Find remote wild swimming locations, energetic hikes and waterfall canyoning in one of the most rugged and picturesque corners of the Lake District. Here’s how to explore Great Langdale & the Langdale Pikes.

By: Mark Barnes | Published: 30 Jun 2023

The Langdale Pikes are some of the most recognisable peaks in the Lake District. While not boasting any records, their distinctive steep slopes and knobbly summits are the backdrop to some of the best views in the Lakes.

Consisting of five separate peaks, the Pikes dominate the north side of Great Langdale and together oversee a playground of activities in a remote and rugged landscape.

Ascend the summits on a great hike or take a nerve-testing scramble up steep rocky facades. Swim in a lake under towering peaks or slide down rocky waterfalls sunk in deep ravines. Soak up the views with a pint in a traditional hiker’s pub or take sunrise photos overlooking one of the most beautiful tarns in the Lake District.

Here’s our pick of the best things to do in Great Langdale with information on where to stay and how to get around.

Rust colour craggy mountains in front of a deep valley

IN THIS GUIDE

GUIDE TO GREAT LANGDALE & THE LANGDALE PIKES


MAP | GREAT LANGDALE & THE LANGDALE PIKES

Great Langdale is a picturesque valley nestled in the heart of the Lake District National Park in northwest England. Located in Cumbria, Great Langdale stretches from Skelwith Bridge near Ambleside in the east to the majestic peaks of Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell in the west.

The Langdale Pikes are 5 spikes dominating the horizon on the northern side of the valley. They are: Pavey Ark, Thunacar Knott, Pike of Stickle, Harrison Stickle, and Loft Crag.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


1 – WALK UP THE LANGDALE PIKES

A setting this dramatic needs to be conquered on foot. With steep drops on the southern faces of the Langdale Pikes, there are various routes that navigate the crags with varying degrees of difficulty. These two walking routes are some of our favourite hikes in the Lake District, and are achievable for anyone with a decent level of fitness.

1.1 // LANGDALE PIKES WALK FROM NEW DUNGEON GHYLL

The most popular and best Langdale Pikes walking route is from New Dungeon Ghyll. The path rises steeply for an hour up to Stickle Tarn, a beautifully positioned lake sitting under the towering craggy face of Pavey Ark.

The trail then winds its way around the steepest section of rock to arrive at the summit.

The walk continues over the other four summits, which despite their rugged look from below, seem little more than tiny hillocks from the top. It is then another steep descent back to the New Dungeon Ghyll.

Although steep, with a total of 870 meters of ascent, the Langdale Pike trail from New Dungeon Ghyll is short and not technically difficult. It has the benefit of getting up close to the towering face of Pavey Ark, but without the tricky scramble up Jack’s Rake (see below).

All the details can be found on our favourite lake district walks post.  

LANGDALE PIKES WALK | DETAILS

Distance – 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometres) | Duration – 4 hours, 15 minutes | Difficulty – Medium | Elevation – 870 metres | Start – Sticklebarn Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Langdale Pikes map

1.2 // LANGDALE PIKES WALK FROM GRASMERE

A longer, but extremely beautiful ascent of the Langdale Pikes can be made from Grasmere. You’ll need to devote a whole day to the excursion but what an adventure it is. Ten iconic summits are collected (all 5 of the Langdales, plus 5 others) and two excellent ridge walks.

From Grasmere, the trail heads up over Silver How, a humble fell taking up a commanding position between Langdale and Easedale; and then onto the moss-covered Blea Crag.

Next, it summits all of the Langdale Peaks before the trail starts the return via High Raise and Helm Crag.

It’s a magnificent day out in the mountains with diverse and rewarding views, but it does require some energy.

LANGDALES FROM GRASMERE | DETAILS

Distance – 12 miles (19.3 kilometres) | Duration – 8 hours | Difficulty – Medium | Elevation – 1140 metres | Start – Grasmere

2 – SCRAMBLE UP GRADE 1 JACK’S RAKE

For something a bit more invigorating than a steep walk, the grade 1 scramble up Pavey Ark via Jack’s Rake is a great way to get the heart pumping and one of our favourite adventurous activities in the Lake District.

Jack’s Rake is a narrow groove that cuts diagonally across the towering craggy face of Pavey Ark. It’s a nerve-testing scramble that requires handholds and awkward contortions to squeeze through small gaps in the rock.

There is a narrow unprotected ledge near the top which can be intimidating if you don’t like heights. After the ledge, a series of blocks and grooves linked by ledges allow you to ascend to the summit.

Clambering up Jack’s Rake is an adventurous way to experience the ruggedness of the Langdale Pikes. Fortunately, the edges of the groove on either side of you mean most of the climb is relatively unexposed. Something rare for a grade 1 scramble. Some people wear a helmet for extra safety, but ropes and other equipment is not required. Although previous experience of scrambling is recommended.

More information is in our guide to the best scrambles in the Lake District.

3 – SCRAMBLE DOWN WATERFALLS IN STICKLE GHYLL

Stickle Ghyll is a dramatic ravine cut deep into the Langdale Pikes. Walls of vertical rock rise either side of a river containing deep pools and cascading waterfalls. It provides one of the best places in the Lake District to try a ghyll scramble.

Ghyll scrambling involves leaping into pools, sliding over waterfalls and climbing the vertical walls up the river. It requires a sense of adventure and a decent level of fitness, but no prior experience is necessary.

We highly recommend the team at Crag’s Adventures who had us leaping off waterfalls we never knew possible. The guides will provide all the equipment you need including a heavy-duty wetsuit and helmet.  Just wear shoes with a good grip that you are happy to get wet, as you’ll be climbing over polished rocks in the water.

4 – WILD SWIM IN STICKLE TARN

Perched 400 metres up the side of the Langdale Pikes, Stickle Tarn is a place of rugged beauty. With the massive cliff face of Pavey Ark on one side and unparalleled views of Great Langdale on the other, there are few better places to take a dip in the Lake District.

It takes just over an hour to walk up to the tarn. The steepness of the route will have you ready for a swim by the time you get to the top. Floating in the water with the craggy scenery all around is one of our favourite things to do in the Lake District.  

Afterwards, join the wild campers set up on the grassy banks around the tarn and dry off in the sun. While wild camping in the Lake District is illegal, it is generally accepted providing you are discrete and leave no trace.

If you decide to wild camp at Stickle Tarn, please do so responsibly, paying close attention to all the wild camping guidelines.

5 – WALK UP SCAFELL PIKE FROM GREAT LANGDALE

AT 978 metres, Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England. There are several routes up Scafell Pike, but the longest and most challenging leaves from Great Langdale.

The path begins at the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub and the first mile and a half is easy level walking up the Langdale Valley. It then steepens and ascends over 1,000 ft up rocky Rossett Gill in under a mile.

The next section is over a grass shelf (with two descent and ascents) to Esk Hause, where it joins a very rocky path (requiring a bit of easy scrambling/boulder hopping) up and down over Broad Crag to the summit.

It’s a long but rewarding day’s hiking in the mountains and you’ll need 8 to 9 hours for the entire round trip.

ASCENT OF SCAFELL PIKE FROM GREAT LANGDALE | ROUTE DETAILS

Start – Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel | Distance – 5.6 miles | Ascent Time – 4 hours, 30 minutes | Elevation – 1100 metres

6 – PHOTOGRAPH LANGDALE PIKES FROM BLEA TARN

Blea Tarn is a picturesque lake, dramatically set between the Little and Great Langdale valleys. On a still day the crystal clear waters perfectly reflect the Langdale Pikes. Come armed with your camera at sunrise or sunset and you’ll be in position to capture, not just one of the most mesmerising views of the Great Langdale & the Langdale Pikes, but one of the best views in the Lake District.

Fortunately you don’t have to walk to get here. A tiny road, that connects Great Langdale Valley with Little Langdale Valley, twists and turns as it rises over the ridge between them. It’s a great mountain pass and well worth the drive.

Another reason to visit Blea Tarn is for an invigorating dip. Find more information on our guide to the best wild swimming locations in the Lake District.

How to get there? — Parking is at the National Trust Car Park (location – LA22 9PG), a 5-minute walk to the tarn. It is free for National Trust members, but for non-members, the ticket machines only take cash, so bring some change with you.

7 – CLIMB SIDE PIKE FOR VIEWS OF LANGDALE PIKES

While the Langdale Pikes are blessed with activities designed to bring out your adventurous side, there are also some milder ways to experience this beautiful area.

A short but steep-ish 30-minute hike up to the relatively unknown summit of 326m high Side Pike offers some of the finest sweeping views in the Lake District. Crinkle Crags & Bow Fell rise over the end of Great Langdale while the mighty Langdale Pikes tower across the other side of the valley.

How to get there? — Take the tiny road that winds from Great Langdale to Blea Tarn. Just as you reach the summit there’s a cattle grid with room for a couple of cars to park. Follow the trail in a northeast direction signed to Side Pike. (see map below).

8 – HAVE A PINT AT OLD DUNGEON GHYLL

After exploring the Langdale Pikes, you’ll be ready for a rest by the end of the day. Although the valley is relatively remote with few facilities, finding a pub is not difficult.

Sticklebarn, a National Trust café, serves environmentally friendly food that aims to minimise its carbon footprint. Choose from vegetarian curries and locally sourced lamb. It also offers a generous selection of beers as does the Walker’s Bar at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel opposite.

But if you want an old traditional pub then join the hardy folk at the Hiker’s Bar in the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. Order one of their traditional ales and sit inside in the cow stalls or outside on picnic benches. Directly under the pikes, it’s a great place to rest up and enjoy a pint after a walk.  

HOW TO GET TO GREAT LANGDALE

Great Langdale is centrally located in the Lake District. The easiest way to get around is with your own car. That way you could get the views from Side Pike, the reflections in Blea Tarn and hike or scramble the Langdale Pikes, all in the same day.

The Great Langdale valley is a 25-minute drive from Ambleside, 45 minutes from Kendal, and just over an hour from Penrith.

PARKING AT GREAT LANGDALE

There are three large car parks next to the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. One run by the National Trust, one by the hotel and another Pay and Display. Payment is by card, cash or phone. Another car park is a further 400 metres up the road at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

For hiking Side Pike, park in the lay-by near the cattle grid (marked on the map below) and for Blea Tarn park at the Blea Tarn National Trust Car Park. It is free for National Trust members, but for non-members, the ticket machine only takes cash, so bring change with you.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The 516 bus runs every couple of hours during the day from Windermere & Ambleside (via Skelwith Bridge & Elterwater) to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

There is no public transport up to Side Pike or Blea Tarn.

WHERE TO STAY TO EXPLORE LANGDALE PIKES

Great Langdale is a remote region in the Lake District with limited choices when it comes to accommodation. The Great Langdale Campsite provides pitches, pods, tipis, and yurts. But, for more creature comforts, here are some recommendations from us.

Find our recommendations for the best places to stay in the Lake District.

BUDGET

OLD DUNGEON GHYLL HOTEL

Location is everything at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. Perfectly situated to enjoy some of the most spectacular walks in the Lake District, it’s a relaxed stay in a traditional old country pub. Their hearty breakfast will set you up for the day.


MID-MARKET

NEW DUNGEON GHYLL HOTEL

A little less rustic and a little more functional, the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel enjoys the same spectacular location with 6 acres of gardens to enjoy after a long day on the fells. Enjoy clean spacious rooms and friendly service.


SPLURGE

LANGDALE HOTEL & SPA

Splash out on a little luxury in one of the most picturesque valleys in the lakes. Enjoy award-winning dining, a pampering spa treatment and leisure facilities including a gym and indoor pool.


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