Gowbarrow Fell – the long way round

Walk date – 19th November 2022

Distance – approximately 6.5 miles

Weather – dry, some sunny spells to begin with, clouding over later, very slight breeze


Since our last walk we have had day after day of rain, high winds and overcast skies resulting in sodden ground and becks, rivers, tarns and lakes swollen and overflowing. This morning looked as though it would be more of the same but by late morning the heavy cloud began thinning out a little, gradually revealing more and more of the blue sky it had been covering. There was very little breeze and short spells of sunshine began appearing so we threw a few bits and pieces in a pack and off we went over to the old quarry car park on the A5091 where we started today’s walk. Our ultimate aim was Gowbarrow Fell but reaching it via the Ulcat Row, The Hause and the Ullswater Way route. For some reason the GPS did not record the route we took until we were beyond Todgill so the missing section had to be added manually, that’s the part with the blue arrows. The mileage is also a rough approximation as that wasn’t recorded for the blue section either. On the plus side the pay machine in the car park was out of order.


Old quarry car park – High Cascades bridge – Millses – Norman Crag – Riddings Plantation – Ulcat Row – Greenbank – Todgill – The Hause – Ullswater Way – Swinburn’s Park – Airy Crag (Gowbarrow summit) – High Cascades bridge – Old quarry car park

A pair of visitors had just vacated this spot beside Aira Beck so I took a quick shot while it was empty.

Another shot of the beck from the bridge as we crossed over. Quite a few people making their way back and forth over the bridge or sitting close by just watching, and no doubt being deafened by, the water pouring over the rocks. The sound was thunderous as you can imagine.

We made our way up from the bridge via the very wet, as in running with water, path and reached this point where we would normally turn off to climb up to Gowbarrow top. If you don’t have a lot of time available this is the shortest route available. A pair of walkers, who we had passed further back down the path, reached us as I was taking the shot and asked about the route to the top so we pointed them in the right direction and then carried on straight ahead to …..

….. this gate and carried on with our walk. The little hamlet of Dockray is over on the left and on the right is Norman Crag which the path passes below.

Passing by Millses, which although not named on our route map can be located towards the end of the first blue arrow where a cluster of buildings is indicated.  Aira Beck passes right in front of them. The path we’re following diverts towards Ulcat Row at this point.

Passing below Norman Crag and being intently watched by a local inhabitant a little way above us.

Cottages in the vicinity  of Dockray appear here and there across Matterdale.

Passing through the Riddings Plantation over a very, very wet path, on a sunny summer day this would be a lovely route to follow, today it was a bit of a trial with lots of squelch, squelch, squelch. More of Gowbarrow’s crags are on the right, just visible in the distance is Little Mell Fell and …..

….. over on our left is Great Mell Fell.

One of the cottages beside the track as we approach Ulcat Row.

Ulcat Row ahead as we reach the end of the track through Riddings Plantation. Once through the gate at the end of the track we will have firm tarmac under our feet for a while.

Little Mell Fell not quite so distant now as we walk up Greenbank towards Todgill, the dwelling on the right. Who invited that cloud to come and spoil the party?

Greenbank is a steepish incline but there’s a clear view of Blencathra beyond Matterdale to be had from it. When we drove through Matterdale earlier the upper slopes of Blencathra were hidden by thick cloud so any walkers up there now will have some good views.

On this side of Matterdale we are still under cloud although Great Mell Fell has managed to grab a piece of the action.

A look back toward Great Dodd and Clough Head as we reach the top of Greenbank and the lane begins to level out. It was along here that J thought he’d check the mileage only discover that nothing had been recorded on the gps. (Not best pleased would be a good description.)

The gps having been reset we carry on with our walk and head towards the road at the end of this lane which will take us up to The Hause below Little Mell Fell.

Little Mell Fell from the road leading up to The Hause. Despite the looming cloud we are somehow managing to hang on to a sunny spell.

From The Hause we drop down the road passing the caravan site and eventually turn right onto the Ullswater Way. I walked the Pooley Bridge to Glenridding section of the Ullswater Way shortly after it opened in 2016. J was occupied elsewhere at the time so this section of it is new to him although we have walked the sections of it on the other side of the lake several times. Unfortunately the sun managed to make its way into the above shot even though I tried to cut it out entirely. As far as I can make out the building at the bottom left of the shot is the Rectory where the rector of All Saints Church at Watermillock may have resided. According to the OS map the church is just down the lane from the rectory. The present church replaced one which had been demolished in 1881 so perhaps the rector’s house was also replaced at the same time.

Out into the open again and a look across towards Arthur’s Pike, Bonscale Pike and Loadpot Hill before we begin the stiffish climb up the slopes of Little Meldrum.

Sunny Heughscar Hill in the distance as we climb up the slopes of Little Meldrum …..

….. and a not so sunny view in the direction of Place Fell.

Walking through Swinburn’s Park, a long squelchy walk through deep shade today. Very gloomy through here so I only took this one shot.

Out in the open again with a view across Ullswater towards Hallin Fell, Beda Fell and the Loadpot/Wether Hill skyline.

Still plenty of blue sky around but the clouds are gathering …..

….. making everything a whole lot duller …..

….. and darker with every minute that passes.

Having passed through the last section of forest track through Swinburn’s Park we passed through the gate in the wall and left the Ullwater Way route to begin the climb up to Gowbarrow top. The Ullswater Way merges with the ‘terrace’ route around Gowbarrow at this point and then continues on towards Glenridding . Just out of shot to the right are the remains of the former shooting lodge.

The cloud has completely taken over now and Blencathra’s cloud cap is already beginning to appear.

Great Dodd and Clough Head from Gowbarrow top. Up here we still had some blue sky overhead but …..

….. the sun remained hidden behind all the cloud coming in from the south over there beyond Glenridding so we only had very murky views from this point on.

There was some unusual cloud activity over the Eden valley beyond Heughscar Hill. A long low ribbon of cloud seemed to be hanging above the valley but there was nothing to be seen of it by the time we got back home.

Looking eastward from Gowbarrow’s trig column on Airy Crag and another view of the Eden valley cloud show.

Another shot from the summit, this time towards Place Fell and its neighbours to the south east, and then its time to start to make our way back down. Surprisingly enough we were not the only ones up here and we met others coming up as we descended.

Looking eastward again as we start to descend. The North Pennines should be on view here but obviously they aren’t despite the blue sky overhead.

Ullswater has a bit of a sheen but its surrounding fells are vanishing in the gloom. Better move along then as there’s not much to see here now.

The view opposite as we descend Gowbarrow. I’ve mentioned the new path laying operations in previous walks up here and although some further work has been done we both felt that what has been done so far is no better, and in places is worse, than the previous path. Being very wet, muddy and covered with fallen leaves didn’t help matters either. Maybe when it is all completely finished things will be OK but its something of a dog’s dinner at present.

Almost back down to the path leading back to the bridge with a muted view of Watermillock Common and Parkgate Farm across from us. Once on the path we met three chaps carrying small daypacks and couldn’t help thinking that it was a bit late in the day to be going up Gowbarrow, especially as it was way too cloudy to hope for a fabulous sunset.

Back at the bridge again after splashing our way back across the stream of water which had taken over the path. The place was deserted by now and when we reached the parking area in the old quarry ours was one of only two cars still parked there. As we were getting ready to leave the occupants of the other car also arrived and began the de-booting and de-backpacking process. So that’s it for today folks, we can only hope that the Lake District’s daily deluge eases up soon and that we won’t have to wait for another two weeks to go by until we can get out again.