The Lake District is packed full of fabulous waterfalls thanks to its many rivers and plenty of rain! You’ll come across small falls on almost every river you pass, but if you’re on the lookout for bigger and more spectacular sights, then this is the guide for you! Whether you seek out the Lake District’s tallest waterfall or some hidden gullies, they’re all best seen after heavy rainfall when the roaring water is at its most spectacular!
Aira Force & High Force, Ullswater
Perhaps the Lake District’s most famous waterfall, Aira Force is simply gorgeous, and a pleasant walk up and back down the river means you get to see all the best parts of it. The large National Trust car park at the bottom of the river is a great place to start, and clearly marked woodland paths follow the river upwards, before you cross over and start your descent back down. There are also some smaller falls, High Force, further up the river, and its well worth extending your walk to enjoy these too!
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Sourmilk Gill, Grasmere
Despite its fantastically unusual name, there are actually two waterfalls in the Lake District named very similarly: Sourmilk Gill in Grasmere and Sour Milk Gill in Buttermere! Here, I’m talking about Grasmere, but you can take a look at our favourite Buttermere walks if you’d like to see the second, too!
The name comes from the white colour of its frenetic waters and they can be best enjoyed as part of a circular route from Grasmere to Easedale Tarn. The waterfalls can be seen in the distance as you begin your walk, and you’ll keep them in sight as you gradually approach. Before setting off, don’t forget to pick up some Grasmere Gingerbread® to keep your energy levels up!
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Scale Force, Crummock Water
Generally considered the tallest waterfall in the Lake District thanks to its drop of 170ft, Scale Force is a must-see! There are also a couple of lower drops, each at 20ft. Hidden away in a narrow gorge, it’s easy to miss from the popular paths that cross nearby. The easiest way to access it is from Buttermere village and along Crummock Water, turning left and heading uphill at Scale Beck. The ground can be pretty boggy here, so take care. You can extend your walk by including a loop around Buttermere lake, or over Red Pike fell.
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Rydal Falls, Rydal
Close to Rydal Mount, once home to William Wordsworth, Rydal Falls is like something from a fairy tale! An 18th century building known as ‘The Grot” sits beside the splash pool and provides a fantastic viewpoint (especially if you want to keep dry!), with the waterfall perfectly framed. You can combine your visit with a poke around Rydal Mount, a wander through the formal gardens of Rydal Hall, or a walk around Rydal Water and Grasmere, making use of the coffin route along the way.
Ritsons Force, Mosedale Valley
Named after former local pub landlord Will Ritson, Ritsons Force is a delightful and isolated series of waterfalls close to Wasdale. Will Ritson was a well-known teller of tall tales, and The World’s Biggest Liar competition takes place every November in his honour at the Santon Bridge Inn. The falls are accessed via the pub garden at the Wasdale Head Inn. Why not stop off for a drink or some hearty food after your visit?
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Holme Force, Loweswater
Perhaps the most ‘secret’ waterfall on this list, Holme Force is hidden away in the ancient woodlands on the southwest shore of Loweswater. This quiet, western lake is a great place to escape the crowds, and the rushing waterfall comes at something of a surprise as you walk through the tranquil woods. You can take a small detour to it on a circular walk around the lake, or as part of a gentle hike along Burnbank Fell. The young and young at heart may also like to explore the bird hides and rope swings nearby!
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Stanley Ghyll Force, Eskdale
In the remote valley of Eskdale is Stanley Ghyll Force – also known as Dalegarth Force - an impressive waterfall surrounded by leafy greens and sheer rock faces. You can arrive here in the most charming way by catching a Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway miniature steam engine, then crossing over the river, by means of stepping stones, behind St Catherine’s Church. You follow rocky paths up the ravine until you arrive by the splash pool. Or, as of 2021, work has been done to clear and re-open up an original Victorian viewpoint at the top of the drop. Wherever you admire the force from, this is a truly magical place!
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Dungeon Ghyll Force, Great Langdale
Dungeon Ghyll Force is a real treat with its 40ft single drop. It’s been the source of inspiration for many, with William Wordsworth basing a whole poem around it (The Idle Shepherd-Boys)! Fortunately, you can find your own inspiration easily enough, with a relatively straightforward walk from Stickle Ghyll Car Park. If you’re keen to continue walking after that, you can head up to Stickle Tarn before returning for a tasty meal at The Sticklebarn pub.
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Lodore Falls, Borrowdale
Tucked away between the Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa, you’ll find the waterfall of the same name. Split by numerous rocks, the tumbling water looks like something from a fairy grotto, though in really wet weather it becomes something else entirely! Surrounded by oak woodlands that are a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Lodore Falls are on private land but can be accessed via a roadside path. You could even pamper yourself after your visit with a trip to the spa!
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Stock Ghyll Force, Ambleside
If you’re after a gentle evening walk, waterfall included, then Stock Ghyll Force could be just the ticket. The river flows through Ambleside and used to power a number of mills, one of which is now the famous Bridge House. Nowadays, it’s simply a lovely thing to look at, with the wider falls coming into sight first, followed by the taller falls further along the path. On the way, you can even see an old turnstile from when the Victorian landowner used you charge for viewings!
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Moss Force, Newlands Valley
Sitting on the side of Robinson fell, Moss Force is just a couple of hundred metres away from the roadside. While that makes it easily accessible in some ways, the road between Buttermere and the Newlands Valley is steep, so care should be taken, particularly in icy weather.
Split into three distinct sections, a fairly evident path will take you from the informal car park to the bottom of the upper fall. Alternatively, a fork in the path
leads to the bottom section. If it’s your kind of thing, this is also a popular ice climbing location in winter!
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Colwith Force, Little Langdale
The unusually shaped lake of Elterwater and its surrounding rivers are home to numerous waterfalls, so this is the perfect pace to go if you consider yourself a waterfall bagger! You can easily walk between Colwith Force and Skelwith Force (below), or just visit one at a time.
Colwith is hidden away from the main road, but there’s an obvious wide path. Follow it through woodlands until you reach the viewing points (one at the top and one below). There’s limited parking close by, but you can incorporate a visit into a relatively easy walk from Elterwater village.
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Skelwith Force, Elterwater
Though small, Skelwith Force is a pretty waterfall that’s easy to reach. Bridges criss-cross over the river and the surrounding woodland offers pleasant dappled shade. You can take a fairly easy walk from Elterwater village to the falls, either circular or linear. The route back to the village along the northern side of the lake offers up fabulous views of the Langdale Pikes.
The Howk, Caldbeck
Take a 10-minute walk along the river from the villageof Caldbeck, and you’ll enter a tranquil world within a limestone gorge. It’s here you’ll find The Howk, an impressive waterfall surrounded by lots of greenery in the summer, including rare ferns. However, you may prefer to visit in the colder months, when the vegetation has died back and allows for a more uninterrupted view of the water.
Downstream from The Howk, and along the riverside walk, is the remains of an old bobbin mill, which once had the largest water wheel in England. In the village you can also find the graves of infamous local hunter, John Peel, and the legendary Beauty of Buttermere!
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