Ullswater regularly tops the polls as the most popular lake in the Lake District, and it's easy to find plenty to love about this perfectly positioned lake! With the great fells of Helvellyn and friends dominating the southern end and the open, gentle, hills around Pooley Bridge at the other, there are dozens of footpaths all around just waiting to be explored!
All of these routes can be found on the OL5 OS Map of the region.
1. The Ullswater Way – 20 miles
Start / Finish - Glenridding
In total this is a 20 mile route BUT you don’t have to do the 20 miles all at once. Ullswater boasts a fantastic steamer service allowing you to hop on, hop off and walk back – look for the Walkers Tickets when you book. The route is well signposted throughout and, although challenging in places, it’s not too high, nor too steep, and should be something most of the family can tackle. One of the best things about the route is all the beaches around the lake where you can pause and enjoy your packed lunch. Or you could search a new favourite spot – a lovely bench on the path just south of Howtown with absolutely spectacular views. Don’t tell everyone though...
2. The Royal Route - 3 miles
Start / Finish – Patterdale School
In June 2019 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Cumbria and rounded off their day with a short walk around Ullswater. The ‘Royal Route’ starts from the track near Patterdale School and leads out to Side Farm. Turn left past the farm and, once you pop through a large wooden gate, take a sharp right up a short, steep track to a rocky viewpoint. From there, look for the bench on the track above you on the hillside – that’s the spot where they sat and enjoyed the views, and where the press eventually caught up with them! We know someone who walked with them that day and they tell us the Duke and Duchess were blown away by the views, so we know you will be too. From the bench, drop back down to the viewpoint and follow the track as it descends gently to the north alongside the woodland to the main track.
3. Aira Force 1-2 miles
Start / Finish – National Trust Carpark, Aira Force
This is a very popular spot and rightly so; the falls are fantastic! There’s a large National Trust carpark, toilets and a cafe, plus a well signposted route around the falls. Our insider tip is to keep going up past the main falls and find the second smaller set at the very top where there are loads of big flat rocks to sit on and enjoy the views. As you make your way up the falls, look closely at the two stone bridges you pass. The first is dedicated to Cecil Spring Rice and is constructed in the traditional Cumbrian method by laying the stones horizontally. The higher bridge is dedicated to Stephen Rice and is constructed by laying the stones vertically, which is more common in the Dales.
You can read a longer description of this walk here.
4. Wander with Wordsworth – 1 mile
Start / Finish – National Trust Carpark, Glencoyne Bay
If you’re just in the mood for a tiny toddle and a spot of history then head for Glencoyne Bay, a couple of miles north of Glenridding. Here you can park up and take a stroll along the small headland jutting out into the lake. If you’re here in the spring, you can admire the very daffodils that Wordsworth admired and which inspired him to write his most famous poem! Well, OK, not the exact same ones, but definitely their descendants. William was with his sister Dorothy and in her journal of 15th April 1802 she recounts their walk, commenting on how beautiful the daffodils were. The rest, as they say, is history!
5. Roman Roaming - 4 miles
Start / Finish – Pooley Bridge
High Street is an old Roman road running right along the tops of the fells to the east of the lake. To explore a small section of it, follow the small road leading away from Pooley Bridge, alongside the chapel, until it changes from a road to a track (if you want an easier start there’s a reasonable amount of parking at this point). Keep going up the broad track until you meet a crossroads with a Roman signpost. If you bear right along the track you’ll come to The Cockpit, a pre-historic stone circle that proves the Romans weren’t the first ones to make their mark here! From The Cockpit, loop around left and back to the main track to find your way home, but be aware that there are lots of routes criss-crossing this hill side so be sure to get your bearings.
6. Greenside Mines – 2 miles
Start / Finish – Glenridding
Mines don’t sound that exciting or picturesque, but the walk up from Glenridding village, past the old miners cottages to the old mine workings is a great family stroll with tons to see along the way. Glenridding was once one of the busiest mining towns in Europe and this walk will lead you up past the old mine workings to a couple of excellent view points where you can admire the surrounding fells and valleys before heading back down to a well earned pub lunch.
7. Parting Stone – 7.2 miles
Start / Finish - Grisedale Bridge
This is a ‘there and back’ walk and the ‘there’ part is a long, slow, uphill climb but, on the bright side, the ‘back’ is a lovely long downhill stretch. At the top of the climb you’ll find two fabulous things (three if you count a nice rock to sit and have a rest on!). Grizedale Tarn, which is nestled amongst some of the finest fells in the Lake District, and Brother’s Parting Stone, said to be the place where William Wordsworth bid a final farewell to his brother. Wordsworth was badly affected by his loss and a few lines from the subsequent poem he wrote can be found on the rock.
8. Hallin Fell – 4 miles
Start / Finish – Howtown Pier
There aren’t that many spiral walks in the world, but this is one of them. Hop off the steamer at Howton and begin by following the path all the way around the base of Hallin Fell just to whet your appetite. On the far side of the fell you’ll find Martindale ‘new’ Church, which isn’t new, new, but which is newer than the old church on the other side the village, if you follow... The church was built in the 1880s and has some magnificent stained glass windows designed by Jane Grey, who also designed the windows in the nave in Coventry Cathedral. There are superb views from the top of the fell, plus it has an excellent trig point that looks fabulous in photos!
9. Martindale Loop – 8 miles
Start / Finish – Howtown Pier
If you fancy a long walk with a bit of a climb, but nothing too craggy or challenging, then this is perfect. Follow the road from Howtown out along Howe Grain and all the way up to Boredale Hause. From there take the path back along the adjacent Boredale valley. There’s plenty to look out for and, if you’re really quiet, there’s a very good chance of spotting red deer, which have roamed the valley for over 400 years. At the head of Howe Grain you’ll notice a distinctive red roofed bungalow: originally this was a hunting lodge belonging to the Earl of Lonsdale where he entertained Kaiser Wilhelm II on a visit in 1912.
10. Place Fell – 7 miles
Start / Finish – Patterdale School
This is a whopper of a walk, but the views are magnificent! The route is clear and pretty easy to follow the entire way but do make sure you are properly prepared as it will be a LOT colder at the top than it is in the valleys. Place Fell is the perfect spot to get a bird’s eye view of Ullswater as well as panoramic views of Helvellyn, High Street and several dozen of Cumbria’s finest fells. Be sure to take plenty of food and drink, and make sure you have lots of spare space on your memory card for all the fantastic photos you’ll be wanting to take up there.
Our cottages provide the perfect base to explore Ullswater and guarantee your weary bones a warm welcome home at the end of a long walk.