Gowbarrow Fell via Aira Force

A short and interesting walk to the top of Gowbarrow Fell via Aira Force. This is an out and return walk but uses paths on either side of Aira Beck to maintain interest and give different views of the waterfalls and cascades. It is useful for a short weather window if you want to stretch your legs and you get a couple of hours of dry weather between the rain. (A longer walk around the fell is also available here.)

Technical sheet
No. 29578611
A Matterdale walk posted on 30/12/22 by Alwayswiththehills. Update : 05/01/23
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h30[?]
Distance Distance : 5.58 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 304 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 305 m
Highest point Highest point : 470 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 165 m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Lake District
Location Location : Matterdale
Starting point Starting point : N 54.572075° / W 2.928679°
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Download : PDF / Print - GPX track

Description

Start : National Trust car park for Aira Force, along A592 Lake District. Grid ref. NY 400 200.

(D/A) From the parking walk North past the kiosk and through a gate into parkland with Aira Beck over on the right. The path leads to a junction. (Going right will lead over a bridge and the path will ascend opposite side of the beck, going straight ahead will lead you through pines, maintaining this side of the beck. See Useful Information Below for current details in December 2022)

(1) Take the path straight ahead through the pine trees and ascend some random stone steps, good views of the falls to a gate on the left into a field and just after that a metal gate (currently locked) which leads to the steps down to the viewing platform and lower bridge. There are good views of the main fall from here.

(2) Continue along the path to the higher stone bridge which is directly above the top of the main waterfall. Good views looing down on either side.

(3) Cross the higher stone bridge to the opposite side, turn left and follow the path (North) with Aira Beck on your left. Ignore any finger posts pointing you to paths on the right, there is a higher path you ca take but the lower path gives the best views of the cascades. You will arrive at some random stone steps leading down to a wooden bridge.

(4) It worth walking down for the view but you will be crossing this bridge on you return leg so you can save the view for later. Continue along the path with Aira Beck on your left, pass through a gap in a stone wall and walk across a field to a wooden gate in the stone wall.

(5) Just before the gate slant up rightwards to join a path that ascends (North-East) to a further gate, pass through and ascend with a stone wall and wood on the left. The path is under repair and construction, the lower section is in good condition but as you get higher (after leaving wood on the left behind you) it deteriorates in sections and at the time of writing there were a couple of deviations where path repairs were taking place. Near the summit the path veers to the right, away from the wall and leads to the top.

(6) Enjoy a rest and the good views of Ullswater from Gowbarrow Fell summit. When you are ready follow your footsteps back to the waypoint (4)

(4) Descend the random stone steps back to the wooden bridge, on the right the beck is split and the left hand side rushed through a narrow gorge to join again below the bridge. Cross the bridge and turn left to follow the path downhill with Aira Beck now on your left. Descend back to the waypoint (3)

(3) Cross the upper stone bridge again, then turn right and follow the path down to a metal walkway and then down to the point where a path on the right leads to the lower stone bridge. (You can walk up to it but not access the bridge) Continue following the path downhill, passing a pine with a horizonal branch that has curved upwards to form a second stem, shortly after this you will arrive at the bridge over the beck. Cross this to get back to waypoint (1)

(1) Now return to the kiosk and parking area. (D/A)

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 166 m - Parking
1 : km 0.25 - alt. 174 m - Split in path
2 : km 0.59 - alt. 209 m - Gate: Top of steps
3 : km 0.67 - alt. 203 m - Upper Stone Bridge
4 : km 1.08 - alt. 236 m - Wooden Bridge
5 : km 1.79 - alt. 280 m - Junction in path
6 : km 2.77 - alt. 469 m - Gowbarrow Summit
D/A : km 5.58 - alt. 165 m - Parking

Useful Information

Start : National Trust car park for Aira Force, along A592 Lake District. Grid ref. NY 400 200.

Parking: Park at the National Trust car park for Aira Force. (£6 for 2 hours in December 2022, this is sufficient time for this walk. The parking fees in the National Trust car park may seem costly (free to National trust members) but the money is put to good use and maintaining the footpaths and ensuring the banks of the beck and safe takes money and the support of professionals and volunteers.)

Note : At December 2022 / January 2023 the lower stone bridge and viewing platform is closed following the fall of a tree in this area. The tree has been cleared but the National Trust are assessing the potential for further treefalls and the bridge and viewing area will remain closed for the foreseeable future. If you do this walk and the paths are re-opened please post a note to let other walkers know.

I would usually recommend crossing the beck at waypoint (1) and ascending the far path to the lower stone bridge, crossing this to the viewing platform and then ascending the steps to waypoint (2) and continuing to re-cross the beck at the higher stone bridge at waypoint (3), Obviously this is not currently possible so it is better to walk as described above.

Refreshment: There is a Kiosk at the car park and in high season you can buy drinks / refreshments.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

Aira force can be very dramatic and the upper cascades are worth the visit too as many people just walk up to the first, main waterfall.

It is best saved for a period when there has been a lot of rain, but at this time you may be faced with narrow weather windows, which is why this walk is short.

When walking it recently at the end of December 2022 we made use of a short weather window between squalls of rain and hail when the wind was gusting at 70mph over the fell tops. Even so we encountered horizontal sleet and hail as we reached the top. Fortunately we were dressed appropriately; always prepare for the weather, even a low lying and seemingly benign hill like Gowbarrow can present you with challenges.

Alternatively, do this on a peaceful summer's day, enjoy a picnic in the parkland beside a more gently flowing beck. It is a place for all seasons

Other walks in the area

Walker
distance 6.64 km Vertical gain +353 m Vertical drop -348 m Durée 2h55 Moderate Moderate
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This is a lovely circular walk with continued interest and some great views over Ullswater. You will take in the dramatic Aira Force and upper cascades, then climb to the summit of Gowbarrow Fell where there are great views.
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distance 5.62 km Vertical gain +174 m Vertical drop -168 m Durée 2h05 Moderate Moderate
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distance 14.41 km Vertical gain +702 m Vertical drop -702 m Durée 6h05 Moderate Moderate
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.

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