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The Ullswater Way – our guide to this excellent walking route around Ullswater

geograph-4081187-by-Peter-Skynner

Ullswater is one of the best-known and most beautiful of the lakes in the Lake District National Park. Surrounded by majestic mountains and rolling green hills, you can enjoy stunning vistas and tranquil waters at this lake. There are also a number of outdoor activities (like an afternoon on your inflatable SUP) you can enjoy here, with Ullswater attracting thousands of walkers every year.

One of the most popular trails to follow around Ullswater is the Ullswater Way. This 21 mile route takes you around Ullswater and through many of the lovely little villages and hamlets which are dotted around the lake. We wanted to publish a guide for anyone planning to follow the Ullswater Way in 2023, let's get into it:

Where is The Ullswater Way?

The walking route runs around Ullswater, one of the best-known lakes in the Lake District. The lake is situated in the North Eastern part of the park, and the route follows the border of the lake very closely.

What sections are there?

There is definitely no "right" route to follow when going along The Ullswater Way, but typically the route is split into the following 4 sections:

 

Pooley Bridge to Aira Force (6.5 miles)
Aira Force to Glenridding (3 miles)
Glenridding to Howtown (6.5 miles)
Howtown to Pooley Bridge (5 miles)

 

Most people will complete this route in about 8-9 hours, but some may wish to take longer to enjoy the sights along the way. In which case, you might like to book overnight accommodation.

What is there to see and do as you walk along The Ullswater Way?

Despite not being a particularly long route, there is plenty to see as you move along The Ullswater Way, here are some of the highlights in each section:

Pooley Bridge to Aira Force

The first section of the Ullswater Way is one of the longer sections, but it's also mostly flat and very easy to walk along. Well-marked paths along woodland and fields take you to Maiden Castle, which is well worth a look. It's thought to have been the site of an Iron Age farmstead, and you'll have to use a bit of imagination when you visit as obviously not much remains of the farmstead, but you can still make out the circular ditch which would have surrounded the community here. After you've reached Maiden Castle you head towards Bennet Head, and then it's a short walk to All Saints Church in Watermillock. This Grade II listed building is small but beautifully made, and even if you're not religious we think you'll really appreciate the architecture and look of the building. It's made from red sandstone, and some notable features include the Spring Rice Window. After leaving the church, you walk through the woods of Swinburn Park and then alongside Gowbarrow Fell, before reaching Aira Force. This is probably the most famous waterfall in the whole of the Lake District, and it's quite incredible to see up close.
Aira Force

Aira Force to Glenridding

This is the shortest section of the Ullswater Way, but there is still quite a bit to keep an eye out for during this section. As you move away from Aira Force you head through the wooded area of Glencoyne Deer Park, which is home to around 300 ancient and veteran trees. This includes impressive oak, crab apple, and ash trees. As you move through the park and towards Ullswater, you'll find a web of paths which will eventually lead you to the village Glenridding. You can find a few hotels and B&Bs here if you want to stay overnight and complete The Ullswater Way across 2 days.
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Glenridding to Howton

We'd describe this as the first section with some trickier terrain, including rocky parts and uphill stretches. It's also probably the most remote section, which is why many people choose to stay overnight at Glenridding where they can stock up and have a good rest before setting off on this part of The Ullswater Way. Starting from Glenridding, you walk towards a King George V Playing Field which is about half a mile from the village. It's a very pretty field and it's also the most Southern point that you'll reach along the route if you're following it exactly. Once you reach the field, you turn North East and head towards the Side Farm Campsite. From here, it's a 5 mile walk (great opportunity to use your new barefoot shoes) along the shores of Ullswater all the way to the hamlet of Sandwick (where you could stop at Beckside Farm tea room for a bite to eat and a cup of tea). And then from Sandwick you walk about another mile to Howton, again following Ullswater closely. If you feel like getting into the water at any point along the Ullswater Way, then Kailpot Bay about halfway between Sandwick and Howton is probably the best place to stop. Here you'll find Kailpot Crag, a small cliff which people will often jump off into the lake. Of course, you have to be careful and never do this on your own, but if you're feeling brave then it's great fun and a nice way to cool off after this longer section.
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Howton to Pooley Bridge

This last section of The Ullswater Way is nice and straight and follows Ullswater very closely, so it's a good chance to enjoy the last of the views across the lake. Once you reach Swarthbeck, you can follow open moorland to reach a site known as the Cockpit, an impressive prehistoric stone circle which is interesting to look at. There are a number of bays along this section that you might wish to stop at, with Gale Bay being a particularly peaceful and beautiful place to sit and enjoy the views, or even to take a dip into the water. You'll find a few pubs and restaurants in Pooley Bridge where you can enjoy a well-earned pint and meal.
geograph-4282783-by-Graham-Robson

What should I expect as I walk around the Ullswater Way?

The Ullswater Way follows a mix of Public Rights of Way and quiet roads, and is generally pretty straightforward to follow. There is one section at Stybarrow Crag where you have to walk next the A592, but it's only for a few hundred metres. Most of the terrain along the route is fell paths and tracks, with some woodland sections. You'll want to wear proper walking boots and prepare for all kinds of weather.

Hiring electric bikes

A great way to follow the Ullswater Way and other routes within the Lake District is to hire an electric bike. There are a number of companies that you can hire electric bikes from, here are some of the top options to try:

Useful information

If you're planning to tackle the Ullswater Way, here is some information you'll find useful:

 

 

Boat you can take along Ullswater
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to tackle this great route. We've got guides about other walking routes like the Borders Abbey Way, the Cumbria Way, and the Marriott's Way.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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