I’m a big fan of mountain hostels and the old fashioned youth hostels – many of which are now proudly independent like Elterwater. Both of my parents used them frequently in the 1950s; my dad as a climber and my mom as a cyclist, with dad often acting as volunteer warden and raising money with friends to keep mountain hostels open in the mid 1950s. I even worked as an assistant warden in 2 youth hostels myself when younger and have stayed in them on several occasions with our own sons and with my wife. We took our first ever holiday together in our teens hiking between hostels. Yes, I love the uniqueness, the character, the people that you meet and the beautiful countryside that these amazing buildings give you access to.
Elterwater typifies a traditional hostel for me. When I worked at nearby Derwentwater in the early 1990s, Elterwater was always seen as a great place to go to on days off, giving us outdoor types easy access into the Langdales and having amazing countryside literally straight from the door.
It was first opened as a hostel in 1939, being a building in this idyllic Lake District village that was originally a barn and thought to date from around 1692. An adjoining cottage was once used by writer and social reformer John Ruskin as a small lace-making factory. It’s a building with history and it bleeds character from every nook and cranny, from every piece of slate from which it’s formed. In more modern times, during the Second World War the hostel was used as accommodation for workers of Shorts of Sunderland, who were involved in building flying boats on Windermere.
Yes, it’s accurate to say that I love Elterwater and I’d guess that most of the visitors to this sublime corner of the National Park also love it, which is why I was taken aback in 2013 when the Youth Hostel Association decided to sell it off. Thankfully though, some very good people knew it’s value and the place that it had within the community and since then Elterwater Independent Hostel has operated very successfully as an independent place to stay and a is a great mountain hostel. Yes, it’s now proudly independent and succeeding in providing the very best of chilled out and characterful places to stay in the high fells for hikers, bikers and climbers.
With all of this history and it’s much loved place in the hearts of the outdoors community, when we decided to produce a series on places to stay and to ride from, Elterwater was the obvious starting point; and so, as we develop our new National Park Bikecation series, it’s this picturesque Lakeland village where we will set you off from. It’s a haven for both road and mountain bikers, with some epic and challenging hills and passes for the roadies, alongside some of the most technical and demanding mtb trails for the adventure seekers. We’ll also be linking in a few suggested road and mountain bike touring rides between Elterwater and other independent hostels such as Ingleton and Skiddaw House, where you get plan your own Bikecation vacation.
All that you need is a sense of adventure, a good bike and love for wild places and great places to stay. Time to get started then, with our routes from the door at Elterwater Independent Hostel.
The routes below can all be started from Elterwater itself. Simply pick up the route description at the relevant point and off you go. We’ll be adding updated GPX files for them in the future, which will direct you from Elterwater village. Have fun riding in this amazingly beautiful corner of the English Lake District.