Aira Force – 6km Walk and Wild Swim

This walk will take in the most famous of the Lake District waterfalls, plus the immediate areas worth seeing first surrounding it.  The whole area is owned by the National Trust and it’s a scenic wonder, and great for photography and wild swimming.

I used the Ordnance Survey Map 0L5 (The English Lakes, North Eastern Area), and its best to take that map I think.

First, here’s a short film I made at Aira Force, to give you a taste of the surroundings.

You start the walk at the free car park just to the west of Aira Force. It’s on the A5091 road and there is space for about 20 cars here. If it’s full there’s the National Trust car park down at the road junction but you’ll have to pay for that. I was staying at The Quiet Site Campsite nearby (a review of which can be seen at the bottom of this page) and the short drive was worth savouring, for the views of Ullswater. You can also walk to the Aira Force area from the campsite, more details at the bottom of this page.

From the car park it’s a 10 minute walk to the Aira Force waterfall, pictured below. You can descend to its base, or view it from the stone bridge over the gorge.

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Afterwards, follow the path leading away from the water, to the east, towards Yew Crag. Very soon you leave the forest and the views of Ullswater really open up.

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It’ll take you about an hour to get to Yew Crag, the climb is steady but not too steep or difficult. It’s worth planning to sit there for a while, have a bite to eat and to enjoy the sights, before retracing your steps to the Aira Force area.

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Once back at the falls follow the path on the right hand side of the river. It’ll lead you to some wonderful pools, great for swimming, and even more great waterfalls. The walk up here will take about half hour if you do it straight, much more if you stop to swim or paddle.

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At the waterfall pictured above, there is a place to cross to the opposite bank just above it. You’ll need to jump or take big steps between rocks that stand in the middle of the river channel, but it’s possible. The alternative is to carry on upriver for a fair way to Dockray where you can cross. I crossed by jumping across the falls via these rocks, and then walked down the opposite bank back towards Aira Force. The walk here isn’t the same as the walk upriver, you get access to different falls, which you can see below, so it’s worth doing.

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Once back at Aira Force, you retrace your steps to the car park. You can extend this walk by leaving the car at The Quiet Site Campsite and walking all the way to the falls and back - they’ll provide you with a walk map for free at the campsite office. The map is actually good, it details 3 other routes that you can do from the campsite as well as this one.

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