In the north east of the Cumbrian Peninsula is Lake Ullswater. This is the second largest lake in the English ‘Lake District’ (a UNESCO world heritage site) with an area of approx. 8.9km squared. It is a ribbon lake that is surrounded by stunning peaks. From hiking and camping, to kayaking and paddleboarding this stunning lake is an outdoor enthusiasts dream.
I have a soft spot for Ullswater and the surrounding villages for a few reasons. Firstly it was my childhood camping spot with my family for many years in Pooly Bridge; secondly I moved to Patterdale for ten months to work and save for my initial bout of travels overseas; and then again upon my return to the U.K. following my travels to get myself settled and save again for another trip.
This lake has so much to offer and whilst it draws some of the crowds it is generally favoured by avid hikers and outdoorsy types.
In contrast with the neighbouring lakes of Windermere and Derwent Water that become very crowded in streets, the cafes, along all the walking routes and even along the lakes edge; Ullswater seems to managed the crowds well and has not lost its charm from over development.
You may already know this, but we are safe from large predators as a general in the United Kingdom, which means you can hike without worrying about snakes, bears, poisonous spiders. The valleys carved by ancient glacial melt has left hikers spoilt for choice when choosing trails. With so many in close proximity you can do a number of routes in one day should you wish. Most of the neighbouring fells the lake also fall on both the coast to coast trail and the wainwrights walks.
If you are hiking please bring proper hiking boots or at least trail shoes (not plimsoles or trainers), an extra layer in your backpack and I’d suggest water proofs.
Due to the ease of access you stay anywhere around this area and you are only a short drive away from the other locations. There is also public transport which goes from Penrith to Patterdale and back on a daily basis. Penrith is the nearest large town; just a 15 minute drive north east of the lake. It blends a mix of historical buildings, a medieval castle, street markets and alleyways with hidden cafes and arts shops.
If you are visiting Ullswater and you have got the time (especially if it is likely that you are not able to visit again or have travelled from down south), I would recommend 3 nights at a minimum at Ullswater. If you stay longer there is a number of surrounding towns, mountains and lakes that you can visit.
To the North of the lake lies Pooley bridge. This small and quant village is home to a camping shop, a few pubs and campsites. The River Eamont runs under Pooley bridge from the lake and along the west side of the village. Here there is a gentle walk that is suitable for all abilities which is beautiful and peaceful. The campsites that lie to the east of the Village are family friendly and have facilities on site such as a restaurant, market, shower & toilet blocks, parks and more. I can vouch for this campsite after spending 6 of my childhood summers camped here with family.
Aire Force Waterfalls
Along the west side of the lake you will have plenty of spots to stop and admire the views as you weave towards the village of Glenridding. Along the way you will see a National trust sport called Aire force. Aire force is a small but gorgeous walk to a high fall waterfall that runs from Aira beck through ancient english woodland leading to a stone arch footbridge at the top of the high fall. Along the way you will see lots of native wildlife and gorgeous views towards the lake. There is a car park with a small charge or free to national trust members). The pictures above were taken in 2009 but i have been back about 6/7 times since then and my other pictures have my friends in.
Glenridding is a slightly busier village with a few small shops, accommodation options and small restaurants. This village is also home to the start of the Helvellyn route that draws many hikers from around the country and often keen hikers from overseas.
This mountain is famous around the U.K. for being a brilliant hike. It can be tough and the weather is often quite harsh. Funny enough despite living in the neighbouring village I only walked this route a couple of times. When your coming back down the hill to the village stop in travellers rest for a pint of local ale or food.
- This route can take approx. 6/7 hours.
Whilst this route is doable for most, but do not underestimate the weather, visibility can change quickly and the weather can u-turn. There is a particular area of this hike that can be dangerous called striding edge (pictured above) which is really narrow and exposed to the elements. Whilst working in the village for less than a year, we often heard about accidents including some deaths up there due to underestimating this walk and the weather. When your coming back down the hill to the village stop in travellers rest for a pint of local ale or food.
The Ullswater Steamers and Boat Hire
At the edge of the lake if you walk between Glenridding Hotel and the Ullswater boat rentals you will be able to walk down to the shore edge and relax on a grassy patch.
The boat hire sits just before you get to Glenridding hotel from the south (at Patterdale). Here you can rent out row boats, canoes, kayaks and more. There is a lovely cafe which has been added over recent years (I haven’t been in there yet but have heard good things from others).
There is also the option to go on a Steamboat. This journey goes from Glenridding to Pooley Bridge via Howtown. You can get off at Howtown and there are some lovely walks in the area, along with camping spots. The steamers can get windy due to the exposure on the lake, so take a jacket. It is so beautiful all the way along the lake looking at the surrounding peaks reflecting off the calm lake.
The steamers have been running for over 160 years now and are part of the heritage vessels showcasing some of the best sites of the lake district and even seeing the daffodils mentioned by William Wordsworth.
You will often see spitfires flying low through the valley just above the lake from the local armed forces. The best places to view this are: The lakes edge footpath just north of Glenridding, Place Fell or the top of the Aire Force trail (being close to level or above the plane). I got to see this a lot but never when I had my camera at the ready.
Patterdale is home to a pub (The White Lion), a Hotel (Patterdale Hotel as you can see to the right), a postoffice/shop, a school house, a church, a mountain rescue, an outdoor centre (Patterdale Hall) and a small number of cottages and houses. There is also a campsite and a YHA hostel here.
Patterdale is a short walk from Glenridding to the south and I had to mention this village.
I used to live in this village and work in the White Lion pub whilst studying for my career and saving for my travels to New Zealand.
Upon my return from there 18 months later I returned to Patterdale and worked at the Patterdale Hotel (above) whilst setting myself back up into work.
The village is surrounded by mountains, that become covered in snow during the winter and protect the valley from winds in summer. There are so many walks you can do from the village that range from gentle easy loops to the south east of the lake looking over to Glenridding to more steep and challenging walks up place fell or looping towards Grizedale Forrest.
With St Sunday crag up to Fairfield Peak (841m) lying to the south west and Place fell (my favourite walk which I have covered below) in the west towering over lake Ullswater and viewable from anywhere in the village.
Place fell takes approximately 2 hours.
- This walk is less than 5 miles and you ascent 546m.
You can loop this by taking the loop from the right hand side of Patterdale over the bridge and follow the path to the right via Boredale Hause and looping up to the peak and then back down to side farm. I have also done the Boredale Hause and back route many times on my split shifts, taking a picnic up with me and giving myself about 2 hours with a rest a the top.
Please note I’d class this route as easy if you regularly hike the fells, however there is loose scree and rock on the paths at times, it gets very windy and you should never underestimate the weather here in the lake district. It does have it’s own microclimate at each peak and village.
More Pictures From Around Patterdale
The pictures below are also from the walks around the the surrounding areas from my time living in Patterdale and exploring the area on my breaks and days off.
South of Patterdale lies the famous Kirkstone Pass, this pass is notorious for its view and the narrow road down to Patterdale via the hamlets of Brotherswater and Hartsop.
If you want a hearty meal then I’d recommend The Inn On The Lake, The White Lion or Travellers Rest. If you would like to have a sit down or more romantic meal I’d recommend Fell Bites in Glenridding or Ullswater view in Watermillock. But honestly you can’t go wrong, all other places here in the villages have great British food.
Buildings of Interest Near Ullswater
Dalmain and Lowther Castle are my favourite places but there is also Askham hall to the west of Pooley Bridge (north side of Ullswater lake) and Kirkstone Inn which sits to the south of Ullswater high on Kirkstone Pass.
Lowther castle (pictured above) was built by William Lowther and architect Robert Smirke (who also developed the Royal Mint and royal Opera House) between1806 and 1814. In 2011 the castle and gardens opened up fully to the public.
I have a real fascination with architecture especially period properties. Following my time living in Cumbria between 18 – 20 years old, I went off to New Zealand and travelled around a few other countries. One of the main things I missed about England (being honest, there wasn’t many) was the architecture. We are very lucky in England to have so many historic buildings.
Dalmain House And Gardens
Dalmain house is north west of Pooley bridge and you can also find this when heading south of Penrith down the A592. Built in 1679 but has mixed period architecture and award winning gardens. This house holds regular events such as antiques auctions and (I have only just found this out when fact checking my own memory) but it is home to the world marmalade awards.
The Lake District Series
We have a series of articles scheduled to highlight some of the Englands amazing lake district in the north west. This national park is an area of natural beauty with historical architecture and some amazing experiences to be had.
Let me share with you a number of articles on the lakes, their hikes and some amazing adventures. The below list is what I have already scheduled and written between other articles over the next few months however there will undoubtedly be a number of experiences I may add to this as there really is so much this place has to offer.
- Ullswater Lake
- Bassenthwaite and Derwent Water
- Wastwater and Scafell
- Crummock Water and Buttermere
I have been lucky enough to grow up about an hour away from the south lake district, with parents who constantly promoted physical activity and the great outdoors. We spent most weekends either in the Lake District or Yorkshire. As I grew up I moved and worked here as soon as I was old enough to and made the most out of having this amazing place on my doorstep.
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