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Waterfalls, meadows, and a short hike up a classic Lake District fell – this walk has it all 

Photo: hardyuno_iStock

Aira Force and Gowbarrow Trail – Why Go?

Aira Force is home to one of the most famous Lake District waterfalls. People come to marvel at its beauty and power and to enjoy exploring the stunning National Trust woodland surrounding it. 

This circular walk around Aira Force and Gowbarrow fell will take you winding through these woods, showing off the impressive scale of the Aira Beck waterfall as it drops 65 feet past lush green ferns and ancient rocks. After climbing Gowbarrow Fell, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views of Ullswater. This is the second-largest lake in the Lake District, stretching to almost 9 miles in length, and a walk along its shores is sure to make any bucket list of Lake District walks

Red squirrels have made this lovely part of the Lake District their home. As they scamper around the branches of the towering evergreen conifers around Aira Force, your little ones will find joy in splashing through streams and exploring this magical natural world. 

Aira Force and Gowbarrow Trail – What to Expect

Paths around Aira Force are well-maintained, but this trail to the top of Gowbarrow doesn’t spend much time here. Once you’ve passed through to the Glade, the footpaths become narrow with some steep drops and flights of stairs to manoeuvre. The path that climbs to the summit of Gowbarrow fell is more clear, but it can be muddy or obscured by bracken at certain times of the year, so wear a pair of walking boots

Aira Force and Gowbarrow Trail – The Route, Part 1

7.2 km / 1.5 - 3 hours

Starting at Aira Force National Trust car park, take the waterfall path from the top end of the car park through the picnic area. Continue on the path until you reach a gate in the wall leading out into a grassy area called the Glade. 

Continue to the arboretum, where you’ll take the left path, following it until you reach a little wooden gate on your left. Pause here if you wish and enjoy fabulous views over Ullswater to the left – this is just a taste of what’s to come! 

Do not go through this gate. Instead, follow the path to the right as it heads down a steep flight of steps, ending at the viewing platform at the bottom of Aira Beck waterfall. After you’ve marvelled at the sheer force of the falls, continue over the bridge and up the steep steps on the left. 

Bear left at the top to reach the bridge looking down on the waterfall, before rejoining the main path heading upstream. Stay to the right of the river, following the path until it takes you through a gap in the wall and through a gate to open farmland. 

Before you reach the next gate in the wall, turn right and follow the permissive path to the fell gate. 

Aira Force and Gowbarrow Trail – The Route, Part 2

Now, keep the wall on your left-hand side and continue up Gowbarrow Fell. The path here will be obvious as it is stone-pitched and maintained well, providing ample opportunity to enjoy the scenery around you instead of watching your feet. 

The path will flatten a little and bear away from the wall, at which point you should continue to follow it as it leads you to the Gowbarrow trig point. The views from the top of this fell are simply spectacular; to the south will be Place Fell and Red Screes, and the Pennines sit to the north-east. 

When you’re ready to move on from the summit, continue along the same path, keeping the wall on your left. Continue down the fell as the trail bears right. At the ruin of an old hunting lodge, keep right and carry on up and around the eastern side of Gowbarrow. 

Take the good path to the brow of the hill and follow it down to an obvious cairn. Climb the stile here to reach a spectacular viewpoint, marked on Ordnance Survey maps as Memorial Seat. From here, you’ll be able to see Ullswater clearly, sparkling gently in the sunlight. 

Go back over the stile and bear left, taking the footpath heading down to the woodland. Just before you reach it, take the left fork, following the path through a gate. Rejoin the main footpath as it bears left, taking you back to the Glade and main Aira Force car park. 

Want more? Take a look at our full rundown of the best walks in the Lake District for even more great routes. 

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