufacturing business brought workers to Elterwater. Coppiced juniper wood was turned into charcoal, saltpetre was imported to Windermere by train and then transported to the village and sulphur was also imported. These three ingredients were mixed and ground to produce the gunpowder and six water wheels turned by the River Brathay provided an economic means of power. Production ceased in the early 1930’s and today the building is a holiday complex.
From the lay-by car park we cross over the road and go through the gate and follow the path over the bridge turning left to pass the church on our left. At the road we turn left then immediate right passing Grasmere Garden Village on our left onto Red Bank Road. We continue along the road for about ¾ of a mile past Faeryland Tea Garden until we reach a footpath sign and a sign on the wall The Wyke. We turn right uphill on the track for a short way before turning right over a tiny stone bridge to go through a gate. We keep following the path quite steeply uphill through the trees to go through a gate in the wall. We head forwards a short way bear left over a tiny stream then bear right uphill at the fork then keep bearing left then right to go round a boggy bit. We continue uphill on a faint path heading for the crags in front of us. At the crags and a cairn we turn left very steeply downhill on the distinct path. The path bears right on a narrow path before going very steeply downhill again follow the gill on our left. When we come to a wall nearly at the bottom we turn right and follow the wall down to the road. At the road we turn right then left at the church to the main road through Chapel Stile. We turn left and follow the road past the shops, toilets and the pub towards Elterwater. At the crossroads at Elterwater we turn left at the sign, Parking for Elterwater. We follow the minor road taking the short cut paths until we come to a y-junction just after crossing a cattle grid and passing High Close Youth Hostel. We cross straight over and go through the gate into the National Trust land Deerbolts Woods and follow the bridleway bearing right at the sign post for Loughrigg Terrace through the trees until we come out into the open. We now continue on Loughrigg Terrace and turn left at the seat downhill towards the weir. We then turn left and follow the Grasmere Lake shore path until we come to a lane. We turn right and follow the lane then retrace our steps back to Grasmere.
This is a moderate to hard walk on minor tarmac roads, grass, stone and gravel tracks and paths. There are some steep inclines and declines and one very steep descent from the top into Chapel Stile.
Elevation: approx lowest point 62.50m (205ft) approx highest point 309.60m (1015.75ft) approx ascent 410.30m (1346ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 6.5 miles allow 3½ – 4 hours using OS Explorer Map OL7, The English Lakes South- eastern area. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Start point: Free lay-by car park on the A591 Grasmere.
Grasmere is located just off the A591 north of Windermere and Ambleside in the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 at Threlkeld take the B5322 on the left. At the t-junction at Legburthwaite turn left onto the A591 which runs by the side of Thirlmere Lake. At the roundabout turn right into Grasmere. The main pay and display car park is just on the right. The free parking lay-by is on the left before the roundabout.
Parking: There are three Pay and Display car parks, £8 for all day, in Grasmere and very limited free road side parking. There are two free lay-by car parks on the main A591.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets at Grasmere in the pay and display car park on the right just before the village and also in the village near the police station. For refreshments in Grasmere there are three pubs the Red Lion, the Wordsworth Hotel and Spar and the Grasmere Hotel plus there are many cafes and other places to eat and drink. There are also plenty of shops to browse round. There are three more pubs nearby on the A591 the Travellers Rest, the Swan Inn and the Daffodil Hotel and Spar. There are also public toilets at Chapel Stile open from Easter to October and at Elterwater near the car park and bridge. For refreshments in Chapel Stile there is Wainwright’s Inn, Brambles Cafe and Langdale Co- operative village store and at Elterwater there is the Britannia Inn and a post office and shop.