In this most spectacular of areas, where grand views lurk around every corner, it’s possible to become blasé and complacent, to grow almost immune to the beauty of these great pyramids of rock and the vast, flat pools of water shimmering with the reflection of blue skies.
If you’re feeling all ‘laked-out’, the perfect tonic has to be an excursion into the serene valley of Great Langdale, where the attraction isn’t lake-based, it’s the quiet valley countryside dominated by two modest but distinctive peaks: the Langdale Pikes.
Pike O’Stickle (709 metres) and its loftier neighbour Harrison Stickle (736 metres) are Lake District landmarks. Although by no means the tallest in these parts, they’re an attractive pair, joined at the shoulder like giant Siamese twins. For many people, their first glimpse of the ‘Langdales’ comes when approaching Lake Windermere from the east – the peaks rise up majestically in the distance behind the lake, creating a distinctive backdrop and forming part of a classic, picture-perfect Lakeland scene.
To get closer to the Pikes, leave the town of Ambleside to the west and instead of following the traffic on the main road towards Coniston Water, take a right at Skelwith Bridge village to head straight down the Langdale Valley. There are noticeably fewer tourists in this valley as it isn’t on the A-list of Lakeland destinations. Just as the twists and turns finish and the road looks as if it might taper off into a narrow footpath, you’ll find Great Langdale Campsite. This glorious National Trust site is set in a wooded glen at the head of the valley and consists of several small, grassy camping areas around an undergrowth-shielded beck. Impressive peaks and slopes surround the site on all sides: you really feel like you’re in the true heart of the Lake District here.
Great Langdale is a typical National Trust campsite: well-organised, efficiently run, with just the right facilities and set in some of England’s finest scenery. Cars aren’t allowed in the camping areas, but none of the pitches is far enough for that to be a problem. The wood-fronted shower blocks contain plenty of facilities in school-style rows of cubicles. There’s also a drying room to stash rain-damp walking clothes and boots overnight, a very handy extra.
As you would expect, the walking from here is first-class. A map is available from reception, outlining four easy walks around the valley, each between three and seven miles in length. But despite being tempted by these steady rambles across meadows, woodlands and river banks, many visitors are keen to go for glory and conquer the Langdale Pikes. The start and end point for the ascent is at the New Dungeon Ghyll pub off the main valley road, just a few minutes’ walk from the campsite. It’s named after Dungeon Ghyll, a deep cleft that dissects the pikes on the slopes above, creating a 100 foot waterfall and a protected area for alpine flowers to flourish in. You’ll pass it as you shin up the path on the nine-mile round-trip to the peaks.
It’s also possible to walk to Scafell Pike from here and on to another Cool Camping site at Wasdale Head. Scafell may be the tallest and most brag-worthy peak to conquer in these fells, but the Langdales are just as rewarding. You also get double the fun: two peaks for the price of one. Not a bad day’s work, and definitely worth a pint – or two – at the Dungeon.
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Wasdale Head National Trust CampsiteWasdale Head, Seascale, Cumbria CA20 1EX
Wasdale Head is tranquil campsite provides a great base camp for a walk in the mountains.
Inside Out CampingHollows Farm, Grange-in-Borrowdale, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5UQ
Crag and fell views, and riverside fun.
Lanefoot FarmThornthwaite, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5RZ
View-tastic camping nestled in the stunning Cumbrian valleys.
Chapel House FarmStonethwaite, Borrowdale, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5XG
Absolute visual masterpiece of a campsite...with plenty of fellwalking opportunities.
Long Valley YurtsLong Valley Yurts, Low Wray National Trust Campsite, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 0JA
Morrocan, magical, star-gazing, yurt-loving fun. This is a real somewhere-for-everyone place.
Turner Hall FarmSeathwaite, Broughton in Furness, Cumbria LA20 6EE
Strap on the hiking boots and get involved in this beast of a site. Walk amongst crags, fells, pikes, tarns and waterfalls-definitely far from the beaten track.
Low Wray National Trust CampsiteLow Wray, nr Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 0JA
Low Wray National Trust campsite sits on the shore of Lake Windermere. It’s a small site with two main areas for camping; one set back from the lake in a clearing surrounded by trees, and another tree-scattered spot right on the shore with expansive views across the water.
Gill Head FarmTroutbeck, Matterdale, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0ST
Perfectly peaceful Cumbrian working farm, surrounded by some of the best walks the Lakes have to offer...
The 516 bus from Ambleside stops a 5-minute walk from the site.
Pitch for 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 one car from £8.25; extra adult £5.50; child £2.50; dog £1.50. Pods £30–£50.
Many pitches are first come, first served.
220 tent pitches and 5 pods. 2 large shower-and- toilet blocks. Well-stocked shop; laundry facilities. Off-the- ground BBQs fine, but no campfires.
Easy walks around the valley shown on a map available from reception, while many visitors conquer the Langdale Pikes – the starting-point for which is just a few minutes’ walk from the campsite.
If it rains
If it's full
Other Cool Camping sites within striking distance are Low Wray and Turner Hall Farm.
There are three good pubs within 10 minutes’ walk of the campsite: The Sticklebarn Tavern (015394 37356), The Old Dungeon Ghyll (015394 37272) and The New Dungeon Ghyll (015394 37213). Our favourite is the ‘ODG’, a legendary Lakeland pub famous for its Walker’s Bar, where a roaring fire and a fine selection of ales are perfect for walk-weary hikers. The landlord is quite handy on the violin, so rowdy, impromptu nights of music are common.
Click here for pubs, restaurants and places to eat & drink in the Lake District.
Tents, trailer-tents, campervans, organised groups, dogs – yes. Caravans, large parties – no.