Ullswater Way

The Ullswater Way

Welcome to the Ullswater Way, a 22 mile walking route that circumnavigates the lake through a spectacular landscape rich in history and cultural heritage. It is divided into 4 sections, each served by the Ullswater Steamers.  Some people walk the whole Ullswater Way in a day but many prefer to walk the 4 sections separately, beginning or ending the day with a cruise on the Steamer. There are Steamer piers at Glenridding, Pooley Bridge, Howtown and Aira Force. 

From Pooley Bridge two additional footpaths explore  further afield. The Dalemain Loop passes through historical pasture to the stately Dalemain mansion and on to the ancient church of Dacre with its four stone bears. The Lowther Castle Loop includes a beautiful riverside walk and the charming villages of Askham and Lowther.

To find out more about the walk why not download the detailed maps below, from the Lake District National Park, or purchase a copy of The Ullswater Way Official Guide, available from selected shops in the Ullswater valley, at the National Park Tourist Information Centre in Glenridding or from the Inspired by Lakeland website. 

Why not leave the car at home? From Penrith train station the 508 Stagecoach bus runs regularly to Pooley Bridge and Glenridding. Ullswater Steamers have regular services to all four piers around the lake. The Ullswater Association Map and Visitor Guide lists places to stay, eat and shop as well as activities, visitor attractions, events and more. 

Whether you walk the whole Ullswater Way or combine a shorter walk with a cruise on the Ullswater Steamers, take a moment to step inside the shoes of those who have lived and worked here throughout history and been inspired by its beauty. Follow the Ullswater Way Heritage Trail or browse the Ullswater Heritage Knowledge Bank to find out more.

Creating the Ullswater Way

Dylan Jackman, Former Lake District National Park Ranger, tells the story of how the Ullswater Way came to be.

For some time the idea of a circular walk around Ullswater had been  discussed by businesses, residents and organisations such as the National Trust and Lake District National Park. In 2014, this was formally identified as an action in the Ullswater Valley plan.

Some thought that any route around the lake would predominantly follow the lake shore. However, the challenges of negotiating access would be impossible to achieve, and in my opinion would not have been the best way of showcasing the beauty of the Ullswater Valley. Instead, it was proposed that the route would utilise the extensive public rights of way network already in existence.

Ullswater from Gowbarrow © Janet Wedgwood

Connecting shoreline paths, woodland trails, farmland and popular lakeside villages, would allow visitors to explore places and features away from the lake and offer up opportunities to enjoy the spectacular landscape from different angles.

In 2015 I remember highlighting a circular route around Ullswater, that used the footpaths and bridleways, but I couldn’t connect the route from Waterfoot to Bennethead. Whilst there were permissive routes, there was no legal right to be able to walk between the two. Fortunately, both the landowners, Lake District Estates and the Lightburn family, were amazingly supportive and allowed the creation of 1.5 miles of new public footpath, which completed the 20 mile Ullswater Way.

It was also important that as many people as possible could enjoy and complete the walk, not just elite walkers. So the route was designed in smaller sections that could be combined with a boat trip or open-topped bus ride.   Whilst the Ullswater Way has always been a challenging walk through the countryside, low level options at Gowbarrow and Barton Fell were identified as alternatives. The alternative routes also provide different views to enjoy and locations to explore, which it is hoped will encourage visitors to complete the Ullswater Way more than once.

Once the route was finalised, funding allowed for gates to be renewed, marketing and branding produced, and despite Storm Desmond, the Ullswater Way was officially launched in April 2016.

Since its launch, The Ullswater Way has been a phenomenal success, with tens of thousands of people walking the route. It has been embraced by so many residents, businesses, landowners and visitors to Ullswater. Its success has led to the creation of The Ullswater Heritage Trail, as well additional loops to Dalemain and Lowther Castle. 

© Dylan Jackman

"I feel immensely proud to have played my part in creating such an iconic walking route, and I hope that going forward that the Ullswater Way can be maintained, protected and cared for so that future generations can continue to enjoy “England’s most beautiful lake”.  

Launch of the Ullswater Way

Suzy Hankin, Area Ranger for the Lake District National Park, and Jim Walker of Ullswater Steamers, speak at the time when the Ullswater Way was launched in 2016. 

It was less than a year after the havoc wreaked by Storm Desmond.