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Exploring Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park

Two boys running up steps at Aira Force in the Lake District
Let the kids run free this summer at Aira Force | © National Trust Images / Paul Harris

Discover a place full of adventure and make special memories at Aira Force. From splashing through streams and walking through towering trees in the woods to spotting a red squirrel, Aira Force has got the lot. Here are some of the most popular things to see and do.

Avoid the crowds

Our busiest times at Aira Force are between 11am and 3pm. Our car parks can fill up fast at these times and spaces can be limited. For the best chance of finding a parking space, we recommend arriving outside of our peak times.

Arrive by boat to Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park

You can start your day in Glenridding and arrive by boat, taking in the sights of Ullswater valley along the way, then stroll back to Glenridding through Glencoyne Park and along the lakeshore. Please book with Ullswater Steamers directly on their website.

Finding your way around

There are a several walks, of varying length, available at Aira Force. The waterfall trails range from 0.5 miles to 2 miles. There is a large map on display by the welcome building that we recommend taking a photo of, or why not print off and bring your own? A map of Aira Force is available here. Or, speak to the team at the welcome building who will be happy to help with walking routes.

There are four National Trust car parks giving you options for your Ullswater adventure;

  • Aira Force car park is best for access to the waterfalls and facilities. During busy times (bank holidays, school holidays and sunny weekends) the car park usually fills up by 11am, so arriving early is recommended.
  • Glencoyne Bay offers access to lakeside picnics, watersports and a longer trail to visit the Aira Force waterfalls.
  • High Cascades is best for accessing the high fells or enjoying the 1.5 mile round trip to the waterfalls at Aira Force.
  • Park Brow is good for accessing the high fells, with a shorter 0.5 mile round trip to Aira Force.

Walks in Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park

From relaxing strolls to fell-top expeditions, when it comes to walking you're spoilt for choice in Ullswater. A network of way marked trails weaves its way from Ullswater lakeshore to Gowbarrow summit, passing through towering Himalayan firs, rare red squirrels, woodland glades, picnic spots and views out across Ullswater.

You can plan ahead by downloading a walking trail from our website.

Space to play

The little natural play area just beyond the car park, next to the picnic field, is a great place for kids to make their own fun while you enjoy a relaxing bite to eat. They can test their balance on fallen trees, leap from log to log and have a go at climbing. 

Visit the La’al Adventure Box to borrow a lawn game, a nature trail or even some wellies to ensure you have a great adventure. Available in the main Aira Force car park in school holidays from February to October.

Picnics

There are some fantastic picnic spots at Aira Force. Roll out the rug by the lake, on the Glade or find a spot at one of our picnic benches. Pick up some hot or cold treats and drinks from the tea-room kiosk for a feast in a flash.  You can bring your own reusable cup or use one of ours for takeaway drinks, we have special recycling bins at the tea-room to return our cups.

Children playing in the stream at Aira Force in the Lake District
Aira Force is a great place for a splash and a paddle | © National Trust Images / James Beck

Water sports

Canoe and kayak lock-up points

For those visitors that wish to arrive at Aira Force in their own boat there are lock-up points available. On the side of the boardwalk at Aira Green (where the Ullswater Steamers pier is) you will find some anchor points for securing your canoe or kayak to when you arrive at Aira Force. You will need to bring your own lock, but then you can head out to explore Aira Force and Gowbarrow park leaving your vessel safely behind.

Kayaking and canoeing from Glencoyne Bay

Park at Glencoyne car park and launch your vessel just across the road at Glencoyne Bay. The pebbled beach and relatively shallow lake edge makes it an ideal place to set off on an adventure. 

Paddle boarding 

If you’re looking for a peaceful and picturesque sport to do, below an impressive Lake District sunset, paddle boarding on Ullswater is the way to end an active day.

Venture further

Explore the wider countryside in Ullswater to avoid the busy spots.

Take a stroll around Glenamara Park where you’ll get great views of the lake and surrounding fells as well as discovering some of the Lake District's most striking veteran trees, including stately oaks and alder. You can download the Glenamara Park Trail route.

Visitor enjoying the red squirrel trail and landscape around Aira Force, Ullswater, Cumbria.
Visitor enjoying the red squirrel trail and landscape around Aira Force | © National Trust Images/Stewart Smith

Wildlife at Aira Force

Spot a rare red squirrel

The numbers of these shy and elusive creatures have dropped over the years and Aira Force is one of the few remaining places in England where native red squirrels still thrive. Aira Force has joined forces with Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group to help make the area their ideal home, placing feeders beside the footpaths to the falls and carefully managing the woodland. 

Stay alert and see if you can spot a red squirrel on your walk. The best time is early in the day or late afternoon when there are fewer people around.

Look out for champion trees

Take your time to explore the woodland glades, following the trail around the Aira Force waterfall and enjoying the fascinating collection of trees as you go. We have lots of activity sheets for kids (young and old) available, speak to a member of the team during your visit to see what we have.

Mushroom spotting at Aira Force

Mushrooms thrive in damp conditions, and with the woodlands at Aira Force being next to a waterfall and a stream, the woodlands are the perfect place to spot them. Please don’t touch or eat the mushrooms. If you do touch them, make sure you wash your hands.  

Small Amethyst deceiver fungi among dead leaves at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
Amethyst Deceiver Fungi | © National Trust Images/Susan Guy

Amethyst deceiver

The amethyst deceiver is a small brightly coloured mushroom that grows in both deciduous and coniferous forests. The cap is 1–6cm in diameter and is a deep purplish lilac colour when moist and fades as the mushroom dries out. The stem is the same colour as the cap and is fibrous, hollow and fairly tough. It appears in later summer to early winter and has been coined ‘the deceiver’ as its bright amethyst colouration fades with age and weathering, often making it difficult to identify.

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Three walkers with a dog walking on a path at Aira Force and Ullswater, Lake District

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