The Ullswater Way is a stunning circular walk which is just a short 15-minute drive (13 miles) from Dunkeld Cottage, and is our favourite day out! It is a truly mesmorising walk in one of the most beautiful Lakes in Lakeland.
Today, I’m going to tell you about half of the Ullswater Way walk (because that’s all we’ve done!) and share with you this very special place that combines the healthiness of a hearty walk, stunning scenery such as mountains, the lake and pretty villages, plus a fab combination of refreshments and boat trips. This walk really has it all – and we love it!
First up, the walk is around 11.5 miles long and you should allow around 5 hours, not including stops and of course, dependent on your fitness. To get the best of the trip we really recommend you start off early in the day so that you can fit everything in! This blog is not meant to be a substitute for a ‘proper’ guided walk or an OS map – the latter you should definitely bring along with you, or GPS for the techy amongst us. It’s more a guide of what you can expect from the walk and how to enjoy it to the full.
There are many different options and alternatives for walking the route – including just doing half of it and getting the boat back, so don’t be put off by the lengthiness of the one I’m going to discuss! The Ullswater Steamers have stops at Pooley Bridge, Howtown and Glenridding. There is another route from Glenridding to Aira Force, but that’s not discussed in today’s walk as it is the other side of the lake and definitely on our to-do list on our next visit! So, you can opt to drive to Glenridding and walk to Howtown or Pooley Bridge, get the boat in the middle or at the end – it’s up to you. The route I am going to discuss though is parking in Pooley Bridge and walking all the way to Glenridding via Howtown and Patterdale – it’s a biggy, but it’s not scary or high – and the scenery is just out of this world.
Pooley Bridge is a gorgeous little village at the northern tip of Ullswater and is the closest place to park if you are coming from Dunkeld Cottage. The village is blessed with cafes, pubs, gift shops and newsagents (ideal for stocking up with provisions for the walk!). The river Eamont runs through the village and flows into Ullswater and a relaxing cup of tea can be had by the riverside – but not until you’ve finished your walk!!
Setting off from the village, just before the bridge and situated to the left hand side of the lake, is the start of the Ullswater way and it is well signposted. The walk heads towards the Lake shore and then follows a delightful stroll through fields and camping grounds, hugging the lakeshore all the time until you reach Waterside House. From here there is a short stretch on the road until signs off to the left lead you onto footpaths – again, signposted the Ullswater Way. There is a point near here where you get to a bit of marshland so it can be a bit soggy underfoot, but hopefully you’ve been sensible and brought good hiking boots with you!! You don’t have to wade through for long and it neatly ends up on track again, following all footpath signs to Howtown.
It takes around 1 ¾ hours to get to Howtown and there are some sensational places to stop along the way by the lakeshore – be sure to bring a camera, or charge up your phone fully before setting off! If, at Howtown, you fancy a little more of the creature comforts or the weather isn’t ideal for finding a spot by the lake, then you can always stop in the hotel in Howtown – we’ve had some lovely scones and tea there to quench one’s thirst 🙂
Once you’ve refreshed around Howtown, get ready for a long and vigorous, but absolutely stunning walk-out!! Up and down you’ll go, up and down, round all the nooks and crannies of the lakeshore, with constant, gorgeous views of Ullswater and the surrounding fells – all of which will help stop you moaning about tired legs and not being able to see civilisation yet!! It’s easy to follow though, no routes off to confuse you – just keep following it. And following it 🙂
A newly introduced bonus to this walk is the teashop/café en route – appearing simply in the middle of nowhere! It’s called Beckside and is roughly half way between Howtown and Patterdale, so it’s another ideal pit stop – and at this stage you’ve definitely earned it. On wet days it’s a snug and cosy haven away from the elements and a chance to thaw/dry out – yet on dry days you can sit outside and soak up the captivating lakeside setting. But don’t get too cosy – you’ve still more to do! The great news is that soon you’ll see Glenridding on the other side of the lake, filling you with a (albeit false) sense of confidence that the walk is nearly over 🙂
But eventually a little more walking (about an hour to an hour and a half), and with no deviation from the outstanding lakeside views, you will head past the glimpses over the river to Glenridding and the specks of houses in the distance means Patterdale is firmly in your sights.
We have been known to stop for a cheeky beer or two in Patterdale (does it seem like all we do is stop for refreshments? Oh well, when on holiday …) and we love, if the weather is dry, sitting in the stunning garden setting of the Patterdale Hotel, looking up at the impressive Place Fell. But if the weather is a little inclement, or you just fancy a cosy pub – try the quirky little pub across the road, The White Lion. On busy days you can find yourself squeezed on a tiny table in the corner, or bunched up with other walkers on the long seats – but it definitely adds to the charm and is a great way of socialising with other fell-walkers and comparing notes on aching joints!
Coming out of the pub, you should be staggering – and not necessarily due to excessive alcohol consumption. Your legs should be very tired and the rest will have just made it worse, but sorry, you’ve got to heave yourself up, as there is a little more to do! Glenridding, where you will get the boat back, is just under a mile away, but guess what, it’s another pretty walk and you can gaze at the people going out on their canoes and boats as you pass by the St Patricks boat yard.
Depending on when you started out, you should still be able to get a boat back to Pooley Bridge from Glenridding – this is true for much of the season late March – late October. However, outside of these times, you may well be better off getting the boat ride done first, then walking back because the timetable lends itself that way. In the worst case, if you miss the boat, there are regular bus services which carry on a little later from Patterdale to Pooley Bridge.
But the boat trip is a huge reward for a literally breath-taking walk, a chance to simply stretch back, wriggle your blistered toes and as you sail along, look back at the visible track you’ve walked – even feeling a bit smug if you see walkers still emerging in and out of the shrubbery, eagerly looking out across the water, seeing if they can spot the end of their walk or glancing wistfully at your boat ride home.
And when you get back to your car, you’ll be desperate to get back to Dunkeld Cottage, de-camp, cook a lovely meal in our gorgeous kitchen and snuggle in front of the fire. Happy holidays!
More Info Here on the Ullswater Way