The Ullswater Valley has many opportunities for walkers and water lovers to explore and discover this valley. Why not combine walking and canoeing to make a memorable day out?
For this journey you need to consider the weather as it can make your canoeing leg more pleasant if you take advantage of the wind heading in the direction you want to go. As winds often come from the south, the description is written with this in mind. Start your trip in the village of Glenridding. This village at the head of Ullswater was once a busy mining village. Greenside minehigh above the village was once the largest lead mine in Europe.
Park down at the lakeshore by the pier house owned by Ullswater Steamers. This is a pay and display car park. Here is also the public launch for boats and access on to the lake is easy.
This was the launching point for Donald Campbell and his early speed record attempts. He broke the record on Ullswater in July 1955 by travelling at 202mph. Ullswater was used by Campbell as well as water skiers and sailors for many years. However, there is now a speed limit on the lake and so you can enjoy a more relaxed and quieter time on the water.
Launch your canoes here and head out to the island of Cherry Holm in front of you. As you head out keep an eye on the steamers coming and going to the pier. Lady of the Lake is probably the oldest working passenger ferry in the world and was built in Glasgow in 1877 and then transported in three sections by rail and horse and cart before being put together to sail on the lake. From the islands head across to the rocky headland to your left on the eastern shore.
These rocks can provide the adventure seeker the chance to jump off them in to the lake. However, save this for a warm day or when you are wearing a wet suit. Follow the shoreline along heading north. The next bay you come to is worth a stop and stretch of the legs. This is Purse Bay and is not accessible on foot.
Continue down the lake keeping your eyes open for the next large crag on the lake shore. There is a steep smooth wall guiding you in to a slot with a small overhang at its base. This is refered to as the Devil’s Chimney. It is suggested it got its name because when the air is cold steam rises off the water and works its way up a fault line through the rocks. The steam comes out of the ground and so people thought it was coming from Hell itself.
The next bay has two islands called Lingy Holm. For a challenge see if you can paddle the narrow passage between them. This is only possible when the water level is high enough.
In the middle of the lake to your left is Norfolk Island, named after the Duke of Norfolk who was a great landowner here. It is a grand island with views up and down the lake as well as the fells. You could paddle to the island but better still keep following the shore line round the headland of Silver Point in to the large sweeping shingle bay. The tale as to why it is called Silver Point is not clear. One story is that monks were held up here and so threw their silver off the point rather than give it up.
The next section is a long paddle down the lake. Enjoy views across the lake to the hanging valley of Glencoyne with its old farm house. The valley also hides a set of miners cottages called Seldom Seen. These were used by the Greenside miners who worked in the mine high on the hillside in front of you.
To the right of Glencoyne is the shoreline which was where William Wordsworth came across his shining host of daffodils. The hillside above the shore line was part of the deer park that belonged to William Rufus, successor to William the Conqueror. As you paddle along the wooded eastern shore the peak of Place Fell rises above you.
Through the woods the lake shore path makes it way towards Sandwick, the next logical place to stop for a break and stretch the legs. Enjoy views of the steamers as they make their way up and down the lake as well as saying hello to other lake users. If the wind is in your favour then it is great to put up a sail and let the wind take you down this section of lake.
At Sandwick, pronounced “sanick” there is a small village at the end of a dead end road. This was originally a Norse settlement, the name meaning creek in the sand. The present houses were built in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Paddle along past the woodland of Hallin Hagg. In olden times, people who were outcast often went to live in such woods. Living in such a place you soon looked old, dirty and unkempt. Thus people were given the nickname of a “hagg”, or looking “haggered”.
You will paddle under a cliff at Kailpot with a plaque on it. This plaque is dedicated to Lord Birkett (known as the “Lakes Great Advocate”) and commemorates his contribution towards ensuring Ullswater did not become a reservoir with a dam. Today however, water is taken from the lake and pumped underground to Haweswater reservoir to help maintain its levels when needed. People also believed fairies used to play at night at Kailpot Crag, they would throw money into the lake from the crag which mysteriously disappeared! The last appearance of fairies in Cumbria was in 1850. Jack Wilson saw them pack up and leave for good one moonlit night, at Martindale, above the shores of Ullswater! Today it is often used as a challenge to climb along the crag just above the water line and to swim under the memorial plaque.
Your canoeing trip is almost over now. You head round the corner in to Howtown Bay. Look out for the steamer pier and head for this. Land your boat behind the pier on one of the beaches. You will need to lock your boat and kit up here or have someone take them away for you.
Howtown is a good place to eat a picnic and watch the boats come and go. Alternatively you could head for the public bar at the hotel for sandwiches and drinks. This hotel also offers accommodation and food so could make an alternative starting point for the trip if you stay here.
Your walk starts from here. Head back up the lake (south) from the steamer pier. Follow the signs for the lake shore path. You pass through a couple of gates before heading up a short hill and through the stone wall on to the path under Hallin Fell.
Turn right here and follow the path round back to Kailpot and Hallin Hagg. Opposite, through the trees, you will see the grand house of Hallsteads which was built by the Marshall Family. The family made its money from flax spinning in Leeds. The Wordsworths would often stop for tea here. Today it is the Ullswater Outward Bound Centre.
The path carries on to the village of Sandwick and then turns right off the road above the last house. It follows a good track above the wall with views down on to the lake where you were paddling earlier.
You will come to a valley rising to your left with a small waterfall running over the rocks. Here you leave the main track for the start of the walk over Place Fell. You could carry on along the lake path, which rises and falls on its way to Silver Point and on to Side Farm where your walk will take you later.
Head up the faint track above the stream, this stream had its course re-directed by the Marshall family to create the waterfall so it could be seen from their drawing room on the other side of the lake – something the National Park would not allow today! The path turns grassy and broader as you are now following an old pack horse route which was used to transport the slate from the old quarry you will pass. All that remains of the quarry is the spoil heaps and a ruined building.
On the coll you will come to an old sheep fold, used by the local farmers to round up and check their sheep. Traditionally these sheep would have been the Herdwick Sheep – a breed suited to the Lakeland fells with its stocky legs, warm coat and ability to climb.
Turn right at the sheep fold and start the climb up to the plateau which will take you to the summit. Pass boggy pools and cotton grass on the way. Look ahead and you will see the triangulation pillar marking the highest point.
From this summit you will be rewarded with fantastic 360 degree views. To the north are views down to Ullswater and out towards Penrith. To the east are the High Street fells and the North Pennines. To the South are the peaks of Red Screes and the famous Kirkstone Pass. To the west are the peaks of the Dodds and Helvellyn. The uphill climb is done and you now descend down to Boredale Hause. This was a packhorse route often used by the people of Glenridding to travel up the valley to Penrith. On the hause you will pass the ruins of old buildings. One of these was a chapel used by people from Martindale and Patterdale at one time. It’s hard to imagine people coming up here to attend prayers.
Now descend back down into the Ullswater valley. Take the track to the right which heads back towards Glenridding. There is a handy green metal bench near the bottom to rest your knees after all the down hill. Enjoy views across to St Sunday Crag and rest awhile.
Head down and go through the gate. Turn right and follow the track to Side Farm. Side Farm offers lake shore camping and access to the lake and so may be another option for the start and finish of your trip. It also has a good cafe and so tea, cake or ice cream may be needed to give you strength for the final walk back to Glenridding.
If you want to do this trip but do not have an urge to canoe down the lake then you could use the steamer to get to Howtown.
If you want to canoe, but do not have one or the skills then Eden Outdoor Adventures can provide a guide. They can provide a guide for just the canoeing section of the trip or for the whole journey. This can take the hassle out of organising boats and what to do with boats and kit after canoeing.
This is a fantastic trip and well worth the effort. So head to this beautiful lake for your very own Ullswater Journey!