Perched at the mouth of Great Langdale in the midst of the Lake District is Chapel Stile, a small community of blue-grey stone buildings, raised from the slate quarries that surround it.


On a rocky shelf overlooking the village is Holy Trinity Church, completed in 1858 on a site that has seen Christian worship for centuries. Like much of the village, the neo-Gothic-style building is made of local slate, giving the place a distinctly North-Wales flavour.

Herdwick sheep
Herdwick sheep are often seen in the countryside around Chapel Stile ©Getty Getty

Saint of ecology

Step inside the church and you’ll find a luminous stained-glass window of the patron saint of animals and ecology St Francis of Assisi, depicted among typical Langdale surroundings. Above him is a red squirrel, sometimes sighted in the valley.

With its back to the slopes of Silver How, Holy Trinity is without a north-facing window. Instead, there is a tapestry that depicts the valley’s history, created to celebrate the millennium. It shows Norse settlers clearing the trees in the base of the dale and its subsequent use by the monks of Furness Abbey for grazing sheep. These fields are great for walking, with some offering accessible paths for buggies and wheelchairs. Travel a few miles west into the valley, away from the shop, café and pub of Chapel Stile, and you’ll discover one of the wilder and more sublime features of this Cumbrian landscape.

Langdale pikes, Cumbria
Langdale Pikes, Cumbria ©Jake Graham

Nature’s church

The Langdale Pikes comprise some of the most recognisable fells in the area. Alfred Wainwright wrote of them: “No mountain profile in Lakeland arrests and excites the attention more than the Langdale Pikes.” They loom over the valley like towers of some natural church: Notre Dame redesigned by Gaudí and crafted by geology. The fells are made of Borrowdale volcanic rock and came into being during an eruption about 450 million years ago.

Langdale Pikes, Cumbria
Looking into the Mickleden valley from the Langdale Pikes, Cumbria ©Jake Graham

Two miles to the west of Chapel Stile, beneath the Langdale Pikes, is New Dungeon Ghyll, with its tea room and hotel bar. And another mile on is the hotel at Old Dungeon Ghyll, which feels like an outpost on the edge of civilisation. From here, paths head into the Scafell massif, home to some of the country’s highest mountains.

On your descent through the dale, call in at New Dungeon Ghyll’s Walkers Bar, the perfect respite on your return to Chapel Stile.


Main image ©Getty


Christopher Ridout is a walker and writer with a keen interest in history and mythology.