12. Around Ullswater - Lake District Photoguide Plus

Around Ullswater

On the north shore of the middle reach of Ullswater is Gowbarrow Park, most famous now for Aira Force, one of Lakeland’s most beautiful waterfalls. The park was enclosed as a deer park in the Middle Ages, and was then landscaped in the late 18th Century; this included the building of a hunting lodge and the stone bridges around the waterfalls. Rising above Aira Force is Gowbarrow Fell; there is an excellent path across the side of this rugged hill which gives some of the best views across the lake.

Gowbarrow Park also has a memorable place in literature as it was along the lake-shore here in April 1802 that William Wordsworth saw the dancing daffodils that feature in his most famous poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.

Rising steeply above Glenridding is Helvellyn, England’s third highest mountain (height 951m), and one of its most famous. There is a choice of routes to the summit of Helvellyn, the shortest are from the Thirlmere side, but all routes are steep and rough in places. For walkers with steady nerves, the routes from Glenridding on the east side of Helvellyn are the most exhilarating; the route leading along the narrow ridge of Striding Edge is one of the most challenging in England. Although longer, the routes from the east tend to reveal the best of the mountain’s dramatic scenery, such as Red Tarn, the mountain lake which lies in a craggy hollow, 220m below the summit. The tarn is worth visiting in its own right, and there is a good route up from Glenridding of about 3 miles each way.

Stately homes are almost completely absent from the centre of the Lake District, but there is a cluster of them here on its north-eastern fringe. This includes Greystoke Castle, Hutton-in-the-Forest and Dalemain which is famous for its Marmalade Festival. But perhaps the most striking of them is Lowther Castle. Today this huge, sprawling building has a distinctly fairy-tale quality, mainly because it is now essentially a ruin. The castle was built at the start of the 19th Century by William Lowther, the Earl of Lonsdale, who was then one of the richest men in England. However, in the early 20th Century the family’s fortunes waned, and in the Second World War the castle was requisitioned by the army. When the castle was returned to the family in the 1950s it was felt to be too expensive to maintain, so the roof and much of the internal structure was removed, leaving little more than a shell. Today the façade and mock battlements are still well preserved, but with its empty windows there is an eerie, ghostly feel about the building.

South-east of Ullswater is Haweswater; this is one of the wilder lakes in the National Park, but like Thirlmere, Haweswater is actually a reservoir supplying water to Manchester. Originally there was a peaceful, little village here, Mardale Green, as well as a lake about 2½ miles long. Although there was opposition to the project, work started in 1929, to build a dam 90 feet high. The work took 6 years, raising the water level by 95 feet, and more than doubling the size of the original lake. During times of drought when the water level falls, the remains of the village are exposed, attracting hundreds of people to see the ruins.

The north-eastern fringe of the Lake District near Haweswater was also once rich in ancient monuments, although tantalisingly little now remains. In the area around Shap there are the remains of several stone circles and a stone row, including the wonderfully named Goggleby Stone. One mile west of Shap, and tucked into a little valley is Shap Abbey. This was founded in the late 12th Century by the Premonstratensian order of monks, with the tower dating to the 15th Century.