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Saturday, 27 September 2014

Aira Force

Aira Force, Ullswater, visit Cumbria, about Britain

The advantage of Aira Force, a small but beautifully formed waterfall in England’s Lake District, is that you don’t need to be Sherpa Tenzing to get to it.  You do need decent footwear, working limbs and lungs, but that’s about it.  You can, of course, build a visit to the falls into a longer walk, but most visitors seem to arrive by car, take one of several alternative footpaths to the top of the falls, skid back downhill and drive on.  One path is very easy and relatively short – but it’s still a little rugged in places, so change out of your Jimmy Choos.

Aira Force, Gowbarrow, Cmbria, National Trust

Aira Force is where the Aira Beck tumbles off the high fells about 66’ (20 metres) vertically in a noisy gush of white foam, on its way down to Ullswater.  According to Wikipedia, ‘Aira’ comes from the Old Norse words eyrr for ‘gravel bank’ and á, meaning ‘river.  Fors is also a Norse word, common in these parts, meaning ‘waterfall’.

Waterfalls, England, easy walks, Lake District

The traditional route is about ½ mile from the car park through a wooded gorge to the top, across first one, then another, stone bridge.  The upper bridge gives a stomach-lurching view over the falls.  This was all once part of a medieval hunting ground, which was turned into the landscaped Victorian Gowbarrow Park, owned by the Howard family of Greystoke Castle.  The Howards created an arboretum, planting many specimen trees – including the rather lovely monkey puzzle pictured.  Along your way, you’ll spot a ‘wish tree’ – a trunk in which coins have been embedded for good luck, or to make a wish; they’re quite common in these parts.

Victorian, arboretum, Howard family, Ullswater, Gowbarrow

I have the distinct impression that the facilities at Aira Force are getting more sophisticated each time I visit.  These days, there’s a well-gravelled organised car park, reasonable loos, ticket machines (for parking) and even a little café selling ice creams.  By the time I next drop in, I shall expect to see the falls floodlit.

Aira Beck, Cumbria, English Lakes


  1. It's a beautiful spot. I particularly love the stone bridge. It looks like it's been there a long time and blends into the scenery perfectly.

  2. How beautiful! I'd love to attempt this hike to see the falls. We saw a monkey puzzle tree in my sister's neighbourhood in BC last summer. They are interesting looking trees!

  3. what an awesome waterfall - i bet it sounded gorgeous!! ( :

  4. I did not know about Aira Force and I often visit the Lakes, so will definitely walk to it next time we are there.

  5. Beautiful waterfall and it looks just like my spot here in Kentucky :)

  6. Beautiful place. Loved the linguistic background.

  7. That's beautiful! Well worth a bit of a walk.

  8. Wow, your page depicts more variety than I can imagine.
    It's a grand place that fulfils all expectations on seeing for the first time. I can't remember the first time I visited it as it was always too late to stop on my Parents anticlockwise day tour of the Lake District.
    Later in my Wainwright years, the path via Aira Force to the river beyond is magical with a worthwhile clockwise circuit of Gowbarrow Fell for a glorious view of Ullswater on the descent over Green Hill to the car park. Here's a link if anyone is interested:-
    I bumped into an old social friend in Keswick a few years ago and we spent the afternoon together, he fancied a bit of scenery, a short walk and a waterfall, guess where I chose? It turned out that he was less fit than I thought and he struggled to the top of Aira Force.
    I agree with your thoughts on the upgrading of the site ... Oh well, we know who owns it ;-)

  9. How did I get so far behind so fast? I had you soaking up rays in the Mediterranean. Anyway, this is beautiful but dizzying. I will take your testimony as fact. I have no desire to drive on treacherous roads and climb scary heights to get to it.

  10. And this makes me want to return to the Lakes where I also haven't been for ages. There are some very nice places up north.

  11. Looks like a wonderful palce to visit

  12. I love the energy of waterfalls - I hope no more improvements take away from it's natural beauty. I visited a small waterfall on our recent trip to Aspen - set in a grotto, it was a shady, magical place, close to the road but easy to miss if you weren't looking for it. Nothing around for miles, of course, but forests and a river.


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