Things to do nearby Willow Barn
Willow Barn is perfectly placed just a short drive from major road routes yet a milion miles away from the hustle and bustle of modern day life. Set in the peaceful hamlet of Bennet Head just half a mile up the road from Ullswater's shore it's a wonderful haven to get away from it all.
Ullswater is widely thought of as one of the most picturesque of the lakes in the Lake District National Park, indeed a journey along its scenic banks inspired Wordsworth to write his most famous work, Daffodils. At Willow Barn guests are ideally placed to make the most of this most scenic lake and its wonderful surroundings.
A journey on one of the beautiful Ullswater Steamers is a “must do” for any visitors to the valley. These stately heritage vessels operate between Pooley Bridge, Howtown, Aira Force and Glenridding. Why not take a leisurely sail across the stunning lake taking in the marvellous scenery (there’s even a bar on board!) or perhaps take the opportunity to learn something of the company’s 150 year history. Another way to mess about on the water here might see you hiring a boat or canoe. Ullswater is perfect for water sports of all descriptions and there are plenty of coves and beaches for picnics or fishing.
Where to begin to explain all the walking that the Ullswater Valley has to offer? Well let’s start with the giants. The mighty Helvellyn range sweeps up from Ullswater's shores at Glenridding. Wainwright writes affectionately about the fell, describing it as a friendly giant with a long history full of legend and romance. St Sunday Crag and Catstycam can also be climbed straight from Glenridding. These hills are some of the biggest and most exciting fells, with wide ranging views, dramatic rock faces, and spine tingling ridge walks and scrambles. A word of caution however. If you do not have a head for heights, or indeed if the conditions are inclement then do not attempt to cross Striding or Swirral Edge to the summit of Helvellyn. In fine clear conditions, crossing the ridge is exhilarating. Just remember that the ridge will always be there and the feeling of conquering it is an unbeatable Lake District memory. Save it for a fine day and savour it.
Aside from these Lake District giants there are many more delightful low level walks to savour in this area. The new Ullswater Way passes the door at Willow Barn, while nearby Little Mell Fell is an easy walk with a stunning panorama. Just a short drive away (or a potter along the Ullswater Way) is Aira Force, one of our favourite waterfalls. The woodland walk here is beautiful - you can never visit it too many times. It can get busy but there are plenty of paths going off along the fellside if you want to have the place to yourself.
At an altitude of 1,489 feet Kirkstone Pass is the highest mountain pass in the Lake District that is open to motor traffic. It stretches from Ambleside to Patterdale and takes in some glorious views on its way. Named for a huge rock resembling the shape of a church hence “Kirk” (the Old Norse word for church) stone. Why not enjoy a leisurely drive from Willow Barn along the lake to Patterdale and on to Ambleside. Leaving Ullswater Lake behind, you enter a pastoral landscape of green fields grazed by Herdwick sheep and dotted with traditional Lakeland farms and outbuildings. High on the left is a continuous ridge at the top of which is ‘High Street’ – a former prehistoric route that was used by the Romans to link their forts at Brougham (Brocavum) and Ambleside (Galava). In the summer months there is a regular bus service going over the pass to Windermere which opens up many more linear walks from the door.
The area offers a fabulous array of bridleways for mountain bikers and a range of quiet roads for the roadies. Of course Kirkstone Pass makes an appearance in many classic Lake District cycling events however there are plenty of other undulating quiet roads to give your legs a workout around the house. Alternatively why not cycle around the lake and catch a steamer back? Very civilised.
There are opportunities to eat out aplenty near Willow Barn, not least the local pub; The Brackenrigg Inn, just half a mile down the road. Also a short stroll away from Willow Barn is The Quiet Bar; a well renowned campsite bar with a great choice of real ales and regular live music sessions. There are many cafes and restaurants dotted around the villages along the lake shore as well as award winning dining opportunities nearby such as Sharrow Bay and Askham Hall. The area really is a foodie's paradise with great quality local ingredients on offer from local producers and restaurateurs.
Willow Barn is ideally placed to explore some of the rich history of the area whether you choose to seek out the many ancient stone circles or stately homes such as Dalemain, with its gorgeous gardens and world famous marmalade festival less than five miles away. Lowther Castle beyond Penrith, was the home of the Earls of Lonsdale since medieval times, now you'll find the dramatic ruins of the Gothic castle set in 130 acres of historic gardens with a cafe and shop.
Just over 2 miles away is Pooley Bridge; an historic Lakeland village where the River Eamont formed the boundary of the ancient counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland. It is a special village with an atmosphere all of its own. The Post Office and general store sells everything from toothpaste to fishing nets, while there are numerous eateries to try.
The two nearest towns to explore are Penrith and Keswick. Penrith is just over six miles away from the cottage and is an attractive town with an interesting history and a good mixture of independent and high street shops as well as many places to eat.
15 miles away lies Keswick, the adventure capital of the Lake District. Aside from its outdoor credentials it is a vibrant market town with a fantastic choice of outdoor shops, restaurants and cafes. It even boasts its own art deco cinema and one of the most beautifully positioned theatres you could find showing a varied programme of plays, comedy and music throughout the year.
Should you be looking for a little indulgence why not try the new Spa at Rheged, about 15 minutes’ drive from Willow Barn? Indeed Rheged offers a range of activities for all the family including pottery workshops, exhibitions, a huge 3D cinema and restaurants.
Finally, if you like thrills and adventure, take a trip to Rookin House Farm where you can try your hand at archery, quad biking, rifle shooting, fishing, tree climbing, JCB operating, pony trekking or even driving around in a small tank!