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This gentle riverside walk, which links the picturesque villages of Elterwater and Skelwith Bridge along the Brathay River, encapsulates the very best of the Lake District

by elterwater elterwater to skelwith bridge by daniel wildey

Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge Walk - Why Go?

Walking on the high fells of the Lake District is one of life’s great pleasures, but if you stick to the peaks, you could quite easily spend an entire week walking and still miss some of the most beautiful parts of Cumbria – the valleys. 

The valleys are where you find meandering rivers, the flower meadows and picturesque waterfalls aplenty - as well as, of course, the lakes themselves. Sure, everyone wants to tick off a few of the Wainwrights, but you don't have to climb every mountain (to coin a phrase) to have a good time.

The Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge walk is a great example. An easy, short hike that's great for families, it encompasses all of the above, and we think it has a place amongst the best walks in the Lake District.


Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge Walk - What to Expect

Beginning in a National Trust Car Park, this walk is very easy, and while the section of the path running along Great Langdale Beck can be prone to erosion, most of it runs along smooth, well-kept trails. In fact, there's a whole section that's suitable for wheelchair and buggy users at the Skelwith Bridge end of the hike. Simply park there and follow the route directions in reverse. Both Elterwater and Skelwith Bridge are incredibly picturesque villages, with excellent pubs to stop in for lunch.



It's around 2km each way, so you can easily do a round trip with a stop in Skelwith Bridge for lunch, or simply draw straws for who has to head back along the road and get the car. Allow around two hours for the round trip.

In terms of gear for this walk, you don't need anything special. As always, however, a decent pair of walking boots or proper approach shoes will serve you better than regular trainers. Also, this being the UK, make sure you've checked the weather and packed an appropriately waterproof jacket if necessary.


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Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge Walk - The Route, Part 1

4km / 2 hours

Start at the Elterwater National Trust car park. You’re already in one of Lakeland’s most scenic villages, with views of the fells all around, and the Langdale Valley stretching away to the north. From there simply follow the obvious bridle path heading south-east along the River Brathay. The river at this point is usually slow moving and is lined with small pebble beaches and over hanging trees; perfect for a paddle, or just a shady place to while away the afternoon.

Shortly you’ll arrive at Elterwater itself, near where Great Langdale Beck empties into the lake. One of the smaller waters of the Lake District, but as idyllic as any of its more famous or larger cousins, it's surrounded by grazing livestock, hills and picturesque copses.

From here, the path meanders into an area of woodland, which in springtime is carpeted bluebells. Time your visit right and you can float through a pastel blue sea all the way down to the Old Bridge at Skelwith. Before you get there though, don't miss the chance to get a closer look at what's arguably the highlight of the walk - Skelwith Force.


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Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge Walk - The Route, Part 2

The Skelwith Force, to those uninitiated in the Old English nomenclature of the Lake District, is a waterfall - and an impressively powerful one at that. After periods of heavy rain you might be lucky enough to see crazy kayakers dropping off the Force into the pools below, but otherwise, it's a great spot for a scramble around the rocks, or simply to stop and take photos.

A word of warning though - the rocks around the falls can be very slippery even when they appear dry, so take care moving around and ensure you have appropriate footwear.

Once you've filled your phone with Insta-bangers, carry on along the path until you reach the road. Follow that into Skelwith Bridge, but make sure you stop at Chester’s By The River to sample possibly the best (and almost certainly the biggest) cakes in the Lake District. The setting is lovely too, with a terrace overlooking the river. It's a great reason to skip the packed lunch, and indulge in style.

From here, you can retrace your steps along the same path back to Elterwater village. Alternatively, if the kids are too engrossed in cake, it doesn’t take long for Dad to run back to fetch the car.

Want more? Take a look at our full rundown of the best walks in the Lake District for even more great routes. 

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