Wednesday, 4 April 2012

D is for Dungeon

Dungeon Ghyll Force is a spectacular 40-foot vertical drop waterfall on the lower slopes of the Langdale Pikes.

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.


  1. Oh to start the day with the picture and description of a waterfall ~ the day doesn't start much better than that. Sounds like a remarkable place and loved reading about the system to notify ahead for the meal. As always, I learned something new from your post!

  2. It's a beautiful part of the country isn't it? I'm looking forward to reading your post on Viking influence as I was researching that recently myself :-)

  3. I love waterfalls. I must simply come and visit this part of the world!!

    Cheers, Jenn

  4. You live in such a beautiful part of the world--to have your kids play in waterfalls like!

    --Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  5. Thanks, Claudia!

    Stacey - I've not done a lot of research about the Vikings, apart from the names of many features in the lake District, which derive from the Old Norse language.

    Jenn - this one's quite dramatic but there are many other falls in this area. You'd love them!

    Damyanti - my daughters liked playing in water - any water!

  6. Absolutely beautiful country-side!

    Catch My Words

  7. This was wonderful to read Paula. I love waterfalls, nature, and history of places I have never been (well okay, I like the history of places I have been too). This is a beautiful little tuck-away spot that I might never have been privy to without your voice and images carrying me there. Thank you!

    A-Z 2012 (#49) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Poetry
    A-Z 2012 (#861) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Haiku

  8. Can't argue with that, Joyce!

    Thanks, November - this really is a 'hidden-away' waterfall that a lot of visitors miss.

  9. Now that's something completely new I've learned today! Great post, Paula.

  10. Very interesting and I love that gorgeous waterfall!!


  11. Cheers, Rosemary :-)

    Kathy, there are dozens of amazing waterfalls in the Lake District!

  12. Those views are spectacular. Love the waterfall, and those old inns; laughed at the idea of the "new" inn being over 150 years old.

  13. 150 years old IS new compared with some of the Lake District inns, Beverley. I'll be telling you later this month about some which are 500 years old!

  14. Once again, the beloved history that is older than our country! Oh, how I love hearing of these beautiful hide aways.

    Keep 'em coming! ♥

  15. Beautiful waterfall and architecture! I miss the old world of the Uk! Is this Scotland?
    Stopping by from A to Z # 970 :)
    Leigh @

  16. Just beautiful!

  17. Looks amazing! There's nothing more inspiring than a beautiful piece of countryside. I'd love to visit the Dungeon some day (never thought I'd say that).

    J.W. Alden

  18. Lots more history still to come, Jo!

    Leigh - not Scotland, this is the lake District in NW England.

    Word Nerd - agree, this is why it's my favourite area of the UK.

    J.W. - I'll give you a guided tour of the Lake District when you come!

    Danne - many breathtaking sights still to come, Daphne!

    LOL, Elizabeth - glad it's inspired you!