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Langdale is the closest valley to Ambleside which leads you right into the heart of the Lake District's core mountain range. Two recently opened cycle routes (one alongside the River Brathay and one around the back of Loughrigg Tarn) has opened up the Langdale valley to full exploration on a mountain bike. The old bridleways along the valley floor can now be linked with these cycle paths to form a circular tour around almost the whole valley. Mostly the going is fairly easy and as such this makes an ideal route for beginners. There are however, some climbs, busy road sections, and a bit of rough stuff so very young mountain bikers may struggle.
The great joy of Langdale is the spectacle of all its enclosing mountains. From the valley floor you can see from summit to base such peaks as Bowfell and Crinkle Crags, but pride of place has to go to the Langdale Pikes. This fine cluster of peaks display an almost Alpine grandeur with very steep slopes buttressed by an awesome array of crags. Right the way around this route you are treated to an ever changing perspective whilst at the same time enjoying some easy but exciting mountain biking. It is a fairly long ride and if you are new to the area it will take a good part of the day, however at numerous places along the ride there are cafes and pubs for either a leisurely lunch or a stop to get your breath back.
Terrain: paths, valley roads, lanes, bridleways
3 - 4 hours
1. Take the A593 Coniston Road out of Ambleside and follow it to Brathay to turn left on to the B5286 Hawkshead Road. Follow it for 150m to a junction. Turn right (cycle route) and follow the lane as it heads West alongside the River Brathay. The lane then swings South West and climbs to a junction at Skelwith Fold. Turn right, then after 200m turn right again, and descend to the A593 at Skelwith Bridge.
2. Join the A593 and head straight over Skelwith Bridge. Ignore the first left (the B5343 to Langdale) instead take the second left and follow the narrow lane that climbs North for 500m to another junction. Turn right on to a lane then turn immediately left on to a bridleway. Follow it a short distance then turn immediately left on to the permissive bridleway around the North side of Loughrigg Tarn. Follow it to its end on the Red Bank Road.
3. Turn right onto the Red Bank Road and follow it North up to a junction at Red Bank. Turn left and follow the road up to the Youth Hostel then West down to a junction. Turn right and follow the road to Chapel Stile. Through the village the road joins the B5343 Langdale road. Turn right onto it and follow it West up the valley as Far as the New Hotel.
4. On the left hand side of the road opposite the drive to the hotel is a bridleway, turn onto it, and follow it East back down the valley. It provides easy off road riding to join the B5343 again. Turn right onto the road for a short distance to the start of another bridleway on the right. Go through the gate and follow this bridleway down to a bridge over Great Langdale Beck. Cross the bridge and turn right onto the track ignoring the path on the left. Follow the track past the front of the farm at Oak How (ignoring the path that branches right) and climb West to join a rough bridleway.
5. This bridleway is the most technical section of the ride. It climbs slightly then works its way South East through woodland to the farm at Baysbrown. From here a good track/road leads South East, East then North to Elterwater.
6. From Elterwater follow the River Brathay cycle path (starts by the side of the National Trust car park) South East first to the Woodburn Bridge just up stream of Skelwith Force. Cross the bridge and follow the cycle track on the other side for 350m to the A593. Turn left onto the A593 and head down hill to Skelwith Bridge. Don't cross the bridge instead turn right onto the lane back towards Skelwith Fold. Retrace your route from earlier in the day back to Ambleside.