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The English Lake District: Ullswater

Ullswater is one of the most northerly of the Cumbrian lakes and at almost 9 miles long and ¾ mile across at its widest point is the second largest in the Lake District. It curves between the hills almost like an upended question mark.

Ullswater from near Pooley Bridge - Lake District - Cumbria

This district is much less crowded than the central lakes area between Windermere and Derwent Water and Ullswater is deservedly very popular with visitors with a wide range of interests, from water sport to mountain walking – or even just gazing at the hills and enjoying a meal.

At the northern end of the Ullswater is the quaint old village of Pooley Bridge with its narrow 16th-century bridge over the River Eamont as it flows out of Ullswater, eventually to join the River Eden. Close by is Dunmallard Hill where there was an Iron Age fort.

Pooley Bridge - Ullswater

The road past Ullswater runs along its northern and westerly shore. On the eastern side a road from Pooley Bridge follows close to the shore as far as Howtown, but soon afterwards comes to an end apart from tracks to the farms high on Martindale Common.

At the head of the lake are the old Ullswater lead-mining villages of Glenridding (a stopping off point for the lake cruise boats), Patterdale and Hartsop as well as wonderful walking in Grisedale and beyond Brotherswater.

Glenridding - Ullswater - Lake District

Ullswater Accommodation

The Ullswater area is home to some excellent hotels. The area has several rosette restaurants and high-class country house hotels as well as comfortable if less sophisticated accommodation in traditional farmhouses. The Ullswater villages of Patterdale and Glenridding to the south of the lake provide between them a wide range of visitor accommodation

Ullswater Hotels

Holiday Cottage near Ullswater
Fellgate Farm near Ullswater

Click on the image above or here for details of Fellgate Farm, Helton, near Ullswater.
Holiday cottages elsewhere in the Lake District

Ullswater is easily accessible from popular centres like Keswick, Ambleside and Penrith. If you want to stay nearer to the lake here are some suggestions.

What to do on and around Ullswater

There have been cruise steamers on Ullswater since 1855, and for the less energetic visitor these provide an excellent way of enjoying the beautiful scenery while relaxing on either “Lady of the Lake” or one of the other Ullswater Steamers vessels as it makes its way between the jetties at Glenridding, Pooley Bridge and Howtown.

You can take the opportunity to get off the boat at these points and explore the areas around, take a walk up into the hills, or enjoy a pleasant meal in Pooley Bridge or Glenridding before continuing on your circuit of the lake. If you’re interested in the old boats of the Lake District, take a look at: Steamers of the Lakes: Coniston, Derwentwater, Ullswater v. 2

Ullswater Steamers run cruises up and down the lake all year round

Activities on the Ullswater Water

On the water Ullswater is a popular location for watersports such as windsurfing. Or you could launch a canoe from Glencoyne Bay; there’s a National Trust car park there. Eden Outdoor Adventures have an article on canoeing on Ullswater on their blog. (Note: This is not a paid or affiliate link; I just like what I read about them).

Activities on the Land around Ullswater

There is an excellent National Park information centre by the large carpark in Glenridding village. There you will find many suggestions as to how to enjoy your time here.

Those who prefer the dry land and who are capable of a short steep walk may wish to visit the waterfalls at Aira Force, to the north of the lake a couple of miles from Glenridding. Aira Force is in the care of the National Trust which owns and protects around 13,000 acres in the area including several farms.

Walking options are so many and varied that it is difficult to select just one or two to mention here. How about walking up to the old Greenside lead mine site? The former mine buildings are now used for other purposes, including a youth hostel. Other walking suggestions will be found in, for example:

An Ullswater Walk – Video

Video uploaded to YouTube by Walks Around Britain

Ullswater in Old Photos

The Francis Frith collection includes many old heritage photographs of Ullswater. The exmaple shown here dates from 1888. Francis Frith’s superb black and white prints come in many sizes and types of frame and can provide beautiful decoration for a room in a home or office. Click on the photo below for more details. For more, see: “The Lake District in Old Photos“.

Ullswater Fish and Fishing

Ullswater is also home to a rare and protected species left over from the last ice age, the Schelly (Coregonus stigmaticus) which is elsewhere found only in Brotherswater, Haweswater and Red Tarn. Interestingly, unlike most other Cumbrian lakes, Ullswater does not have a significant pike population and absence of this predator has influenced the balance of other species.

There is good fishing to be had, for brown trout especially. Remember, though, to ensure that you have a license and also the permission of the landowner; advice on this can be sought in the villages. Local advice should also be taken if you are intending to fish from a boat, as to be caught in the wrong place by a sudden change of weather could be very dangerous. Ullswater needs to be treated with respect.

How To Get There

Whether arriving from north or south Ullswater is easily accessible from major transportation routes. Pooley Bridge, the village by the River Eamont as it leaves the lake, is only 5 miles from Penrith mainline railway station. Those coming in by road will find Ullswater to the west of the M6 motorway (junction 40) and just to the south of the A66 trunk road. From the Windermere and Ambleside area travel by the A592 over Kirkstone Pass.

Head of Ullswater at Glenridding

Head of Ullswater, looking toward Patterdale at Glenridding - February 2012

More about Ullswater

For more about Ullswater see: Ullswater on the Around-England Blog