Ullswater lies in the north east of the Lake District National Park, nestled between the surrounding glacial fells and extending 7 miles from Patterdale and Glenridding in the south to Pooley Bridge in the north. It is the park’s second-longest lake after Windermere and is immensely popular with visitors to the area.
The rugged landscape, the majesty of the nearby peaks and the lake itself make Ullswater a favourite with walkers eager to discover the beauty of this tranquil place.
It is the perfect base from which to explore this corner of the Lakes and see up close the lakeshore scene that Wordsworth described in his much-loved poem Daffodils.
There are hundreds of walks around Ullswater, each offering something for visitors of every fitness level. Chose between the likes of gentle strolls by the lake, hiking in the hills and tackling the challenges of Helvellyn, the third highest peak in England.
The Ullswater Way – though long at 20 miles – is ideal for all walking abilities as the route is relatively easy and is served by boats and buses, meaning you can opt to walk for as long (or as little) as you want, then simply hop on a bus, or take a boat trip to your destination, or back to where you started.
Waterfall Aira Force, to the west of Ullswater, is well worth a visit and is just a short walk from the Ullswater Steamers’ boat stop or from the National Trust car park. After visiting the falls, enjoy an easy ramble along the edge of the lake, through the deer park to Glencoyne Bay. Walk in the footsteps of the great poet to Wordsworth Point at the south of the bay and if the season is right, marvel at the dancing daffodils.
Ullswater boat trips
One of the best ways to get to know Ullswater is by boat. The Ullswater Steamers have been operating on the lake for more than 160 years and run multiple daily sailings between the four jetties at Pooley Bridge, Howtown, Glenridding and Aira Force.
Purchase tickets in advance or on the day, and enjoy an Ullswater boat trip around the lake, soaking up the scenery as you relax onboard, or disembark at any of the four piers – or all of them – and explore each location.
Combine a boat trip on Ullswater with walking part of the Ullswater Way, stopping off at quaint cafés or traditional inns as you go, before once again continuing your trip across the water.
As an alternative to a scheduled boat trip, why not do it yourself and hire a boat? Ullswater Yacht Club near Pooley Bridge offers sailing tuition through the Ullswater Sailing School, for adults and children.
Glenridding Sailing Centre to the south of Ullswater offers sailing courses for beginners. And for those with a little more experience, they also hire out kayaks, canoes, dinghies and traditional sailing boats.
Motorboats, canoes and rowing boats can be booked from St Patrick’s Boat Landing, also located at Glenridding. Or at the top of Ullswater next to Pooley Bridge, Lakeland Boat Hire offers rowing and motorboats.
Water sports enthusiasts will find a wealth of activities at Ullswater. Why not try your hand at paddleboarding, or join an open-water guided swim to experience life in the lake rather than on it?
Wild swimming is increasingly popular and there are organised sessions throughout the year for beginners and experienced swimmers, as well as wild swim camps and night swims from Another Place hotel on the west side of the lake near Pooley Bridge.
Away from the water, you can try your hand at archery, explore the wild Lake District landscape on horseback with guided pony treks, get your legs working with a few miles of trail or fell running, and learn to rock climb and tackle the national park’s tallest peaks.
On the road
Take a road trip from Ullswater to Windermere via Kirkstone Pass and appreciate the amazing views from an altitude of 1,489ft. It is open to cars (except in adverse weather conditions), but part of the road is known as ‘The Struggle’ for a good reason!
For those more culturally inclined, Dalemain Mansion and Gardens (less than 3 miles from Pooley Bridge) are well worth a visit – as is their teashop where you can sample their marmalade ginger cake and buy their award-winning marmalade to take away with you.
Lowther Castle’s magnificent gardens cover 130 acres and include the Parterre, Rose Garden and the Garden in the Ruins, as well as the remains of the castle itself. They can be reached in less than 15 minutes by car.
To explore even further back in time, head to the top of the High Street, where you’ll find hundreds of ancient monuments, including the impressive Cockpit Stone Circle. An old Roman road also passes over the fell, giving it its unusual name.
Ullswater food and drink
There are several pretty villages dotted around Ullswater where past inhabitants made their living fishing in the lake, working in the lead mine, or - as some still do today - farming.
Food and drink in Pooley Bridge
Picturesque Pooley Bridge at the head of Ullswater has become a popular destination for holidaymakers and is probably the busiest village on the lake – in a gentle kind of way. Take a stroll through its two main streets, perhaps stopping off at Granny Dowbekins Tearooms overlooking the lake to sample their home-made cakes and scones, or pop into one of the village’s three traditional pubs – the Pooley Bridge Inn, the Crown Inn and the Sun Inn – for a taste of Ullswater hospitality.
Award-winning restaurant 1863 offers fine dining with a seven-course tasting menu, as well as three-course lunch and dinner menus, or for something casual, simply pick a spot by the lake for a picnic (but remember to take any rubbish away with you).
While in the village, you should also step into the wonderful Chestnut House. Here, you’ll find a “gin wall’ of over 400 different gins, as well as lots of other spirits, liqueurs, beers, and local produce. Perfect if you want to pick up a gift or two!
Food and drink in Glenridding and Patterdale
Moving down to the south of the lake, Glenridding is home to several pubs and eateries, including the Lake View Restaurant with its beautiful views over the water, the Travellers Rest – the nearest pub to Helvellyn – Fellbites café and Helvellyn Country Kitchen.
Just a touch further on in the Ullswater village of Patterdale, hungry walkers can stop off at the White Lion Inn or the Patterdale Hotel for a bite to eat before or after their trek.
Food and drink in Watermillock
On the west shore of Ullswater, head to Another Place near Watermillock, a country house hotel set in 18 acres of parkland overlooking the lake and the surrounding hills. Its bar, The Living Space, offers a good selection of meals and drinks, or you can opt for a three-course menu in the Rampsbeck Restaurant. If pizza is more to your taste, then don’t miss The Glasshouse, in the hotel’s grounds, which serves authentic Italian wood-fired pizza coupled with panoramic views.
Enjoy high tea and fine dining at Leeming House Hotel or pub classics at The Brackenrigg Inn, washed down with one of the five ales brewed on site in its microbrewery.
Also near Watermillock, the Aira Force Tea Room serves snacks, teas and coffees – perfect after your walk to the waterfall.
Credit: Verey Books
Most of the shops around Ullswater are located in Pooley Bridge. There you’ll discover a range of independent retailers, such as outdoor clothing store The Barn, grocers Chestnut House and popular bookshop Verey Books.
There are several others, mainly in Glenridding where you’ll find Catstycam - The Outdoor Shop and the Glenridding Gallery, which showcases work by local artists, as well as selling locally produced food and drink.
Credit: Wildman Media
Just outside Pooley Bridge is Rheged, a heritage centre and gallery that also has a number of shops selling food, drink, clothes, gifts and more. Many are sourced from local artisans and creators.
The nearest large town is Penrith, around 6 miles north of the lake and well worth a visit. There, high street names such as Boots, WH Smith and Marks & Spencer stand side by side with a wealth of boutiques, gift shops and niche retailers, including deli and artisan bakers J&J Graham, founded in 1793, and confectioner The Toffee Shop, which dates back to 1910.
A farmers’ market also takes place in Penrith once each month in Market Square, in the town centre.
How to get to Ullswater
Ullswater is fairly easy to reach by car due to its proximity to Penrith and the M6. From the Penrith roundabout (Junction 40), head west along the A66 until you reach the Rheged Visitor Centre at the next roundabout. Follow the signposts to Ullswater, then either Pooley Bridge or Glenridding depending on the direction you want to go.
The car journey to Ullswater is approximately 15 minutes.
By public transport
There are good bus links to Ullswater on the 508 from Penrith. Though there are no train stations close to the lake, there is a mainline station in Penrith, from where you can catch a direct bus.
Ullswater holiday cottages
If you’re planning on spending time in Ullswater, whether for a short break or a longer holiday, then check out our selection of Ullswater holiday cottages for your accommodation.
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please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.