A stunning Autumnal Ullswater walk to Gowbarrow Fell and Aira Force

Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England
One of my best views in the Lake District looking over Ullswater from Green Hill below Gowbarrow Fell. There aren't many better views than this for me and when the tree's and bracken are golden and the sun is shining it's extra special.




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Distance: 6.8 miles

Time: 4 hours with stops 

Difficulty: Moderate. There is nothing too taxing about this walk except walking up the hill to Gowbarrow Fell - a few stops where needed to admire the view (take a breather :-)


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Map of this walking route:

map Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England
This particular route to Gowbarrow Fell starts near Watermillock Church and starts off with a gentle walk taking in some nice woodland through Swinburn Park before coming to the best views of Ullswater in my opinion near the memorial seat on Green Hill. Aira Force waterfall is up next where you can potter about and then from there it's up onto Gowbarrow fell which will test the fitness levels :-) From here you can head back into Swinburn Park wood's and retrace your steps - or do what we done on this walk and head for Great Meldrum and then onto The Hause (bit boggy in this section) and back via the road.

Here you can see the climb to Gowbarrow fell which begins roughly halfway on this walk

A shorter route starting from Aira Force:

Route map of the Gowbarrow fell walk, starting from the car park at Aira Force. This is one of the best Ullswater walks in the Lake District.
I thought I'd include a map of the more popular shorter route (4.5 miles, which will take about 2.5 hours) which starts from a different place at the car park at Aira Force and goes clock-wise to Gowbarrow Fell. You still take in the best views on this walk on the return when you pass the memorial seat on Green Hill, and head back to Aira force car park. This Ullswater walk is one of the best introductory walks in the Lake District in my humble opinion. I guess which route you choose depends on the time you have available and your walking level. This route is also good with older kids.


Loads of photos to give you a good flavour of this stunning longer Ullswater walk from Watermillock


Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England
So on this particular longer walk it starts at the footpath near Watermillock Church. This initial section is usually quiet compared to the Aira Force section - which is why I like to start here. It's also a good place to start if you are staying at one of the campsite sin this area - such as The Quiet Site - a personal favourite.

The first part of the walk is nice and leisurely - nothing too strenuous on this first half of the walk.

Looking back at Watermillock Church


Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England

Autumn is a great time to do this walk as the colours can be stunning. I always find the most impressive Autumn colours can be found in the 1st week or two of November - just before the leaves drop for winter.

The walk through Swinburn Park woodland is really sheltered and nice and peaceful.


A glimpse of Ullswater

It's now only 1.5 miles to Aira Force


The views of Ullswater start getting canny impressive now and there are lots of places to stop and admire the view!


Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England
We are approaching the Memorial Seat now - but a perfect place to stop and soak in the views is just through the gate on the rocky outcrop just left of centre of this photo

This spot is possibly the best place to get the most impressive views of Ullswater around the who area in my humble opinion. So we stop here for a good 10 minutes and get the food & flask of tea out :)
hiking Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England
When the sun is beaming on an Autumn day like this you could stay here for ages



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Here's the stone Memorial Seat just to the right - more often than not someone will be sat here on a weekend. If it's free - take a seat :-)

Onwards we go - and the views on this section of the walk are just stunning along every step of the way.




Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England

Ullswater walks Gowbarrow fell Aira Force best lake District views lakes england
This particular view on Greenhill below Gowbarrow Fell is probably my favourite photo of the day of Ullswater and the surrounding landscape as the full range of Autumn colours are on show. The tree-line from the centre leading right have Air Force beck running through it and in the far distance you can just make out Helvellyn near the cloud line. There aren't many better views than this and when the tree's and bracken are golden and the sun is shining it's extra special.

We descend a little now and head towards Aira Force

This section of the walk takes in the woodland that surrounds Aira Force

Here you can see the lower bridge where you will get the best views of Aira Force waterfall - perhaps the Lake Districts most popular waterfall

Aira Force Waterfall Ullswater
A popular and often photographed view of Aira Force. It's too bright and busy for me to set-up the tripod and capture a long -e xposure of the waterfall - so it's a quick snap and up the steep stairs to that bridge over the top of the waterfall


After passing the top of Aira Force it's a case of tracking the river via the path that snakes around it and you will get some impressive views of ravines and smaller waterfalls.

As you are in deep woodland here - look for the signs to keep you right :)

This section is the only steep section of the walk really - and it does get the heart pumping.

Using the excuse of stopping to take a photo to catch my breath :)


Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England
You get some cracking views on the walk up to Gowbarrow

Not far now - just a little more uphill walking to go


Approaching the summit of Gowbarrow fell - there's quite a few people already there

Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England
Made it. There's some good views once you reach the summit of the surrounding area - such as this one of Blencathra in the distance.

Ullswater walks Gowbarrow Fell Aira Force best Lake District views Lakes Cumbria England
Here you can see part of Swinburn Park woodland which we walked through at the start of the walk.

The draw back of the summit of Gowbarrow Fell - is that you don't actually get clear views of Ullswater - so I suggest a little detour to that next little hill to see a bit of Ullswater.

This is the spot where we decide to sit down for a bite to eat & drink - as it's a little more sheltered here too. There are random faintly marked paths all the way to the summit of Gowbarrow - but we don't stray far from the summit and main path on this occasion.

This is the view back on the actual summit of Gowbarrow Fell - and we'll be heading down to the treeline and then keeping to the left side of it as we view it from here.  

At this point the path is pretty much in a straight-line and over a wall to the little summit of Great Melddrum, but it does get a little boggy before we pass over the wall.

You do have the option here of following the more well-marked path which directs you to Aira Force - but actually is also the way back to the path which will lead you back through Swinburn Park wood. At this point it all depends on how much you have left in the tank - do you want to walk up some more gentle hills - or take a more leisurely and slightly shorter route back through the woodland? I like to tread new paths so it's straight on for us :)


Looking back towards the summit of Gowbarrow Fell

It's a little barren up here - but the path is clearly marked.


On this route - the path will track the treeline on the right - then take a left turning and track the distant treeline

The path is still well-marked


Tracking the tree-line once again - but beware it can be a little boggy here after heavy rain - good jobs we are wearing boots!

Then its just a case of heading towards the road on this well marked path and then a short walk on the road back to the car wherever you parked. You can of course head on instead to the summit of Little Mell Fell which you can see in the distance here - but that would be a bit too much for us. We instead make a slight detour to The Quiet Camping site for a drink before getting back in the car.


And that is that! Hope you enjoyed reading this post and getting a feel for the views on this walk. As mentioned at the start of the blog there is this longer route you can do around Gowbarrow Fell - or you can do the shorter route which starts from Aira Force car park. Which ever one you do you will get some stunning views - some of the best in the lakes for that matter  - so I hope I have inspired you to want to do a walk in this area. Happy walking!

Blog Post by Stuart Hodgson, 'The Hiking Photographer'


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