For centuries visitors to the Lake District have been drawn to the tranquil waters of Ullswater. The lovely clear ribbon shaped stretch of water is set amongst some glorious Lake District fells and often referred to as the most beautiful lake in England.
Ullswater is the perfect base for exploring the Lake District National Park with woodland walks, wonderful nature, pretty villages and dramatic scenery in all directions and historic steamers to whisk you across the water.
William Wordsworth's Ullswater
Ullswater was a favourite spot of Lake District poet William Wordsworth who once said of the lake, ‘It’s the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur which any of the lakes affords’.
Wordsworth wrote a number of works about nearby waterfall Aira Force and was also inspired to write his most famous work ‘Daffodils’ after visiting Glencoyne Bay on the shores of Ullswater. Glencoyne Bay is the perfect spot for a beachside picnic and you can also try some paddleboarding here in the calm waters of Ullswater.
If you really fancy following in William Wordsworth’s footsteps we recommend walking from Glencoyne Bay to Aira Force through the wonderful Glencoyne Deer Park. You’ll need to visit in springtime to witness the famed daffodils but there’s a wonderful array of flowers to enjoy during the summer months too.
The magnificent Aira Force is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the Lake District and it’s surrounded by woodland that’s a haven for the area’s native red squirrel population. Rainwater from the Gowbarrow Fells thunders down to Aira Beck in one single 65-foot drop and there is a network of trails, bridges, and viewpoints so you can explore the woodland and watch the wonderful waterfall.
Ullswater Towns and Villages
There are three main villages around the edge of Ullswater. Patterdale and Glenridding lie at the southern end, with Pooley Bridge to its north, all offering good pubs and shops.
Located at the southern tip of Ullswater is the small village of Patterdale, which is home to a village store and post office and the Victorian St. Patrick’s Church. Patterdale is the closest village to Helvellyn so is the perfect place to call after climbing this famous fell and you can stop for refreshments at the White Lion Inn.
A little further up from Patterdale is Glenridding, a popular tourist spot that’s the starting (or ending point) for a number of walking routes. The village may be small but you’ll find a good selection of cafes, pubs, restaurants and shops nestled amongst its rolling hills including Inn on the Lake which is a 2 AA rosette restaurant and The Travellers Rest which is a dog-friendly pub. Glenridding is also a boarding point if you fancy travelling across the water on an Ullswater Steamer.
Pooley Bridge lies at the northern tip of Ullswater and takes its name from a 16th century bridge which crosses the River Eamont that flows alongside the village. It’s another popular choice for tourists with pubs and cafes that include The Pooley Bridge Inn and Granny Dowbekin’s tea room. Alongside a village store and post office, there is also Chestnut House which sells artisan food and drink and The Barn which stocks a range of outdoor clothing. There’s much to explore from the village too; you can follow the Ullswater Way walking route from Pooley Bridge to Aira Force, take a hike to nearby Howtown or catch a steamer for a journey across the lake.
Ullswater Boat Trips
Ullswater is a serpentine lake, which snakes its way through a delightful landscape as peace prevails with no speed boats allowed. You can hire all kinds of other boats at Glenridding and for those who wish to gain further experience in sailing, the Glenridding Sailing School offers courses and tuition.
Transport is run by the grandly titled ‘Ullswater Navigation and Transit Company Limited’ who operate Ullswater Steamers that travel between Glenridding and Pooley Bridge, calling in at Howtown Pier and Aira Force Pier along the way. There are three lovely old steamers to travel in, ‘Lady of the Lake’ was first launched in 1877 and ‘Raven’ twelve years later. In 2001 ‘The Lady Dorothy’ was introduced to the fleet, after being brought in from Guernsey and refurbished by local shipwrights.
The steamers all include downstairs saloons, a covered upper deck seating area and an open deck for when the weather is good. The full journey from Glenridding to Pooley Bridge takes around an hour each way but there are a number of different journey options available.
THINGS TO DO AT ULLSWATER
Discover some of the best things to see and do on your next visit to Ullswater.
Dalemain is a beautiful stately home to the north of Pooley Bridge which has a selection of grandly restored rooms and formal gardens to look around during your visit. There are also estate walks to try which will take you around the gorgeous grounds and onto the Ullswater Way.
Around 5 miles to the east of Pooley Bridge are the remains of Lowther Castle which are set within 130 acres of gardens with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. There’s much to explore during a visit including a large adventure playground for children to enjoy.
This arts centre and cinema near Pooley Bridge has everything from craft classes and exhibitions to live streamed theatre shows and the latest film releases. The Rheged Centre also has an on-site cafe and delicatessen with food offerings including delicious locally made Lake District ice cream.
Ullswater is a haven for Lake District wildlife with a wide variety of bird species to be spotted around its shores. Martindale Forest on the western edge of the lake is home to the oldest herd of red deer in England and a native population of red squirrels also live in the fells and valleys around Ullswater.
WALKING AT ULLSWATER
Ullswater is a popular choice for walkers and there are an abundance of walking routes to try, from following the 20-mile Ullswater Way which circles around the lake to striking out for Aira Force and exploring the surrounding fells
A ramble around the lake
Explored from the southern end, the lake is dominated by Place Fell, St Sunday Cragg, Fairfield and Helvellyn. Take the east path along the shore heading towards Sandwick, then on to Howtown, and you will be able to ramble all day with a magnificent view always in sight. You can end your day on a high note, catching the steamboat from Howtown to Glenridding for some final, memorable views.
The Ullswater Way
The 20-mile Ullswater Way encompasses the whole of Ullswater but you can just walk as much or as little as you like as there are bus and boat services to help get you back to your starting point. The route is typically split into four sections which are Pooley Bridge to Aira Force, Aira Force to Glenridding, Glenridding to Howtown and Howtown to Pooley Bridge. There’s lots of places to stop for refreshments and you can walk the route in either direction too.
This fell walk is a great choice for beginners as there is good terrain and an easy-to-follow route to the summit. The walk is just a mile in length from St Peter’s Church in Howtown and there are wonderful views over the lake when you reach the large cairn that marks the top of this small Lake District fell.
There are a number of big fells and mountains that surround Ullswater. The goal for many is Helvellyn, the third highest mountain in the Lake District. The approach is often made by the challenging Striding Edge, a knife thin ridge, which is found on the ascent to the mountain summit. This is one for experienced walkers and you should make suitable preparations before setting off into the wilds of the National Park.
Plan your Ullswater getaway
If you have been inspired to visit Ullswater for a romantic getaway or family holiday, we have some lovely cottages around the shores of this lovely stretch of water.
The Ullswater Retreat
This dog-friendly period cottage for two has a romantic spot looking out over Ullswater from a peaceful wooded enclave.
The Bothy - Wreay Mansions
This three-bedroom holiday home is located on the western shores of Ullswater with wonderful views of the lake, surrounded by a backdrop of high fell.
Grammar School House
This former school house in the peaceful Ullswater village of Watermillock sleeps up to 8 people and the large grounds include a spacious garden, a small wooded area and a pond.
Browse our full selection of Ullswater Cottages and start planning your next Lake District holiday.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.