If you’re looking for a great two-day hike in the Lake District, choose a circumference of Ullswater. This is a perfect for a weekend break, not too challenging and well signposted. This blogpost will tell you everything you need to know about hiking around Ullswater; how to get there, where to park, the highlights and what to look out for.
Ullswater can be found in the North-East of the Lake District and is easy to reach from Manchester. Many consider it to be the most beautiful lake of the Lake District. Ullswater is a Ribbon Lake. Because three separate glaciers dug out the lake together back in the last ice age, it’s more or less Z-shaped.
At the South-West shore of Ullswater, you’ll find Glennridding town. It’s the biggest town of the region and a convenient starting point for several types of adventures. Glennridding has many hotels, hostels and wedding venues (told you it was a pretty lake). All the way on the North shore lies Pooley Bridge. A much smaller village with only a couple of pubs and shops. A couple of other settlements and National Trust parking lots are scattered around the lake, and although they’re all quite small, they do tend to crowd up during the summer period. Booking accomodation up front certainly isn’t a waste of effort!
Practically everyone will start their adventure at Glennridding. It’s a much better idea though to spend the night there, and park your car at the other side of the lake, at Pooley Bridge. The in 2016 outlined ‘Ullswater Way’ is a well signposted route that takes you around the lake, and starts (or ends. or passes through) the parking lot at Pooley Brige. The most challenging routes takes over the hills along the Northern shore of the lake, and is probably your best option for your first day. One of the highlights is a Roman fort called ‘Maiden Castle’. There is very little left of it (nothing, really), but it’s a nice first proper lookout over the area. After that, a hike across a couple of peaks will take you to Aira Force: a waterfall with a park layed-out around it.
The last 5 kilometers, from Aira Force to Glennridding are a relatively boring (because flat) walk that takes you along the shore of Ullswater to the town.
You’ll have a couple of options for Day 2. You can hike back along the South-Eastern shore to Pooley Bridge: a beautiful walk. Alternatively, board one of the ‘Ullswater Steamers’ to travel part or the full route by boat. The steamers are a couple of hundred years old and by now run on diesel, but for 12 pounds offer a unique perspective on Ullswater and the surrounding hills. Disembark at Howtown (which skips half of the hike) or at Pooley Bridge, a couple of yards away from the car park. You can also choose to steam your way back to Aira Force.
Protip: get off at Howtown. From there, it’s a relatively easy but beautiful hike to Pooley Bridge, and takes you past a neolithic stone circle called ‘The Cockpit’.
Is the hike around the lake too easy for you? Climb Helvellyn from Glennridding, the third-tallest peak in England.
Gear to take is somewhat season-depending, but bringing at least grade A/B-shoes is a good idea.. We were here in February, adding the advantage of not running into other people all the time. Luckily, there wasn’t too much snow, because that would have made the descends a bit more challenging. Our hike was significantly complicated by the swampy conditions; We found ourselves wading knee-deep through the mud on several occasions. In hindsight, we were happy we brought along our skiing gear: heavy, but waterproof and nice and warm.
Top-end: Inn on the Lake
Pooley Bridge: CA10 2NE
Glennridding: CA11 0PD
Traintickets (to Penrith): https://www.thetrainline.com/