Ambleside Champion Tree Trail

Ambleside, Cumbria

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Search for the tallest tree in Cumbria at Skelghyll woods © National Trust

Search for the tallest tree in Cumbria at Skelghyll woods

Red squirrels love to feast on the conifer cones in Skelghyll woods © National Trust

Red squirrels love to feast on the conifer cones in Skelghyll woods

The woods are carpeted with wildflowers in springtime © National Trust

The woods are carpeted with wildflowers in springtime

This looks like a nice spot for a woodland feast © National Trust

This looks like a nice spot for a woodland feast

Route overview

The Champion Tree Trail is a 45-minute circular route through Skelghyll Woods. Just follow the tree symbols along the way and discover some of the tallest trees in England. Have a picnic with you? Bring it along, we've got picnic benches in all the best spots.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

An OS map of the Ambleside Champion Tree Trail route
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Stagshaw Garden Car Park, off the A591, grid ref: NY38100290

  1. When standing in the car park for Stagshaw Gardens look up hill and you will see a metal sign saying ‘Skelghyll Woods’. At this sign take the right hand footpath into the woods.

    Show/HideChampion trees

    As the name implies, this walk will lead you through some of the tallest trees in Cumbria and England. It’s almost like walking through a grove in British Columbia!

    Search for the tallest tree in Cumbria at Skelghyll woods © National Trust
  2. Follow the route as it passes the first of three picnic benches, and joins a historic track which is wide and gentle as it passes through conifers that were planted by Victorian plant hunters.

    Show/HideRed squirrel harvest

    The huge variety of conifer trees means there are thousands of cones on the woodland floor in all shapes and sizes. Conifer cones just happen to be a favourite snack for red squirrels so keep your eyes peeled for our furry little friends as you go. See how many different shapes and colours of cones you can find.

    Red squirrels love to feast on the conifer cones in Skelghyll woods © National Trust
  3. Shortly after passing through a gap cut into a fallen tree you should turn left to begin a steep climb through the ‘gallery of giants'.

    Show/HideSpring wildflowers

    The trees will keep you mesmerised at any time of year, but visit in spring and you’ll be rewarded with carpets of wildflowers, such as bluebells and wood sorrel.

    The woods are carpeted with wildflowers in springtime © National Trust
  4. If you don’t have the energy to walk up this steep hill there is a picnic bench here where you can admire champion trees with ease. Otherwise continue up hill, looking at the trees as you go.

    Show/HideTake time to relax

    There are three picnic benches along the route. They are already becoming a favourite place to sit and relax, especially for the rangers!

    This looks like a nice spot for a woodland feast © National Trust
  5. After a short yomp you will be in amongst the tallest Wellingtonia and Douglas Fir trees in Cumbria and the tallest Grand Fir in England. Their heights are written on plaques attached to the trees.

  6. Half way up the hill turn right to follow a narrow path onto a wide rocky outcrop. If you turn around and look, you can see the tallest tree in its entirety, a rare and awe-inspiring sight!

  7. From here stay on the outcrop but meander up hill to re-join the path as it gently curves up and left passing another picnic bench, sited on a flat piece of ground called a ‘charcoal hearth’ that coppice craftsmen will have used when making charcoal.

  8. Pass through another gap in a fallen tree and follow the gentle curve up and right weaving between trees in a conifer grove, each with unique colours and patterns on their bark.

  9. On joining a level path, turn left and follow this until you reach a junction with a larger path weaving down through the wood. Follow this wide track down hill, keeping left as you go, past a beautiful bubbling beck.

  10. After what should feel like no time at all you will find yourself back in the car park where you started, and hopefully with enough time to explore Stagshaw Gardens.

End: Stagshaw Garden Car Park, off the A591, grid ref: NY38100290

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 1 kilometre
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • OS Map: Explorer OL7
  • Terrain:

    The trail follows some original paths and tracks that were first used by coppice craftsmen to move cut timber around the wood and then by the Victorians as they planted exotic conifer trees. These are generally wide and undulating but have narrow and bumpy parts leading up and down hill. The trail has one short and steep climb which is lined with very tall trees, worthy of a stop to admire them whilst catching a breath.

  • How to get here:

    By car: From the A591 at Waterhead, turn down a narrow driveway signposted for Stagshaw Gardens.

    On foot: From the ferry or car park at Waterhead, follow the pavement back towards Windermere past the traffic lights for about 300yards. Opposite a converted petrol station there is a footpath which takes you to the driveway which leads up to Stagshaw Garden car park.

    * This trail links nicely with the 'Explore from Waterhead' downloadable trail which takes you to Stagshaw Gardens and around Skelghyll Woods.

  • Facilities:

    The nearest facilities are at Waterhead P&D car park which is Lake District National Park managed.

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