Ullswater, The Lake District

Photograph by Gordon Lightburn

Photograph by Gordon Lightburn

Ullswater is the most beautiful lake in England’s new World Heritage Site, and largest National Park, the Lake District – the most spectacularly scenic area of England.

The Lake District is in the Northwest of England, on the Scottish borders. Ullswater is easily accessible from the major road and rail routes that converge at Penrith – only 15 minutes from Ullswater’s Northern tip at Pooley Bridge. You can be here in around 3 hours from London by direct train.

Ullswater remains peaceful and unspoilt, retaining its history and heritage, but with all the facilities that a 21st century traveller requires. The surrounding countryside is unpopulated except for farms and wildlife, and there are only a handful of small villages along its 9 mile length, but these offer a welcoming taste of real Lake District life.

The valley offers an excellent choice of activities, attractions, and accommodation to suit everybody, of all ages, inclination and budgets. From outdoor adventurers, and culture seekers, to sophisticated travellers seeking relaxation and room to breathe – Ullswater is where you will find the Lake District you dream of, and the people to help you experience it.

Our landscape provides an unparalleled choice of outdoor activities from leisurely to demanding – all year round. Ullswater has hundreds of walking routes on its surrounding mountains and tributary valleys including Helvellyn, England’s third highest mountain with its famously challenging Edges. The most epic mountain biking in the UK is found here too, particularly on Ullswater’s Eastern lake path and Boredale loop; and excellent watersports of all kinds.

A popular recent addition to our list of notable walks has been The Ullswater Way, a 20 mile circuit of the lake, and a heritage route, with sculptures celebrating notable points of interest. The famous Coast to Coast walk across England passes Ullswater at its Southern end.

Its history is stupendous, with ancient stone circles from the days of the earliest human occupation; the Roman Road High Street follows the valley along its East side; and over 1,000 years of farming history, still pretty much as it used to be.

England’s oldest herd of wild Red Deer, Cumbria’s native Fell Pony, and the famous smiley Herdwick sheep brought in by the Vikings; all live in the valley and on the surrounding fells.

Place names remain from both Viking and Scottish invasions. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Lowther Castle. The anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson lived at Pooley Bridge.

Links to King Arthur are strong in Ullswater – Aira Force, the National Trust owned waterfall and Arboretum, with nearby Llyulph’s Tower provided more inspiration for Wordsworth with his tragic Arthurian Somnambulist.

The Culture matches up, Wordsworth was inspired to write ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ here, inspired by its Springtime Daffodils. He attracted a following of creative souls like Coleridge and De Quincey, who came to live in the lakes so the magic could be theirs too. The Romantic and Picturesque Artistic movements were attracted to the sublime splendour of the landscape; JMW Turner, Constable, Gainsborough, Ruskin and Lear are amongst the most internationally known of these. Ullswater’s evolution has been hardworking and sometimes violent, but with a poetic soul – it’s no backwater.

Daffodils - credit Janet Wedgwood

Photograph by Janet Wedgwood

Drawing on Ullswater’s cultural and artistic heritage the Visitor Centre at Rheged near Penrith showcases art galleries, and craft exhibitions, as well as farm food shops featuring local produce.

From the start of your journey at Penrith to the South end of the valley, you pass all the points of interest that earned us World Heritage Status. From King Arthur’s Round Table, which is reputed to be his jousting arena – next to Mayburgh Henge, a prehistoric stone circle.  Nearby are the historic houses and gardens of the ancient border warring families at Lowther, and Dalelmain, (of Marmalade fame). Stay in a Pele Tower with the Lowther family at Askham Hall, and visit the family’s former home and historic garden restorations at Lowther Castle itself.

From Pooley Bridge, take to the water with the Steamers for a leisurely cruise the length of the lake, or select stops around the lake from which to enjoy the abundant choice of walking and cycling. The Steamers have a long history with the valley – they began working life as transportation for the mines at Glenridding, also carrying livestock and The Royal Mail for the local community. One of their fleet M.Y. Lady of the Lake is the oldest working passenger vessel in the world; and the addition of M.Y. Raven was demanded by Sir Thomas Cook, of Package Tour fame.

Staying close to the water, enjoy the lake views from our choice of accommodation providers: Sharrow Bay, (the original Country House Hotel, and where Sticky Toffee Pudding was invented); and Another Place – The Lake, (perfect for family friendly adventures and sporting activities). Luxury Concierge serviced self-catering at Waternook tops the indulgence wish list for getting away from it all.

Ullswater encapsulates the spirit of the Lake District’s World Heritage Status, it is the valley that was almost forgotten thus remaining unspoilt, yet is the easiest one to reach – and we hope we can welcome you here.



Getting to Ullswater


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