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Family-friendly things to do at 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

Go an outdoor adventure at Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park this summer. Exploring woodland pathways, watching the waterfalls, spotting red squirrels or having a picnic there’s plenty of space for wild play. Find out what's on offer and all the details you need to plan your visit.

Planning your family visit

  • Toilets, baby changing and accessible toilet in the Aira Force main car park.
  • Small welcome building (usually staffed) in main car park.
  • Picnics welcome. There are benches and plenty of grassy areas to pop a picnic blanket down. There are also a number of accessible benches.
  • Tea-room (approx.100m from the main car park and 200m from the welcome building) serves hot drinks, snacks and ice cream, with seating indoors and outside.
  • Highchairs available in the tea-room.
  • Kids 'pick and mix' lunch box.
  • Waterfall can't be reached with a pushchair.
  • Download a map of Aira Force.
  • The access statement gives more detail about the site.
  • Ullswater 'Steamers' cruises call at Aira Force pier in Aira Green (across the A592 road).
  • Four National Trust car parks in Ullswater; Aira Force car park is the closest to the tea-room and toilets. Cash or parking app to pay. National Trust members scan card at ticket machine.
  • Stagecoach bus service 508 from Penrith takes about 30mins, get off at the Aira Force bus stop.

How long does it take to walk to Aira Force waterfall?

We suggest allowing roughly an hour to complete the circular Waterfall Trail. The paths can be a bit steep in places, with uneven sections and rugged steps. The stone bridge and metal walkways around the edge of the gorge offer thrilling views of the Aira Beck dashing through the rocks below. All times are approximate, with smaller legs, stops for playing, looking at interesting things or snack breaks, routes may take longer.

There are different trails to choose from, take a look at the trail map or speak to member of our team when you arrive.

  • Arboretum Trail 0.5 miles (900m) | 15mins | Height Gain: 25m
  • Waterfall Trail 0.9 miles (1.5km) | 45mins | Height Gain: 70m
  • High Force Trail 1.4 miles (2.3km) | 1hr 15mins | Height Gain: 100m
  • High Cascades 1.8m (2.9km) | 1 hr 45mins | Height Gain: 130m
  • Gowbarrow Fell 4.5 miles (7.2km) | 2.5-3.5 hrs | Height Gain: 320

Pushchair friendly walks

A short wander to the Glade and Arboretum along a gravel path is pushchair friendly (approx. 15mins), as is the path to Aira Green, a grassy field across the road leading to Ullswater lakeshore and the jetty for Ullswater ‘Steamers’. Aira Force to Glencoyne Bay footpath goes through pasture in Glencoyne Park and is mostly rough gravel, accessible for some pushchairs.

Spot a red squirrel

The woodland around Aira Force is home to native red squirrels. They tend to be active early in the day and can be quite shy. Keep an eye out for movement on the ground if they are foraging for food or up high in the trees as they scamper along branches.

Nature's playground

From splashing in streams and muddy puddles to clambering on rocks or tree trunks there’s plenty of wild play to enjoy. Try balancing and hopping between logs in the little natural play area just beyond the car park and near to the tea-room.

Stop off at the La’al Adventure Box to borrow a lawn game or even some wellies for your little ones (available during school holidays February-October). Pick up a nature trail sheet at the Welcome Building.

Bring a picnic

Enjoy eating your food outdoors on the benches or bring a blanket to spread on a grassy area with views over Ullswater. If you fancy a hot drink or extra cake pop into the tea-room.

Two children hiding at the base of a tree at Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park in the Lake District
There's no place better than the woods for a game of hide and seek. | © National Trust Images / James Beck

Play in the woodland

Imaginations can run wild in the woods, find nooks in trees to hide in, collect fallen leaves or interesting shaped sticks. The gorge is lined with different trees including tall Himalayan Firs. Enjoy navigating the rough stepped pathways. Enjoy the sounds of the birds and water in the beck.

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‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’

Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park are great places to start ticking of some of your '50 things' list. Here's a few ideas to get you started: 

  • No. 5 Skim a stone: Have you ever stood at the water’s edge and watched a stone skip across the surface? It’s a tricky skill to master, but if you’ve got a steady arm and a keen eye, you’ll soon learn how to do it.
  • No. 6 Go welly wandering: When it's pouring with rain, what could be better than chucking on your wellies and waterproofs and zooming around in the puddles, soaking up all the watery fun?
  • No. 12 Have fun with sticks: There are so many ways that you can have fun with sticks, we can’t begin to list them all here.
  • No. 18 Create some wild art: When it comes to creating wild art, the only limit is your imagination. What will you use, and how? There's so much to choose from in the natural world - but make sure you're not making your art from another creature's home.

Summer holidays

With access to the lake at Aira Green and Glencoyne Bay, shady woodland paths to escape the heat and many walking routes Aira Force is a popular place in the summer months. If visiting with family it's best to arrive early or later in the day as car parks usually fill up by 11am with cars starting to leave from 3pm onwards. Arriving by boat at Aira Force jetty using the heritage Ullswater 'Steamers' service or using the regular bus service can make the journey part of the adventure.

Ullswater lake is generally calm and still at this time of year, making it the best time to launch a canoe, a kayak or go paddle boarding. The best place to park and launch your vessel is from Glencoyne Bay car park as the main car park can get very busy. Make sure you have the right equipment and read these handy water safety tips before setting off.

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

Discover more at Aira Force and Ullswater

Find out how to get to Aira Force and Ullswater, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

Visitors with a dog at Aira Force and Ullswater, Cumbria

Visiting Aira Force with your dog 

Aira Force is a three pawprint rated place, and well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome here. There are water bowls around the car park and tea-room area. Please read the Canine Code to make sure everyone has an enjoyable day.

Visitors in the tearoom at Aira Force, Ullswater, Cumbria

Eating at Aira Force 

Pay a visit to the Aira Force tea-room for hot and cold drinks, home bakes, sandwiches, pasties and ice creams. You can eat in, take away or even bring a picnic.

View from Gowbarrow summit overlooking Ullswater in summer in the evening sunshine

Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park trail 

Explore Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park on a circular walk passing through woodland and open glades all accompanied with the roaring sounds from the waterfall in the gorge. Enjoy expansive views over Ullswater from the summit of Gowbarrow.

DistanceMiles: 4.5 (km: 7.2)