Great Langdale – Crinkle Crags from Dungeon Ghyll 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.
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. Neolithic cup and ring marks can be found on the Langdale Boulders at Copt Howe. Langdale is home to Crinkle Crags, Pike of 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.
Dungeon Ghyll is a ravine on the north side of the valley that starts on the fell slopes between Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag. It is a narrow and a No-Through Route for walkers. The waterfall is known as Dungeon Ghyll Force.
Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel was originally a farm and inn bought by historian Professor G.M. Trevelyan who donated it to the National Trust. The hotel and the Hikers Bar have a long association with climbing and many famous climbers have stayed at the hotel or drank in the bar. Further down the valley nearer to Chapel Stile there is the New Dungeon Ghyll hotel built in 1862.
Crinkle Crags at 859 metres (2818 feet) forms part of two major rings of mountains surrounding the valleys of Great Langdale and Upper Eskdale. Crinkle Crags as its name suggests has a summit ridge of a series of five rises and depressions (crinkles) that are very distinctive from the valley below. The ridge includes a steep declivity called the Bad Step and can be by-passed quite easily. The second crinkle from the southern end called Long Top is referred to as the true summit. The wonderful views look across Great Langdale, Eskdale and Dunnerdale, with the estuaries of the rivers Duddon and Esk as they enter the Irish Sea. There is also a good view of Scafell Pike which lies four kilometres to the north-west. The northern most crinkle called Gunson Knott falls steeply to the depression of Three Tarns, which takes its name from a number of small pools, and separates Bow Fell from Crinkle Crags. The rocky outcropping of Shelter Crags can be quickly reached from here which provides extensive all round views. There are a variety of routes directly to the summit of Crinkle Crags but most people climb it from Great Langdale and often together with all or some of the adjoining fells of Pike of Blisco, Cold Pike, Bow Fell and Rossett Pike to make a high level ridge walk which takes in the whole of the high ground at the head of Great Langdale.
Great Knott at 696 metres (2,283 feet) which rises from Red Tarn is classed as a Nuttall and generally included as part of Crinkle Crags. Red Tarn is a very small tarn situated below Great Knott in the dip between Pike of Blisco and Cold Pike.
Hell Gill is a deep gully that can be ascended from Oxendale Beck in the Oxendale valley or descended from the Three Tarns in the depression between Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell.
We turn right out of the car park and walk down the road and when the road turns sharp left we head forwards through the gate and follow the track to Stool End (farm). After going through the gate at the other side of the farm we keep heading forwards with the wall on our left. We make our way along the path to Oxendale Beck and cross over the bridge. We bear right and follow the path uphill towards Brown Howe. We start to follow close to the Browney Gill on our right towards the dip on the skyline. At the dip the path levels out and we keep heading forwards to Red Tarn. We then retrace our steps for about 100 yards to take the distinct path uphill towards Great Knott and just keep following the path making our way to Crinkle Crags. We then keep following the cairns up and down over the tops of Crinkle Crags (but keep to the left side of Bad Step) until we arrive at the Three Tarns. We now turn left downhill and after a short way we cross over the stream and follow the path steeply downhill keeping to the stream on our left to Hell Gill (a steep gully). At the bottom of Hell Gill we cross over the stream then head forwards with the stream on our left and keep following the path downhill. We cross over a footbridge and now follow Oxendale Beck on our right passing the footbridge we crossed on our way up at the start of the incline to Brown Howe and then retrace our steps to Stool End farm and the car park at Dungeon Ghyll.
This is a hard walk on distinct paths and tracks with steep inclines and declines. Some scrambling is required.
Elevation: Approx lowest point 90.20m (296ft) approx highest point 856.30m (2809.38ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 8.5 miles allow 4½ to 5½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL6, The English Lakes, South-Western area.
Start point: Dungeon Ghyll National Trust car park half a mile west of Chapel Stile.
The Langdales are in the south-western area of 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 by the side of Thirlmere. At Ambleside take A593 following the signs for Coniston. At Skelwith Bridge turn right onto the B5343, continue through Chapel Stile and after about half a mile there is a car park on the left and another car park with public toilets on the right at Dungeon Ghyll.
Parking: Two National Trust pay and display car parks at the New Dungeon Ghyll, £7.00 for all day and also a car park at the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub. There is very limited free road side parking.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in the car park next to Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. For refreshments there is the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and Hikers Bar, further down the valley there is the New Dungeon Ghyll hotel and at Chapel Stile half a mile back down the road towards Ambleside there is a shop, a cafe and Wainwrights Inn.