For me, Elterwater is one of the Lake District’s true gems: a cluster of houses and a pub lying in the Langdale Valley, just half a mile from the picturesque lake from which its name is derived.
As well as its quaintness, the village is ideally placed for exploring some of the Central Lakes’ most appealing fells. From here, you can head off on some of my favourite fell walks, including climbing up to Stickle Tarn and on to Raise and, of course, the wonderful Langdale Pikes are within easy reach, too.
If you want to base yourself in the village your choice of accommodation – particularly if you’re working to a budget – is limited. That’s what makes Elterwater Independent Hostel, which was sold off by the YHA and is now run by an enterprising couple, a real boon.
Within a stone’s throw of the village centre – which happens to be the site of The Britannia Inn, the only pub – the hostel is described in a flyer produced by Cumbria Independent Hostels UK as “a clean, homely accommodation with a friendly welcome, comfy beds and home cooked meals – a perfect base to explore the Lakes.” And I’d agree with that.
Check in is from 5pm, but the hostel operates an open-access policy during the day. This is a great idea because you’re welcome to arrive earlier, if necessary, make a cuppa and put your feet up while the kids play with the Lego.
There is no parking at the hostel so you need to use the National Trust car park just around the corner, which is free to NT members and to everyone between 4.30pm and 8.30am, or look for spaces on the side of the roads. Guests are allowed, however, to pull up at the hostel’s gate to unload. As soon as we arrived, ready to unload our bags, a staff member appeared. Wearing a big smile, he offered his help and welcomed us to the hostel.
Throughout our brief stay, we saw nothing but polite and smiling staff who were always prepared to offer guests advice on walking routes and places to visit.
The hostel’s 40 beds are divided between rooms sleeping two, four and six people. None of the bedrooms are ensuite or have a wash basin which, at times, feels a little inconvenient, especially if all you want to do is clean your teeth. Our bedroom contained two bunk-beds and while being basic was perfectly comfortable. Some independent and YHA properties still ask guests to make up their own beds and this applied here.
Downstairs, we enjoyed cooking our meal in the large self-catering kitchen – which is well equipped – and eating in the spacious dining area which has received a makeover since becoming privately owned.
A meal service is bookable until 6pm and served an hour later. Evening meals cost £9.95 for adults, £4.95 for under tens; breakfast is £4.99 and £2.99 respectively and need to be booked the evening before, as are packed lunches costing £5.50.
The dining area-cum-lounge, with its wood floors and terracotta walls, is the true heart of the hostel. After eating your meals you can retire to the comfy leather sofa and armchairs. There are plenty of books and games to keep everyone entertained.
Some hostels are spartan and cold in terms of atmosphere but that’s definitely not the case at Elterwater, where you’re welcomed into the fold like a member of the family. We liked the quirky touches, too, such as Elvis the Terrapin in the tank next to the lobby. My kids enjoyed saying “hello” to him every time they passed, especially on his birthday!
I’d recommend this hostel to anyone because it has much to offer guests, including a warm welcome, ample space in which to relax, decent equipped self-catering kitchen, meals on site and, of course, a beautiful location. There is no parking and, as already mentioned, the bedrooms would benefit from a little updating, but that’s just a minor matter. Overall, we really enjoyed our visit.
Cumbria LA22 9HX
t: 015394 37245