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The River Brathay & Elterwater

orange autumnal colours on oak tree with frosty foregroundat the River Brathay in the Lake District.

View of the Oak Trees, River Brathay.

Autumnal light backlighting the oak trees.

An absolutely stunning section of the River Brathay resides just South-West of Elterwater; an easy flat pleasant walk with very good accessibility. This stunning area has recently become increasingly popular amongst the landscape photography folk, especially in Autumn and for very good reason; it is a beaut of a location! The area has two main focal points, the two oak Trees that can be shot from the side nearest to Elterwater or a coppice of trees with the Langdale Fells in the background.

The area can be shot at most times of the year but the two oak trees (left) really do shine towards the end of November just before the leaves are about to fall and as the frosty mornings begin to take over. If it's been quite a wet Summer, the trees tend to hold more strength towards the Autumn which in the Lake District, they will need due to some blustery storms that we tend to get around this time of year.

Ideally when visiting this location, you want quite low winds in the forecast, however the river can be more tolerant towards any ripples than other locations due to its low level and slow moving properties. 

Unlike a lot of locations, the River Brathay can be the ideal spot for a morning with clear skies as when using a telephoto lens, you can find multiple compositions that have little to no need for any sky inclusion. Infact, if you're towards the end of November, a clear sky during the night with no wind can almost certainly lead to frost developing and maybe even some river mist!

One word of warning though, this spot can really get busy around the Autumn months and although there is a lot of space to find your own compositions, the last thing you want to do is be the person who ruins someone else's shot so it would be best advised to arrive early and if you feel you may be imposing on someone else's image, the politest thing to do would be to communicate. In most cases, people will always be happy to let you stand in front of them for a few minutes whilst you grab your shot and if you're going to be stood quite a distance away, a quick clone job may be all that is required in photoshop but the courtesy of being polite and asking will always go in your favour! 

Although there are opportunities for sunset at this location, in my opinion it's suited much more for sunrise, especially if you're wanting the classic shot of the two oak trees. From mid October through to March the sun rises at a good position (behind/left to the trees) giving some stunning backlit light and if you have those delicious orange Autumnal leaves, then you're truly in for a treat!

misty autumnal morning on the River Brathay in the Lake District.

The Mighty Oaks.

Morning light glowing through the mists at the River Brathay.

misty view of coppice on the River Brathay in the Lake District.

View of Coppice, River Brathay.

Glow from the rising sun burning through the mist.

The Langdale Pikes viewed from Elterwater on a misty morning in the Lake District.

Langdale Pikes From Elterwater.

View of Langdale Pikes reflecting in a still Elterwater.

Getting Here

Parking for this area is quite straightforward. There is quite a long lay-by with free parking or a national trust pay and display car park on the other side of Elterwater. Pre-dawn, the lay-by should be virtually empty of cars and this would be my recommended route as the walk to location is shorter.

The post code for the lay-by parking is LA22 9NJ and the nearest post code for the NT car park is LA22 9HU.

Directions From Lay-by

From lay-by head up B5343 going past the old industrial site to your left. Continue a few metres and you will find a faint path through to a more distinct path in the woodland to your left. Follow this path for around 2-3 minutes, ignoring the steel foot bridge to your left. You should now see a wooden gate which will lead you out of the forest into an open field, follow the path alongside the river and a short 5 minute walk will find you in the right location.

Directions From NT Car Park

Follow path behind the Pay&Display machines, there should be a signpost pointing in the direction of Elterwater. Follow this path with the river on your right. After a walk lasting around 15-20 minutes of sticking on the path, you will reach a wooden gate. Go through the gate and you will see the view of the Langdale Pikes to your right and the two oak trees to the left.

Map of how to get to the River Brathay in the Lake District.
National Trust car park for Elterwater/River Brathay in the Lake District.

National Trust Pay & Display Car Park.

National Trust car park. free for members.

free parking for River Brathay in the Lake District.

Lay-by Free Parking.

View of lay-by, room for 10 car maximum past the white line.

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