Walking with Wainwright: Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell

8 November 2019

We have already shown you the fantastic Orrest Head and Glaramara walks; now, we’re focusing on the glorious Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell walk and the route that Alfred Wainwright took to achieve it. Wainwright was a British fellwalker, author and illustrator who completed numerous walks around the Lake District and documented them across several illustrated books.

One of his most famous works is the first guide to the Coast to Coast Walk, a 192-mile footpath which is not a National Trail but incredibly popular among walkers.

If you’re interested in following Wainwright’s routes, you’ve come to the right place! We aim to offer the best tips and recommendations for hikers, whether about the walk, pubs and restaurants in the area or local accommodations.

Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell

Aira Force is a beautiful waterfall in the Ullswater valley which draws in a crowd throughout the year. If you’re setting out to just visit this location, you’ll find that the trip is more than worth it on its own – however, why not make it an even more fulfilling day and explore Gowbarrow Fell too?

The quiet walk to Gowbarrow Fell will allow you to feel in tune with nature, and the gorgeous views of Gowbarrow and Green Hill, as well as the stunning sights from Wainwright Summit (located at 481.2 metres), will take your breath away.

The Aira Force waterfall, despite being busier than the fell, is an unmissable step in this route. A small arched bridge over the stream offers a magnificent view from the top, just as the water makes it leap. The other bridge, placed at the foot of the falls, is made of vertical stones, which is not traditional to the area, adding a further point of interest to the trail.

Experience a unique and incredibly photogenic trail that will take you through woodland with vibrant green ferns and conifers, where you can bask in the expansive views over Ullswater. It will also bring you close to the roaring Aira Force waterfall.

What to Prepare for the Hike

While some parts are slightly more challenging, such as steps to climb and paths that become narrower with steep drops, this route can be completed by walking beginners. When you’re on the fell, the path is clear but can be a bit muddy and partly hidden by bracken. The descent is a little steep but not too difficult.

Still, it’s important to be prepared when heading out for a hike, and the Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell route is no exception. As the weather can change quickly in the UK, it’s crucial to keep a change of clothes and shoes in your car of with you, so that you can enjoy yourself without having to return to your luxury holiday cottage in the Lake District soaked through.

Where Do I Park?

There are several places for you to park your vehicle. The official parking is at the National Trust park at the bottom of the waterfalls, which can be expensive if you’re not a National Trust member. As an alternative, you can leave your car in the parking area on Dockray road.

If you’re not coming by car, you can take the 508 bus between Windermere and Penrith, which stops near the Aira Force car park.

The Wainwright Summit

Gowbarrow Fell was, reportedly, one of Alfred Wainwright’s favourite trails. He described it in his pictorial guide as ‘flowers, heather and bilberries bloom on the pleasant little ridge where stands the summit cairn’. William Wordsworth also found great inspiration here. In fact, the famous ‘Daffodils’ mentions Aira Force by name, along with a few other waterfalls in the area.

As mentioned, while the walk is not technically difficult, it’s good to keep in mind that some paths are gravel and grass, and some parts are slippery and steep. When you reach the Wainwright Summit and the trig point, you’re treated to some of the Lakes’ best views.

The broad plateau at the top is the perfect place to stop and admire sights that include the two Mell Fells, Blencathra and the Northern Fells, as well as northern parts of the Helvellyn range.

Where to Dine?

The trail is near Ambleside, Penrith and Ullswater, so you can rest assured that there are plenty of pubs and restaurants waiting for you. After exploring the area, nothing beats a hearty meal or a cosy evening by the fire while enjoying great food. From the Priest Hole and Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside to Mrs Millers in Penrith and the 1863 restaurant in Pooley Bridge, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

You can’t miss out on what the Lake District has to offer, from fantastic walking trails to delicious cuisine and fantastic accommodation. Send an enquiry to Millhouse Cottages to learn more about our properties or browse our range of self-catering holiday cottages at your disposal.

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