Things to do nearby Willow Barn
Watermillock is a quiet, scattered farming community set on quiet lanes amongst rolling fields. Footpaths head off towards Pooley Bridge, Aira Force and Little Mell Fell giving a variety of options for walks from your door. The church of All Saints was built in 1881 of local slate and sandstone.
Visitors have been able to catch a steamer across Ullswater since 1855; still a popular attraction today the historic craft call at 4 landing stages around the lake at Glenridding, Howtown, Pooley Bridge and Aira Force. Just relax on a circular cruise or use the service one way and walk back, popular walking routes with lovely views link to all the landing stages and can take you right round the lake. Pooley Bridge village offers a picturesque hub at the east end of the lake. Sadly the historic stone bridge across the River Eamont was destroyed by floods in 2015 but a temporary bridge provides access and the setting of the stone built village alongside the river is still attractive. There are a range of pubs and cafes for refreshment and gift shops to browse, the village store offers a range of groceries and fresh baked bread in the mornings. Pooley Bridge is the starting point for gentle walks along the lake shore and riverside, or for the more energetic Dunmallard Hill site of an iron age hill fort offers lovely views down the lake.
Aira Force is a must see as you tour the area. Spend an hour or half a day exploring the woodland and waterfalls and don’t miss the short (but uphill) detour onto Gowbarrow Terrace for a beautiful view of Ullswater and its sylvan surroundings beneath the rugged fells. Walkers and non-walkers alike can enjoy the variety of paths through mixed woodland to various viewpoints of the falls which are at their most impressive after rain. You may also be lucky enough to see Red Squirrels in the woodland here, they love the hazel nut trees by the paths up to High Force. The lakeshore here is said to have been the inspiration behind Wordsworth’s famous daffodil poem, go and seek them out in the spring. Further down the lake is the village of Glenridding, jumping off point for the high fells and the headquarters of the Ullswater Steamer Company for trips on the lake. The autumn colours of the beech trees along the lake north of Glenridding are beautiful - photographers take note!
If you prefer your walks to be on higher ground then you are spoilt for choice. The whole length of the High Street ridge opens out in front of you via Arthurs Pike and Loadpot Hill starting from either Pooley Bridge or Howtown. From Howtown you can also try Hallin Fell, this little fell scores ten out of ten for value for effort with beautiful views over Ullswater. From Glenridding the classic Helvellyn via the edges makes a challenging day’s walk or head up to secretive Grisedale Tarn via St Sunday Crag. Quieter routes start from Dockray up onto the Dodds. Don’t miss the lovely walk through Swinburns Park and up onto rugged Gowbarrow fell, with numerous little rocky tops you can always find a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the stunning views of Ullswater.
If this is not enough to keep you walking all week then the remote and beautifully haunting Haweswater is only around half an hour drive away, when the water level is low you can still see the remains of the village which was drowned by the rising waters when a dam was completed in 1935 to supply drinking water to Manchester. From here choose a popular route up to Harter Fell, Mardale Ill Bell and High Street or lesser trodden paths to Branstree and Selside. In the other direction Blencathra and Carrock Pike are easy to reach. Head south down the M6 to the quiet Howgill Fells where you could walk all day on grassy slopes and hardly see a soul.
Penrith is your local market town; there is a choice of supermarkets handy for stocking up on essentials and also a good range of independent shops in the town centre. The ruined castle is surrounded by a pleasant park and the churchyard of the mainly 18th century St Andrew’s church contains some ancient crosses and hogsback tombs. From Penrith station you can catch a fast train for a day out in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Carlisle or Lancaster. Just south of Penrith off the A6 towards Shap you are in for a treat at Abbot Lodge, a wide range of flavours of Jersey ice cream are made on the farm for you to try, one visit may not be enough! A couple of miles further down the road is Larch Cottage nursery a mecca for plant lovers with a range of rare and unusual perennials, shrubs, climbers, acers and conifers set amongst a lovely ‘secret’ garden of Romanesque walls and water features.
Fans of historic houses are well catered for in this area with Dalemain just 10 minutes’ drive away, this impressive family stately home contains a maze of rooms of different periods and collections of old toys, ceramics, dolls house and furniture. The sheltered garden contains a variety of separate areas to discover. Hutton-in-the-Forest is around 20 minutes’ drive north, the house is linked by legend to the story of Gawain and Green Knight and there are beautiful gardens to discover. 20 minutes’ drive south east will take you to Lowther Castle the now roofless but no less impressive country seat of the Lowther family, the gardens and ruin have been taken over by a charitable trust and the remains of once elaborate gardens are fascinating to explore. There is also a huge adventure playground and lots of rope swings plus a birdwatching hide. Going further back in history the ruins of Brougham castle run by English Heritage stand in a beautiful location beside the River Eamont.
The city of Carlisle offers an interesting day out, just half an hour up the M6 or 20 minutes by train from Penrith. The sandstone cathedral is still the tallest building in this attractive and compact city. Visit the historic castle, once home to Mary Queen of Scots, and explore the dungeons. After a walk by the River Eden you can head through the park gardens back to the city centre to browse the range of independent and national shops. Tullie House museum has interactive exhibits on local history, geography and wildlife as well as a very good café.
Keswick is the hub of the northern Lake District, located on the shores of Derwentwater at the foot of a range of popular fells it is just 30 minutes away, and the views on the way make it worth doing just for the drive. This attractive market town nestles into the valley at the foot of Derwentwater and the boat landings are just a short walk from the centre. From here you can wander to enjoy beautiful views across the lake or take a launch around the lake to see Lodore Falls - made famous by The Cataract of Lodore by Robert Southey, Ashness Bridge - a scene gracing many a chocolate box or Lingholm walled gardens which were Beatrix Potter’s inspiration for Mr McGregors garden in Peter Rabbit. Back in the town there are a plethora of outdoor shops to browse and don’t miss Old Friars sweet and chocolate shop on the Main Street to treat yourself or for gifts to take home. For a cultural fix take in a show at the lovely Theatre by the Lake or a film at the traditional cinema.
No need to worry about wet weather either, though contrary to popular belief it does not always rain in the Lake District! A wet day in Keswick can be easily filled with visits to the town museum, the Puzzling Place and Pencil Museum or a swim in the leisure pool with its wave machine and slide for children of all ages and the child at heart! Just a few miles away from the cottage is Rheged with shops selling local produce and gifts, cafés, pottery painting and a 3D cinema. Or just don wet weather gear and go for a walk safe in the knowledge that you have a cosy cottage to return to!