The sheer beauty and grandeur of Ullswater is such that it inspired one of Britain’s best-known poems. It was on one of Wordsworth’s many walks around Ullswater that he coined ‘Daffodils’ and the immortal line “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” But there is more to hikes around Ullswater than flowers and metaphors.
England’s second largest lake provides hikers with a plethora of excellent trails, majestic waterfalls and dramatic hills to explore. From its pristine shores, you can climb Helvellyn, arguably the nation’s favourite mountain and its third highest to boot at 3,117 ft (950m). Or there are the smaller hills that directly surround Ullswater – firm family favourites that provide less challenging ascents but reward with gorgeous lake views.
For those wanting to explore the lakeside, there are scenic trails to traverse between the quaint villages that dot its shoreline. You can even link this with a journey aboard the Ullswater Steamer boat, a great way to access the lake’s more remote parts and make your own discoveries.
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For those entering the Lake District from the north, Ullswater can feel like a gateway to a magical kingdom. The small, rolling hills of its northern end provide a taste of things to come. Then, as you head south, the mountains of the Eastern Fells make themselves known. Distant ridgelines, often snow-covered in winter, tower over the picturesque lake below. Regardless of the time of year, the area is well-loved for its beautiful scenery.
Many hikes in the Ullswater region begin in either Glenridding or Patterdale on the southern tip of the lake. Both are excellent bases for accommodation and have a range of gear shops, cafes and pubs for post-hike refreshments.
Amongst the best Ullswater hiking trails are those that begin here and follow the shoreline, exploring the very ground that inspired Wordsworth. Another enticing option is taking the steamer boat to the remote village Howtown and exploring the lesser-trodden routes on offer there. On the far northern tip is Pooley Bridge, a charming village boasting pleasant Ullswater walks on less rugged terrain.
Glenridding and Patterdale also offer spectacular days out amongst the higher fells. The Helvellyn and Fairfield ranges tower above the region, offering monumental vistas of the rest of the Lake District. The approach via their craggy east-facing aspects – carved out by the monumental forces of ancient glaciers – provides some of the most stunning scenery in England. For the adventurous, you can tackle Helvellyn’s edges – sublime, narrow ridge walks that rank amongst the best hikes in the Lake District. They are classic adventures but should only be attempted in favourable weather.
There’s more to this region than the higher fells. Ullswater is surrounded by superb hills, cascading waterfalls and hidden treasures. Long, undulating, grassy ridgelines lead to high majestic tarns, perfect for a dip on a summer’s day. The elevation gained provides sumptuous views back across Ullswater to the Helvellyn family, which scowl back across the void. Chances are, the only company you will have as you happily stride from summit to summit, are the herdwick sheep that are just as synonymous with the Lakes as the mountains themselves.
Explore more of Cumbria: Browse the best Hikes in other regions.