Maybe a translation is needed here – a ghyll (or ‘gill’) is a valley or ravine, and 'dungeon' refers to a fissure or cleft. A ‘force’ is a waterfall, and a ‘pike’ is one of the words used for a mountain in the Lake District. All these words are of Norse origin, showing the Viking influence in this area (more about this later in a later post!)
William Wordsworth, one of the Lake Poets, described the Dungeon Ghyll Force in his poem ‘The Idle Shepherd Boys’:
If ever you to Langdale go,
Into a chasm a mighty block
Hath fallen, and made a bridge of rock:
The gulf is deep below;
And, in a basin black and small,
Receives a lofty waterfall.
My daughters used to enjoy playing around on the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall (in the foreground of the photo above), though invariably one of them would fall into the water, resulting in a screech since it was usually icy cold!
There are two hotels at the foot of the Langdale Pikes, both named after the waterfall. One is the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, which was originally a farm, but has been a hotel for over 300 years. It used to be called the Middlefell Inn, and later the Dale Head Hotel. At one time, the only way to reach it was by horse-drawn ‘charas’ (or coaches) which came from Little Langdale over the Blea Tarn Pass. At the top of the pass, the coach-driver would sound the horn, which was a signal to the hotel to get lunch or dinner ready. The number of blasts on the horn indicated the number of passengers requiring a meal. The inn was bought and then donated to the National Trust by the British historian G.M. Trevelyan in the early 1900’s. Many famous climbers have stayed here (and no doubt enjoyed their pints in the bar!). They refer to it simply as the ODG.
The New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel was originally a farmhouse, and was rebuilt and changed to a hotel in 1862.
After climbing up one of the Langdale Pikes (or sometimes only part way up!), we used to sit on the terrace of the New Dungeon Ghyll with a glass of Lakeland beer, enjoying the lovely peaceful view down the wide green expanse of the Langdale Valley.