In the south of the peninsula, neighbouring lake Windermere is an often forgotten and quieter trail for this area of the lakes. High dam is a lovely walking route and tarn that has plenty of options to suit those who want a bit of a challenge or those who want to just enjoy getting out in nature away from the crowds.
Lake Windermere tends to be the gateway for more people visiting the national park due to it’s accessibility. It’s location with plenty of accommodation choices and lack of restrictions on activities on or around the lake (for example you can paddleboard, swim, kayak, go on a powerboat, sail etc. here but only some of these on other bodies of water in the lakes). However most people tend to head to Bowness or Ambleside to explore the lake and these areas get really busy year-round, with high price tags to match. I want to share this quieter and beautiful walking route on the south east side of the lake.
Before You Walk
don’t forget the lake district is known for its unpredictable weather and you are in the north of England, so pack sensibly. You won’t need much but I’d recommend a day pack with you that is comfortable. I’d recommend the following items with you:
- A drybag to keep your important items dry (my backpacks are also dry bags just for convenience).
- If you like to swim bring swimwear and a dry robe or towel
- Bring food and water
- Don’t forget to bring a bag of rubbish (LNT applies to walking in these areas as much as camping anywhere).
- Phone or something with GPS/signal for emergencies.
- There are no toilets or cafes or coffee shops here once you are walking (which is quite common in other countries, it just wouldn’t work here). There is a butty van in the bottom car park before the trail which is open most weekends and some summer days. They are cash only and limited times. You may want to go to the toilet at Newby Bridge services just a few minutes away, preparing for any eventuality.
You can do this in normal clothes that are comfy, as long as you can move well in them.
- Walking boots or trail shoes at the least – It does get boggy and there are areas on the longer routes where the ankles will need some support and benefit from boots.
- Make sure you have an extra layer for warmth if the weather changes.
- Make sure you bring a waterproof coat at least – when it rains in the lakes it pours and it can come around quick. This is also where those boots would be more beneficial to trail shoes alone.
Stott Park Bobbin Mill
Bobbin Mill is a 19th century mill that is open to the public and now serves as a museum. This iconic piece of local history used to supply bobbins to weaving and spinning industries in Lancashire. The museum is owned by English Heritage and sits within Stott park where you can start the walk to High dam following your visit to the museum as the paths link up.
The cost of entry is £9.00
If you are a member of English Heritage this will be significantly less or in some cases free.
There is also parking at the mill if you are visiting there which will not cost.
The High Dam Walk
This walk tends to be quieter compared to other more well-known routes in the lakes (and a quieter area than the east of the lake), which just adds to the charm. Although the car parks still get full by the latest of 09:30 am in spring and summer.
About the High Dam Route:
- Starting Point is High dam car park ///novelists.facing.twilight.
- Distance is approximately 2 miles | You can take a full route (Rusland Heights), do the shorter loop or even divert to meet other connecting routes or get in a stunning viewpoint.
- Time is approximately 1 hour | For full or extended routes (below) but you will want a couple of hours to stop relax and just take your time (maybe consider the viewpoint)
- Top Elevation is around 190 m so not too high but enough to allow for some lovely views as you head around the route ot to the viewpoint (below).
It is a little steep at times but definitely suitable for beginners with a fully marked trail. On the walk, you will be passing through native flora with diverse woodland (as you can see by the two pictures above from summer and winter). Initially, you will see a small brook that is coming from the tarn. You can take either right or left (when you come to a split path) as this is a loop route, but if you want to do the full route to Rusland heights then you will be better taking the right as it will be easier to spot the turn-off.
When you reach the high dam at the top you will be offered a wonderful and peaceful tarn that you can swim in. It is about 10m deep, so expect it to be cold all year round (like most of England). The water is like glass and will reflect the sky and trees above. There are usually swans up here so don’t forget they are protected and should not be disturbed etc.
Another thing that is lovely about this is the shoreline of the tarn, due to the unusual shape of it, the water’s edge results in little nooks that give you a sense of privacy if you want to stop and just take in the fresh air or have a picnic.
If you want a short route then you should follow the track around the tarn. It will briefly lead you to a boardwalk and then slightly higher but you will then meet the water’s edge again. As you come back down towards the tarn you will see an option to divert off to the right.
This path will lead you to the full route for Low tarn and Rusland heights. On my recent walk, we had a time limit so I took us around the shorter route.
Extend The High Dam Walk for Views over Lake Windermere
If you want to divert off and enjoy a view of Windermere then you can head right through the kissing gate. This is located at perfume.implanted.freshest (if you have reached the board walk you have gone too far).
When you take this diversion don’t forget you are most likely wanting the view of Windermere in all its glory and the Northern Fells, so remember the lake is on your right so follow right off the track.
Don’t be afraid to take your time, if you want to you could head to hows upper tarn as well or head back down after this.
Once you’ve had your fill of lake views you can head down back to the kissing gate and to the high dam again. I’ve seen a lot of people just head home after this as it becomes a spot that is great for those wanting to get a great picture at any time of day, but I would suggest you at least follow the dam around and loopback.
Rusland Heights and Low Dam Tarn
- Distance: 7.5 miles
- Time is approximately 4 hours for the full route at a relaxed pace
- Top Elevation is around 230m so not too high but with the full route, you will actually double this elevation during the walk due to the walk down into Rusland and Crossland before ascending again.
- All Trails link for map: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/england/cumbria/high-dam-and-rusland-heights?u=m
If you check this out on All trails it won’t take you to the viewpoint mentioned above but it will send you to Low dam which extends away from the high dam giving you views to the east and Rusland, It is a lovely part of the walk if you would like to extend the route. You will also find Low Tarn which is the bit that most people miss out on if they are stuck for time or trying to miss the usual traffic that hits the south lakes in the afternoons.
Why I love This Walk
I love how accessible this walk is for all abilities. There are also so many options to change the route to extend or shorten (as mentioned above) and possibly cut through for a partial extension.
I used to live and work at an outdoor centre in Newby bridge (Lakeside YMCA) and this walk was a regular occurrence with children and groups who came to the centre. I spent the summer here in 2008 and met some amazing people, so it also carries a lot of fantastic and daft memories for me. Above are two of my old pictures from the summer walks up there. You can also start the walk just across from the south camp entrance here.
More From The Lake District
Check out our other posts from the lake district series and some additional posts we have added: