Dockray – Gowbarrow Fell – Aira Force round
Dockray is a very small village in Patterdale in the Lake District of Cumbria. Aira Beck flowing from the rolling fells of the Dodds passes through Dockray then turns south to find its way into Ullswater. Just near the bridge over Aira Beck there is the village inn, The Royal Hotel, which sells real ales and has accommodation. Dockray is only just over a mile from Ullswater the second largest lake in the Lake District which is approximately 9 miles long and 0.75 miles wide. Ullswater is also one of the most beautiful lakes and it snakes round like a ‘Z’ shape between the surrounding fells from the volcanic rocks of Helvellyn to the slate covered slopes of Skiddaw. The three parts of Ullswater were formed by three separate glaciers after the last ice age and the lake now form’s most of the boundary between Cumberland and Westmorland. Ullswater is very popular with sailing, yachting, rowing, motorboats and diving and marinas can be found around the lake edge. The Ullswater Steamers, although now powered by diesel, are a great way to see the lake. The steamers were originally working boats in the 1850’s moving mail, workers and goods to and from the Greenside lead mine at Glenridding which closed in 1962. They operate trips all year round calling at Pooley Bridge, Glenridding and Howtown. The popular tourist area of Glenridding and Patterdale are only about 3miles further down the road.
Gowbarrow Fell at 481 metres is the highest point of Gowbarrow Park, once a medieval deer park. The area is owned by the National Trust and the summit gives wonderful views of Ullswater and the surrounding fells.
The final stretch of Aira Beck drops over 200 feet over two waterfalls, High Force and Aira Falls, the latter having a bridge over the top and bottom of the fall making it one of the most popular and photographic water falls in the district. Owned by the National Trust Aira Falls has an impressive drop of 66 feet down a rocky ravine and after heavy rain it is even more impressive. There are a couple of places on the A5091 where you can access High Force, Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell where car parking is free. The National Trust car park on the Ullswater Lake road is a pay and display providing disabled facilities. Allow two hours from the NT car park to walk to the top of Aira Force and back down. In wet weather the paths can become very slippery so please take care.
We park in the car parking area next to the bridge at Dockray. We walk over the bridge and with The Royal Hotel in front of us we turn right on a footpath going between two houses with a post box on the left and keep to the right hand track. We walk forward then round the bend to the right towards Aira Beck and Millses farm. Just after Millses we cross over Riddings Beck and turn right we go through the gate in front of us and turn immediate left on a permissive path going uphill. We go through a gate at the right hand side of a conifer plantation and keep heading uphill following the path to the top of Gowbarrow Fell. On reaching the top we admire the wonderful views before we take the path going downhill, on the right side of the stone cairn with a plaque on it saying National Trust, towards a wall and a large conifer wood. Before we reach the wall we start to bear right and keeping to the path we head to Memorial Seat and Yew Crag with Ullswater in front of us. At the Memorial Seat above Yew Crag we keep following the path round to the right towards Aira Force and Ullswater is now on our left. The path soon starts to go downhill and we keep following the path round to the right and then through some trees until we reach a footbridge going over the top of Aira Force. We take the path to the left before the footbridge. With the force on our right we walk down hill for a short way then turn right over the footbridge over the bottom of the Force. After admiring the force we go back over the bridge and follow Aira Beck on our right downhill towards the National Trust car park. On reaching another footbridge we cross over it into the Glade and take the footpath going forward then bearing to the left we follow the path uphill through the trees with Aira Beck on our right again until we reach a gate. We go through the gate and turn immediate right we go over another footbridge and head for the gate in front of us. We go through the gate and follow the path to the left going uphill, which goes up some steps, until we reach a small car parking area and the road. We turn right onto the road, the A5091, and follow the road back to Dackray.
This is a moderate walk with some steep inclines and declines.
Approx 4.5 miles using OS map 5, The English Lakes North Eastern Area.
Dockray is in Matterdale in the Lake District, Cumbria.
From the A66 at Troutbeck take the A5091 sign posted Ullswater. Dockray is approx 3.5 miles from the A66. The car parking area at Dockray is small but there is two other small car parking areas on the road side towards Aira Force and the National Trust pay and display car park at Aira Force.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets near Aira Force car park. For refreshments there is The Royal Hotel at Dockray and there are pubs and shops at Glenridding and Patterdale.