When approaching the Lake District from the south, the Langdale Pikes in the Langdale Valley dominate the views to the north west. It is a magnificent valley located in the centre of the Lake District and therefore very popular with walkers and climbers alike who have a wealth of opportunities to walk and climb some of the highest mountains in England and specifically the Scafell range. Proceeding up the valley, you will pass through the village of Chapel Stile. The main industries here were Gunpowder production and stone quarrying – indeed, there is evidence of the use of the local stone for stone axe production going back to Neolithic times. Continue on and you will find car parking available at the foot of Harrison Stickle (2,415 ft) and Pike o'Stickle (2,323 ft).
Here, there is an impression of remoteness and inaccessibility to the summits. Although Harrison Stickle is not one of the highest mountains in the Lake District, it is one of the steepest gaining over 2,000 ft of altitude in a lateral distance of only three quarters of a mile. The route up past Stickle Tarn onto the summit of Harrison Stickle and then down to the left of the deep Dungeon Ghyll ravine is one of the classic walks in the Lake District and not to be missed.
There are numerous walks from the Langdale valley. At the head of Great Langdale is Bowfell and Crinkle Crags and beyond you can reach Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. There are also exciting routes through to the other Lakeland valleys including, Grasmere, Borrowdale, Wasdale and Eskdale.
Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel
The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel is a classic walking and climbing hotel, and all the main Langdale Valley peaks can be accessed from the Old Dungeon Ghyll without needing a car to get to the start of the walk. Not just for walkers though, there are some seriously good climbs near the Old Dungeon Ghyll, you can even enjoy a sedate glass of real ale in the beer garden and be entertained by watching climbers on the crags behind the hotel.
The hotel was originally a farm and an Inn. In the rate book of 1885, it was named as Middlefell Inn and run by John Bennett, who was a well-known guide for tourists. It has been extended a number of times, the original piece being the middle portion; another piece was added later and the stables at the Northeast end were made into a dining room. The shippon, on the other end, was made into a bar and the cow stalls are still there, intact.
These were the days of the horse-drawn 'charas' bringing visitors from Little Langdale over Blea Tarn Pass; they would stop at the top and blow their horn, a signal to get lunch or tea ready – the number of blasts informed the staff of the number of passengers requiring the meal!
The Hotel was sold to Professor G.M. Trevelyan in the early 1900's for £4,100, he promptly gave it to the National Trust. This was the first property the Trust owned in Langdale. The Hotel was run as a hotel and farm up to 1949, when the shippon was converted into the Climbers Bar.
All the climbing clubs in the country at this stage came to the Old Hotel for their club dinners which meant that many of the best British climbers who had taken part in the Everest and other Himalayan expeditions stayed at the hotel including Sir John Hunt, Mike Westmacott, Alf Gregory, Tom Bourdillon, Sir Charles Evans, Neil Mather, and George Band.
The younger up-and-coming climbers frequented the Climbers Bar – Joe Brown, Don Whillans, Ian MacNaught-Davis, and Dennis Davis. In the evenings they often had talks and slide shows – Chris Bonington and Ian Clough, after being the first British climbers to ascend the north face of the Eiger, tried out their lecture at the Old Hotel before giving the real thing in Keswick.
Today the hotel offers excellent value for money, accommodation, traditional food and drink, relaxing home comforts and an informal atmosphere in a spectacular setting which rivals the best in the Lake District, that of the famous Langdale Pikes.