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Nestled in the heart of the Lake District, Ullswater beckons with its breathtaking landscapes and a plethora of activities. From serene boat cruises across the glimmering lake to invigorating hikes along scenic trails, Ullswater offers an array of experiences for nature enthusiasts.
Explore historic sites like Lowther Castle, indulge in watersports, embark on panoramic walks along Ullswater Way, and savour local cuisine—Ullswater promises a memorable blend of adventure and tranquility.
Let’s discover the best things to do around Ullswater!
Facts about Ullswater
- Ullswater is a glacial ‘ribbon lake’.
- It is the second largest lake in England after Windermere.
- The lake is about 7 miles (11 km) long, and 0.75 miles (1 km) wide.
Best things to do around Ullswater
Kayaking on Ullswater
Ullswater offers a captivating playground for water sports enthusiasts. This gorgeous lake calls adventurers with its crystal-clear waters and stunning mountainous backdrop. Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are popular choices, allowing explorers to navigate Ullswater’s hidden coves and serene bays.
Sailing enthusiasts take advantage of the lake’s steady winds, gliding through the water on sleek yachts and sailboats.
Ullswater has a speed limit of 10 mph for any power-driven vessel so water skiing and wakeboarding are out of the frame but you can try your skills at wakesurfing and kneeboarding to get your adrenaline-pumping thrills.
Best place for Ullswater water sports hire
There are a few places for Ullswater kayak hire dotted around the lake. So, depending on your itinerary, where you are staying, or the type of activity, this may affect which one to use.
Relax at Glencoyne Bay
Located on the western shores of Ullswater, Glencoyne Bay is a tranquil haven for those seeking relaxation. This idyllic spot boasts serene beauty, with its calm waters reflecting the surrounding lush greenery and views of Place Fell. The bay’s a peaceful spot for a leisurely picnic and dip in the water.
Dorothy Wordsworth featured Glencoyne Bay in The Grasmere Journal on 15 April 1802 after a visit with her husband, William. She wrote about the beautiful daffodils in Glencoyne Park and by the lake’s edge. It is thought that the visit inspired Wordsworth to write his most famous poem, ‘Daffodils‘.
Parking at Glencoyne Bay: Free for National Trust members
Ride the Ullswater Steamer
For over 160 years, Ullswater ‘Steamers’ has graced the stunning Ullswater with scenic cruises aboard one of the world’s largest heritage boat fleets. Operating 363 days a year, it serves four piers—Pooley Bridge, Howtown, Aira Force Waterfall, and Glenridding. There’s nothing better than feeling the brisk wind in your hair on Ullswater!
Beyond leisurely lake tours, the steamers facilitate access to iconic walking routes, including the Ullswater Way, a 20-mile circular path seamlessly connecting all piers, making exploration of the Lake District’s beauty effortless and memorable.
Walking Ullswater Way
Ullswater Way spans a picturesque 32km circuit but allows for customisable walks in either direction and from any starting point. The diverse terrain encompasses fell paths, woodland sections, and fields with potential livestock encounters. Surfaces range from grassy paths to gravel tracks, with optional steeper detours to fells such as Gowbarrow and Hallin for an immersive Lake District experience.
Walking distances on Ullswater Way
Splitting the Ullswater Way into smaller walks, you can use a mix of boat and buses to return to your starting point. Plan your route: CLICK FOR THE ULLSWATER WAY MAP
- Aira Force to Pooley Bridge – 10.7 km (6.6 miles)
- Pooley Bridge to Howtown – 8 km (5 miles)
- Howtown to Glenridding – 10.5 km (6.5 miles)
- Glenridding to Aira Force – 4.6 km (3 miles)
My walk from Glenridding via Howtown
Starting in Glenridding, I hopped on the Ullswater Steamer bound for Howtown, marking the beginning of my Ullswater Way exploration. Opting for a challenging ascent, I climbed Hallin Fell, revelling in breathtaking panoramas. Descending to Ullswater’s shores, I traced the water’s edge on a scenic route back to Glenridding passing by the Artists’ Seat, one of the many heritage-themed installations along Ullswater Way.
The hike from Howtown to Glenridding is a simple yet rewarding 4-hour journey (with photo stops) and optional detours like the captivating Hallin Fell. It will take less time if you opt to stay on the Ullswater Way route.
Explore Aira Force & Gobarrow Park
Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park, a National Trust gem, is an 18th-century pleasure ground celebrated in Wordsworth’s ‘Somnambulist.’ Amid contrasting woodlands, tranquil glades yield Aira Beck’s thunderous 65-foot waterfall.
My Aira Force route
Embarking on the Aira Force Walk from my Lake District glamping spot at The Quiet Site, I strolled down to Watermillock along the Ullswater Way, immersing myself in the beauty of Gowbarrow and the Aira Force waterfall. Completing a circuit, I treated myself to a refreshing beer at The Royal Hotel, savouring both the natural wonders and local hospitality of Ullswater.
Parking for Aira Force
- Aira Force High Force Car Park is located nearest to the Aira Force waterfall. CLICK FOR LOCATION
- Aira Force Car Park is located closer to Ullswater for easy access to the Ullswater Steamer. Good starting point for hiking Gobarrow Fell (approx 6.5km circuit). CLICK FOR LOCATION
- Park at other car parks on Ullswater and take the Ullswater Steamer to Aira Force.
Visit St. Martin of Tours Church
St. Martin of Tours Church in Martindale, dating back to the 1660s, stands on an ancient site possibly once pagan. Noteworthy features include a 1300-year-old yew tree, a 1634 reading desk, a font thought to be Roman, and an enigmatic bell with Lombardic characters. Dedicated to St. Martin, it was the heart of a thriving community. Despite its remote location, the church’s simplicity and unique history make it a cherished landmark, restored in 1882 after a dramatic event during a storm.
Where is St Martin of Tours Church? It is located 8 km south of Pooley Bridge >> CHECK GOOGLE MAPS
Visit the Cockpit Stone Circle
Situated 300 metres above sea level on Askham Fell, Moor Divock boasts an ancient landscape adorned with cairns and burial mounds. The Cockpit Stone Circle stands out as the largest and most remarkable, located 1km west of two smaller circles. Believed to date back to the Bronze Age, the Cockpit features a 3-metre-wide penannular bank, hosting large stones, some towering up to 1 metre, creating a captivating archaeological site on the East of Ullswater.
Cockpit Stone Circle details
MORE LAKE DISTRICT INSPIRATION
Walk around Brothers Water
The walk around Brothers Water immerses hikers in the beauty of Hartsop Valley in Upper Patterdale, just south of Ullswater. Formerly known as Broad Water, this picturesque journey explores the tranquil shores, revealing the captivating landscapes that define this lesser-visited Lake District gem.
Brothers Water walk details
- Brothers Water Walk takes 1-2 hours.
- Distance is approx. 3.5km.
- Start the walk from Cow Bridge Car Park.
Helvellyn, England’s third-highest peak, calls adventurers with its iconic status in Alfred Wainwright’s Eastern Fells of the Lake District. Crowned Britain’s most popular walk in 2018, Helvellyn offers diverse ascents via its five ridges. Swirral Edge and Striding Edge, on the eastern face, stand out as dramatic and favored routes.
A climb up Helvellyn takes 6-7.5 hours, with the fastest ascent from Thirlmere and the most scenic, albeit longest, journey from Glenridding via Striding Edge.
Sip on craft beer
Brack ‘n’ Brew in Ullswater, a craft beer haven, invites enthusiasts to savor distinctive brews amid stunning Lake District scenery. This microbrewery crafts an array of beers, each reflecting local flavours and creativity. From hoppy ales to rich stouts, Brack ‘n’ Brew promises a delightful tasting experience in the heart of Ullswater.
Visit Lowther Castle
Lowther Castle, a captivating blend of history and restoration, opened to the public in 2012, nestled in the Lake District National Park. Originally built in the early 19th century, it epitomised grandeur for over a century, showcasing art and elegance. However, wartime challenges and neglect led to decay.
Today, diligent efforts and investment have stabilised the ruins and revitalised the gardens. The Garden-in-the-Ruins, Parterre, Yew Avenue, Western Terrace, and Rose Garden offer enchanting experiences, complemented by the thrilling lost castle adventure playground.
Lowther Castle presents a captivating setting for nature and architectural photography. The expansive gardens offer tranquil spaces ideal for relaxation. For those seeking a more active adventure, Lowther Castle offers an array of cycling and hiking routes traversing the estate, leading to scenic destinations like Askham Fell, Pooley Bridge, and Ullswater.
Lowther Castle tickets to the gardens and estate are available to buy online, or you can purchase them on arrival.
Getting to Ullswater
How To Reach Ullswater By Car
DRIVING TO ULLSWATER:
- From Penrith (off M6), it takes 15 minutes to reach Pooley Bridge on the northern tip of Ullswater by driving on either A592 or B5320
- From Windermere, it takes 30 minutes to reach Patterdale on the southern tip of Ullswater by driving on the A592
- From Cockermouth, it takes 40 minutes along the A66 to reach Aira Force on the western edge of Ullswater
HIRE A CAR:
If you are travelling to more remote parts of the Lake District or you have lots of gear, you may want to consider hiring a car. Check the best prices with Discover Cars.
For tips on how to hire an electric car at railway stations, local villages and other locations across South and Central Lakes, or find the nearest charging points, check the Lake District NP website.
PARKING AT ULLSWATER:
- Pooley Bridge has 3 pay-and-display car parks including one by Pooley Bridge pier house.
- Glenridding has a large car park in the centre of Glenridding village.
- Glencoyne and Aira Force are National Trust car parks and are free for NT members
Where to stay in Ullswater
(£-££) THE QUIET SITE
The Quiet Site is an award-winning eco-camping and glamping site in Watermillock close to Ullswater. Famed for its sustainability credentials with a refillable shop, lively bar, and The Quiet Bite for breakfast and dinner. READ REVIEWS OF THE QUIET SITE + BOOK DIRECT
(££) ROYAL HOTEL
Royal Hotel is located in the village of Dockray near Aira Force Waterfall. It boasts 10 en suite bedrooms, a large restaurant, and a bar that serves local craft ales. Great accommodation for walkers. READ REVIEWS OF ROYAL HOTEL + CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY
(£££) THE INN ON THE LAKE
The Inn On The Lake is a 4-star hotel set on 15 acres of grounds, with lawns up to the shores of Lake Ullswater. With a 9-hole golf course, 2 AA Rosettes Lake View Restaurant and The Ramblers Bar and Candleroom, and a clear sustainable strategy, this looks like a perfect place to relax. READ REVIEWS OF THE INN ON THE LAKE + CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY
Where to Eat around Ullswater
(££) The Boot and Shoe in Greystoke Village is a welcoming family-owned pub serving hearty homemade meals and Cumbrian cuisine, cask ales, and fine wines. Expect a friendly atmosphere, and log fires. CHECK REVIEWS FOR THE BOOT & SHOE
(££-£££) Helvellyn Country Kitchen is a cute tearoom in Glenridding that serves homemade cakes and tasty bites in the day and transforms into a fine dining restaurant in the evening. CHECK REVIEWS OF HELVELLYN COUNTRY KITCHEN
(££-£££) Rampsbeck Restaurant offers a gourmet dining experience with stunning lake views, presenting a diverse menu showcasing locally sourced ingredients and culinary expertise. Located at Another Place in Watermillock, they also have The Living Space and The Glasshouse. CHECK REVIEWS OF RAMPSBECK RESTAURANT
Useful Links For Your Ullswater Trip
Ready to get planning your trip to Ullswater in the Lake District? Here are some useful links to get you started with amazing things to do around Ullswater.
Tours + Transport + Tourist Info
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FAQs for visiting Ullswater
Is Ullswater worth visiting?
Absolutely! Ullswater’s breathtaking beauty, pristine waters, and an array of outdoor activities make it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. I’ll be returning that’s for sure – there are so many things to do around Ullswater!
Is Ullswater or Windermere better?
Windermere is more well-known as it is the largest lake in England, however, it does attract more tourists. Ullswater is quieter, some parts are not accessible by road. For this reason, I would choose Ullswater over Windermere.
What is the nearest big town to Ullswater?
Penrith is the nearest big town to Ullswater in the Lake District, providing a gateway to the picturesque lake and its surrounding attractions.
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