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Aira Force

nr Glenridding, Cumbria

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The most famous of the Lake District waterfalls, it drops 65 feet and is surrounded by a pretty woodland owned and managed by the National Trust, who have provided graded paths to make access easier and a viewing platform at the base. A short distance from the National Trust car park on the A592 near Watermillock, it is considered a moderate 2 hour walk uphill to the waterfall. If you have the energy and stamina there is a further waterfall beyond,  known as High Force, and you could continue your walk on through Gowbarrow Fell.

The stream which flows over the waterfall is Aira Beck which runs from the Upper Slopes of Stybarrow Dodd and through heather covered slopes of Gowbarrow Fell down to Ullswater. One kilometre before entering the lake the beck makes a 65ft drop down a rocky ravine at this waterfall. The waterfall is situated within Gowbarrow Park which was originally owned by the Howard Family of Greystoke Castle. They landscaped the area around the waterfall and used it as a pleasure garden, planting over half a million ornamental tress and establishing a network of tracks, footpaths and bridges. In 1906 the park was put up for sales and it was purchased by the National Trust. It is believed that the Lakeland poet William Wordsworth paid many visits to this area as the falls are mentioned in three of his poems.

There other two car parks on the side of the A5091 road, with no parking fees and give access from above. From here you are closer to the falls and it is not as far to reach, but it does involve a walk downhill through a wooded area and then across a field with livestock in, which means on the way back to the car you are going uphill. We used one of these car parks on our visit.

Aira Force from the viewing platform

From the car park you initially walk through a wooded area and at the gate, to go through the field, you get a fantastic view of part of  Ullswater.

A view from the woodland just below the second car park looking out towards Ullswater

Continue across the field and through another gate you have two directions you can go. Going left takes you up a path which reaches a bridge that goes across the top of the falls, and if instead of going over the bridge you continue to walk ahead you will then reach the second waterfall High Force. Turning right at the gate will take you initially down a path and then steps to get to the viewing area at the foot of the falls and probably the best position to take photographs. The waterfall is situated in a wooded area and is very photogenic.

The Lower Bridge just off the viewing area

We visited at the beginning of July and there were a few people around, but not enough to get in the way, however the trees were in full leaf so there were restrictions on the angle you could take to get a good photographic viewpoint without odd leaves being in the way. At the base of the steps there was a slightly wider area (viewing platform) where you could stand with a tripod and not be in the way of other visitors. Just prior to our visit there had been some rain in the morning so there was a reasonable amount of water flowing over the waterfall, in winter when there is more rain coming off the hills the cascade is probably a lot more dramatic, however the ground underfoot may be more muddy and slippery. Once you have taken in the waterfall from this position then continue on along the path over the small stone bridge and on the left you come to some steps up, with a guide rail which then takes you up to the arched stone bridge which goes across the top of the waterfall. The sound of the waterfall from up here as well as the smell of the water cascading over and it's spray is intense.

Once you have had enough continue across the bridge and from here you can go right to get to the second waterfall or go left to complete the circular walk back to the gate, across the field and up through the woodland back to your car.

Looking down onto the upper bridge where the waterfall cascades underneath

It is a beautiful place to be and is quite easy to get to without having to walk an excessive distance. So if you're not a hiker it is one waterfall you can get to see without a significant amount of effort. The paths were wet and the steps a little slippery when we visited, from both the small amount of rain we had had in the morning, but also from the spay of the water as it hits the bottom.

A view of the viewing area with the steps up behind taken from the higher arched bridge

According to the National Trust website you should also look out for the famous Red Squirrels! This is one of the very few places in England where you can see them in the wild.

A closeup of the falls taken from the viewing area at the bottom.

Further information Grid



Aira Force, nr Glenridding, Cumbria

Ceremonial County:

Cumberland or Westmorland or Lancashire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Google the waterfall is in the centre of the image you can just see the outline of the upper arched bridge, the white path across the field is from the roadside car park across the the wooded area where the waterfall is.



Best Times to Visit:





National Trust

Other useful websites:

Visit Cumbria    Wikipedia       Britain Express

Nearby Locations: Ullswater Steamers, Ullswater Lake, Cumbria
Other Relevant pages: Lake District Waterfalls  


Planning Grid


Aira Force, nr Glenridding, Cumbria

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

From M6 J40 via Keswick on the A66, or from Windermere A592 towards Glenridding and Pooley Bridge.


Footpath from the National Trust car park on the A592 near the south eastern end of Ullswater, near the junction with the A5091, signposted for Aira Force, the walk is uphill from here. The other is up on the A5091, towards Matterdale, and gets you closer to the falls, and the walk is downhill from here.


3 car parks, one is National Trust on the A592 the other two are on the A5091 on the side of the road.


Seasonal tearooms and toilets in the National Trust car park

Things To Do, See and Photograph:


What to take:

Tripod. If visiting in winter you will need good walking boots or wellies as the majority of paths are mud. The steps down to the viewing platform are concrete.

Nature highlights:

singing birds, small insects like bees etc, may be Red Squirrels.


Aira Force Cafe




CA11 0JS (tearooms)



Opening times:

All Year


None for the Waterfall. The National Trust car park on the A592 is Pay and Display.

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Not suitable for wheelchair access as there are steps and uneven ground. Not suitable for people with breathing difficulties if you are not able to walk uphill to any degree.
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities: None
Dogs Allowed: Yes but please keep on a lead, especially when walking through fields with livestock.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Waterfalls Section Key:
Page Ref: aira_force Topic: Waterfalls Last Updated: 08/2012


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