Ullswater is one of the most magical parts of the Lake District and has so many highlights, from its beautiful lake to its rich, ancient history and fantastic attractions perfect for all ages. Click here to discover all our Ullswater cottages.
Top 10 Things To Do In Ullswater
William Wordsworth described Ullswater as: ‘the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur, which any of the lakes affords.’ That’s very true, but Ullswater offers far more – it’s also a happy combination of prehistoric remains, ancient churches, traditional Lakeland farms, stately homes, and a plethora of welcoming pubs and cafes – all linked by a good network of public footpaths.
Cruise 'n' Walk
Ullswater 'Steamers' ply up and down the lake on a regular timetable calling at Pooley Bridge, Howtown, Glenridding and Aira Force (the latter from June onwards). One of the best ways to appreciate Ullswater is to combine a cruise with a walk. A popular option is to take the steamer to Howtown and walk back along the lake shore to Glenridding or Pooley Bridge. Or, test out the new woodland footpath that now connects Aira Force with Glenridding.
A stupendous waterfall set in naturalistic Victorian landscaping! Walk through enchanting woodland, along winding paths and over stone bridges to the crowning glory of Aira Force - cascading 22 m (70 ft) down a ravine into a pool. Tea and cake can be deservedly enjoyed in the tearoom on your return.
Two of the classic routes up Helvellyn start from the old miners' village of Glenridding. Either follow the bridleway around the slopes of Raise or tackle the more challenging razorback ridges of Striding and Swirrel Edges (not for the faint-hearted), and you will be rewarded with stupendous views from the summit. Some of our Ullswater cottages are on the route up Helvellyn.
Other good but lower level views can be achieved by climbing Hallin Fell, Place Fell or Sheffield Pike. Or follow in the footsteps of ancient people along the so-called 'High Street' - a prehistoric way over Askham Fell that was used by the Romans to link their forts at Brougham (Brocavum) and Ambleside (Galava).
Seek Out Seclusion
Find solitude around Ullswater by exploring its less-known valleys and backwaters. Three hidden valleys radiate out from Howtown - Boredale, Fusedale and Martindale. The latter contains a tiny chapel dedicated to the early Christian saint, St Martin, and has an even older yew tree in the churchyard. The open uplands at the head of the valley are the preserve of the oldest native red deer herd in England (owned by Dalemain).
Dawdling At Dalemain
This stately pile has been the home of the Hasell family since 1679. Its elegant pink Georgian façade hides a much older pele tower and manor house. In the cobbled courtyard is the Great Barn, which houses an extraordinary collection of farming implements from a bygone age, including an interesting display on Cumbria’s native Fell Ponies. Outside, the gardens are a plantsman’s delight. Herbaceous borders spill over gravel pathways, trellises support old-fashioned roses and the magnificent Silver Fir is the oldest and largest tree of its kind in Britain.
Each season heralds an ever-changing display of flora – snowdrops and aconites in early spring, blue swathes of Meconopsis poppies in June, cascades of rambling roses in summer, and apple trees laden with orchard fruits in autumn.
Eat and Drink
There are tearooms, pubs and hotels a-plenty in Ullswater. For good cakes and hearty meals, try Granny Dowbekins Café at Pooley Bridge or Fell Bites Café in Glenridding. Tasty pub fare can be found in Pooley Bridge, Glenridding, Patterdale, Dockray and Watermillock. For foodie souvenirs, don't miss a visit to Chestnut House in Pooley Bridge, which stocks local produce, not to mention a huge array of gins!
Ullswater is much more than scenic views and tasty teas around the lake, with lots of activities on the water as well. Sailing, boating, canoeing, kayaking and windsurfing all take place on the lake. Hire a rowing boat from St Patrick’s Landing near Glenridding, Ullswater Marine at Watermillock or from Lakeland Boat Hire at Pooley Bridge.
Rookin House at Troutbeck (between Penrith and Keswick) is the place to go for a huge choice of exhilarating activities. Try quad biking across rough terrain or test your skills on the indoor go-karting circuit. There’s also horse riding, paintballing, clay pigeon shooting, archery, an assault course, zip wire and the hilarious fun of ‘human bowling’. Or, for something completely different, operate the fiddly controls of a JCB excavator or have a go at ‘reverse steering’.
Park Foot Trekking at Pooley Bridge offers pony and horse rides on the fells for all ages and abilities.
For other exhilarating activities, try one of the specialist adventure companies who organise outdoor pursuits for individuals, families and groups.
Crafts And Curious Creatures
At the north end of Ullswater is the Alpaca Centre, which sells knitwear and other accessories derived from the silky fleeces of these camel-like animals. A short walk leads to the paddocks where alpacas and miniature donkeys can be seen.
Ancient History At Every Turn
The Ullswater area has been inhabited for a very long time and the legacy of Neolithic and Bronze Age people can be seen in the numerous prehistoric sites on Askham Fell including the ‘cockpit’ stone circle, standing stones and burial cairns. Nearby are a couple of Iron Age settlements, including one on top of Dunmallard Hill at Pooley Bridge. Some of the local churches are of very ancient foundation, so here are a few of our favourites:
- St Martin’s tiny chapel and ancient yew tree in Martindale.
- Barton Church with its circular graveyard and dedication to St Michael suggestive of a prehistoric site.
- St Patrick’s Church containing needlework panels by Ann Macbeth – a nationally acclaimed embroiderer of the early 20th century.
- Dacre Church and its enigmatic stone ‘bears’.
- Matterdale Church with its rustic candle-lit interior and buttressed tower.
Have a look at our Review of Outdoor Activities in the Lake District
Have a look at things to do in the Ullswater area and beyond
Enjoy a ride on the Ullswater Steamer
Take a walk in the Eden Valley - Lacy's Caves & Long Meg Stone Circle
Click here for Dog Friendly Pubs and Pet Friendly Cottages in Ullswater and the Lake District
Short breaks information
Discover all our beautiful holiday cottages in Ullswater or read our introduction to Sally's Cottages in the Lake District.