24 Feb The Ullswater Way
Posted at 15:07h in Mountain Adventures
This is an account of The Ullswater Way. At the end of this article I offer advise for families visiting the Lake District. The Ullswater way offers a wonderful family adventure and for those with small children the trail can be split into smaller sections. Keep reading and find out if the Ullswater way is the ideal trail for you.
This article follows our trail run around the Ullswater way. If you are thinking Running! NO! please don’t let this put you off. I often use running to check out different areas plus if it is runnable you can pretty much guarantee it is walkable.
A brief history of Ullswater
Ullswater is arguably the most picturesque lake in the North of England. Nestled in the North Eastern part of the Lake District and surrounded by the mountains Ullswater provides a true taste of what the Lake District has to offer. It is unclear why the Lake was named Ullswater, however there are a couple of possible explanations. One explanation is that the Lake was named after the Lord of Greystoke who’s name was Ulphus. Another explanation is the Lake was named after a Viking Chief named Ulf or even the Norse God Ullr. Ullr is said to have been a master at anything linked to physicality and survival e.g. Archery, running, skiing, swimming. If I am completely honest I prefer the idea of the latter because it makes completing the loop around Ullswater all the more meaningful.
Why decide to run the Ullswater way?
Unfortunately we did not decide to run this route in an attempt to be more like Ullr the Norse god, but I suppose you could say we ran the route to be better versions of our self’s. Jayne is a good friend and trainee mountain leader. In March Jayne is running in the Howarth Hobble, a 30mile ultra marathon and she needs to get as much time on feet as possible. Later in the summer Jayne and I are going to run the Joss Naylor challenge. The Joss Naylor Challenge is a 48 mile route across the Lake District, starting in Pooley Bridge and finishing near Wastwater. Jayne phoned me and asked if I fancied heading out for a long run and she wanted to complete about 20miles. The Ullswater Way seemed like the best option. With storm Dennis building and the dark sky’s looming we did not want to risk going up high into the fells. We decided that remaining low was the safest option so the Ullswater way ticked all the boxes. A 20mile loop that remains reasonably low but still offers all the magic of the Lake District.
Ullswater Way – The Route
We started at the Glencoyne Bridge National Trust car park on the west bank of Ullswater. We set off running south towards Glenridding where the trail criss crosses the road a few times before reaching Glenridding. This section was better for hiking than running because we needed to negotiate traffic as we crossed the road. Nevertheless, the views from the trail were spectacular and this section would make a fantastic start to a day hike.
Glenridding to Sandwick Bay
We ran through Glenridding and into Patterdale before following the trail that curves around the south bank of Ullswater. This is where the trail starts to offer more of a mountainous experience. As we ran north up the east bank of Ullswater, Place Fell towered above us on our right. The trail is large and easy to run for a couple of Kilometers before we started to descend a short steep section with slippery rocks. We slowed down and negotiated this by walking. Up until now the trail did not disappoint, the views were beautiful and the ground was easy to move over. The east bank of Ullswater has a short but fun section of woodland trail. Sometimes the tree roots make it difficult to run in wet weather but the routes can be crossed with carful foot placements.
Next we were greeted with Sandwick Bay. At this time of year and with the wind and rain Sandwick Bay looks like just another part of Ullswater Bank. However in the summer Sandwick Bay is a lovely little beach and a great place to launch a paddle board from or simply bathe your feet after walking the first few miles of the Ullswater way. After Sandwick Bay we ran through Howtown, and then the trail flattens out following farm land and campsites. The fields were extremely boggy and walking was our only option, but this is to be expected during a storm that was producing 1 months worth of rain in a single day. In summer during the dry conditions this section of the trail will be kind on the legs and offer a nice change from the rocky mountain trail.
On a less stormy day we would have taken the trail high up on to Lad Pot Hill. Then we would have followed High Street, the old Roman track, along the top of the fells looping East and down into Pooley Bridge. However, the weather dictates and we remained low in the valley. Nevertheless, as we ran past Cross Dermont Farm and Campsite we were greeted by some friendly Lamas, so we stopped to say hello before continuing out on to the road and up towards Pooley Bridge. At Pooley Bridge we looped round the north bank of Ullswater and followed the trail south west. We past Waterfoot Farm Hotel and then started the boggy ascent up to the forest in Swinburn Park. The trail through Swinburn Park forest is magical and flows amazingly until the shooting lodge on the west facing slope of Gowbarrow Fell. The tree line ends at the shooting Lodge and opens up a halting view of Ullswater and the surrounding mountains.
From the shooting Lodge the trail contours and drops off towards Aira Force waterfall. This section trail offers some of the most enjoyable fell running I have experienced. The views are stimulating and the trail flows amazingly. We got completely immersed in the movement at this point and it felt like we were been rewarded for putting the effort in through storm Dennis. After Aira Force we picked up the National trust trail which is a very well maintained gravel path. This lead us south and back to Glencoyne Bridge carpark where we completed our 20mile loop.
Is the Ullswater way good for trail running?
The short answer is yes, definitely. Although there is one reason I would not use this route.
Firstly, here are 3 reasons I would recommend running the Ullswater Way.
In poor weather this trail remains low, it is well sign posted and stays close to civilisation.
There are no major ascents and the trails offers fantastic running. For time on feet this trail is ideal.
The terrain changes several times offering a good variety of training. There are fields, roads, mountainous trails and well maintained National Trust trails.
I would not choose the Ullswater way for training is if I wanted to gain ascent. Nevertheless, the route can be adapted to include ascent if necessary. Although adding extra ascent to the route technically means we are not running the Ullswater way.
Is the Ullswater way family friendly?
Yes yes yes!
Do you have small children?
For Families with small children I would recommend jumping on the ferry at Pooley Bridge or Gelnridding. Enjoy the Ferry ride to Howtown and then hike the short and beautiful trail west to Sandwick Bay. On a good day you can spend time playing in the sand at Sandwick Bay before hiking back to Howtown to catch the Ferry back to where you started.
Do you have older children?
If you have slightly older children who are up for a walk? I would recomend starting at Pooley Bridge and follow the trail along to Aira Force, spend some time at Aira Force before taking transport back to Pooley Bridge.
Alternatively you can park at Aira Force and hike up the trail up to Gowbarrow and back down to Aira Force again.
Here are just a couple of ideas for families to consider. If you would like more information or you are considering going a little deeper into the mountains please check out Summit and Beyonds Ullswater adventure here.
Please let us know if you found this article useful and if Ullswater is somewhere you are considering exploring. If you have any questions please feel open to ask.