Gowbarrow Fell is a great example of a minor fell with much more to offer than its height might suggest. The fell stands back from the nearby higher ground, so is a great viewpoint for the Hellvelyn range, Ullswater and the fells south of the lake, as well as for the Pennines. The fell also possesses one of the most scenic waterfalls in the district, in Aira Force, a series of falls in a managed landscape.
Ascent: 1,370ft/ 400m
Length: 4.4 miles/ 7km
Map: Explorer 005 English Lakes North East
Last Walked: 18 June 2005
We start at the large National Trust car park for Aira Force. Despite its size that car park can get very busy in high season.
Take the large path that leaves the northern end of the car park, heading towards Air Force, and follow it as it curves around to the right.
This brings us to a bridge over Air Beck. Cross the bridge, and turn left onto a second major path on the far side of the beck. After a short distance this path splits in two. Take the smaller right-hand branch, and follow it to a T-junction. Turn right here and follow this path as it leaves the trees and runs along the southern flank of Gowbarrow Fell, with the open fell to the left and fields to the right.
After 600 feet this path splits in two. Take the left-hand branch, which begins to climb while curving around the southern flank of the fell. This brings it to the memorial seat and viewpoint at Yew Crag, before it curves to the left to run along the eastern flank of the fell.
We follow this path as it runs north, climbing almost continuously as it goes. Eventually the path begins to drop down towards a stone wall and the ruins of a shooting lodge. There are two routes to the summit from this point. For the direct route turn left at the shooting lodge and head towards the highest point on the skyline until you reach the summit.
For the less direct, but rather easier route, follow the line of the stone wall as it climbs towards the saddle between Gowbarrow Fell and Great Meldrum. Near the top of this climb tuen left to follow another wall that runs west along the top of Gowbarrow Fell. When this wall began to drop down the far side of the fell, turn left and head uphill towards the trig point at the summit of Gowbarrow Fell.
The best views of Ullswater actually come from the southern end of the plateau. A clear path heads south from the trig point to the top of the slope overlooking the lake (and the path we used earlier).
A clear path runs along the southern edge of the summit plateau. Turn right onto this path, and follow it as it heads down the south-western flank of the fell. This is one of those paths that forever appears to be heading towards a dramatic drop, but never actually reaches one - instead more of the slope comes into view.