The Lake District is a unique corner of England full of volcanic rock that does not allow water to seep away. With over fourteen lakes and tarns, the high rainfall, along with deep glacial valleys means that the district is the perfect place to find lots of large bodies of water and naturally occurring waterfalls.
It's easy whilst walking and taking in the breathtaking scenery of mountains and lakes to walk right past some of the Lake District's waterfalls however. Some are widely known and frequently have visitors, others are harder to seek out. Some may even require a climb to see them.
Here at Cumbria Live, we've compiled a list of walks of various lengths and difficulties to get to some of the most stunning, naturally occurring waterfalls the lakes have to offer -some which you might not know about. This list will tell you where to find them and will hopefully allow you to vary your walks in the future. As with any walk in the Lakes, good waterproof clothing and footwear is a must!
1. Scale Force, Buttermere
Grid reference NY 150171
Distance: 6.4 miles
Starting point - Buttermere National Trust Car Park
Time - 2 - 3 hours
Difficulty - Moderate
William Wordsworth described it as ‘a fine chasm, with a lofty, though but slender, fall of water’. Our list begins at the biggest waterfall in the Lake District which is Scale Force. It's the highest waterfall in the region with a single drop of 170 feet and two smaller ones at 20 feet. It's located about an hour's drive north of Windermere on land owned by the National Trust. A good starting point for a walk is if you park at the National Trust car park at Buttermere which will begin around a 2.5 mile route taking two hours to get there and back.
If you start on the path from Scale Bridge leading past the top of Crummock Water you can hop from rock to rock until you reach the summit of Scale Knott, touching on Millbreak Hill. It is then a short climb where you will find Scale Force nestled in a deep tree-lined gorge. The best route back is to take the higher path that joins with an outward one near the head of Crummock Water. You then follow the course of Buttermere Dubs to the foot of Buttermere and you're back at the start.
2. Aira Force, Glen Ridding
Grid reference NY400200
Distance - 4.5 miles
Starting point - Aira Force National Trust Car park
Time - 1 hour 30 mins - 3 hours
Difficulty - Moderate
This famous waterfall has been popular for over 300 years and has again been commented on by William Wordsworth in his poem 'Airey-Force Valley'. It's classed as one of the most romantic places in the Lake District making it an ideal place to visit with your other half. The Gowbrow Trail is the one to take to pass through woodland with lush green ferns and evergreen conifers. You can then begin to hear the thunderous roar of the falls and emerge to find glorious views over Ullswater from the summit of Gowbarrow.
You begin by parking at the National Trust car park and follow the waterfall path out through a picnic field and beyond. The route back is slightly different which offers a superb vantage point at the head of the lake, which is marked on the map as Memorial Seat, and from the bottom of the slop you will be able to see Lyulph's Tower.
3. Ritson's Force, Wasdale Head
Grid Reference NY 185 092
Distance - 0.2 miles
Starting point - The Wasdale Inn
Time - 1/2 an hour
Difficulty - Easy
This waterfall was named after 19th century landlord tall tale teller, Will Ritson, who owned the Wasdale Head Inn. It's actually a series of waterfalls in the peaceful Mosedale Valley. One of the shortest walks on our list, it can be reached through the beer garden at the back of the Wasdale Head Inn and across the Stone Bridge. You then follow the path through the field and you will see a gap in a stone wall. Once you go through you will see a group of trees up the hill. In this small woodland there is a wooden gate which will take you down to Ritson's Force waterfall. Many people seek out the waterfall when taking a walk of the Mosedale Horeshoe. Best places for parking are the National Trust Lake Head car park or at Wasdale Green.
4. Lodore Falls
Grid Reference - NY 265188
Starting point - National Trust's Kettlewell car park
Distance - 1 mile
Time - 26 mins
Difficulty - Easy
Another beautiful waterfall remarked on by a poet is Lodore Falls. It is featured in Robert Southey’s famous onomatopoeic poem 'How does the water come down at Lodore.' The falls, funnily enough, are located behind the Lodore Falls Hotel near the Grange end of Derwentwater in Keswick. It is formed by the beck from Watendlath Tarn which cascades over massive boulders for around 100 feet. During heavy rainfall the water fall can be particularly dramatic however in drier periods in can dry up a bit, so just keep that in mind when you are planning your walk.
The nearest place to park, if you're not staying at the hotel, is at the National Trust's Kettlewell pay and display car park. This walk is quite a short walk of half an hour once you leave the car park entrance but nevertheless the result is fantastic. There is a viewpoint bench whichprobably offers the best and easiest view of the falls. For the more brave however, you can clamber over some slippery boulders to get a better view however be warned as the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall can be quite treacherous. The route back is the same straight back to the car park.
5. Stanley Ghyll Force, Eskdale and Boot -
Grid Reference - SD 174995
Distance - 1 mile
Starting point - Eskdale Railway car park
Time - 1/2 an hour to 1 hour
Difficulty - Moderate
Probably the most dramatic and steep on our list, Stanley Ghyll Force named after the Stanley family who were occupants of Dalegarth Hall, is a 60 foot high waterfall in a drastically deep and narrow gorge, where rhododendrons (very pretty woody plants) on high ledges and precipices give an oriental feel to the surroundings. Walkers must take extreme care at the path at the waterfall is unfenced and very steep.
To be rewarded the stunning scenes, you can plan a round trip starting and finishing at the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway car park. There is also the chance to have a train ride through gorgeous scenery. Some highlights at the Ravenglass and Eskdale light railway, the old village of Boot, Doctor's Bridge and the gorgeous valley of Eskdale.
6. Cautley Spout, Howgill Fells
Grid reference - SD 6831 9742
Distance - 5.75 miles
Starting point - Cross Keys pub
Time - 3 Hours
Difficulty - Hard
Cautley Sprout is England's highest waterfall above ground with water tumbling down a spectacular broken cascade almost 200m down into the valley of Cautley Holme Beck. Located on the Eastern side, the sight of Cautley Sprout is a highlight of Howgill Fells. Just north of the small town of Sedburgh, this fall is one of the few cascade falls in England as most are either tiered or plunge falls.
Sightseers can plan a circular walk from the famous Cross Keys pub to the River Rothay which then leads you through a delightful valley to Cautley Spout. The walk then proceeds quite steeply up the side of the waterfall to meet head on to the triangulation point at the Calf which also gives you a stunning view out to the sea and of the Lakeland fells. The return is via Bram Rigg Tops and Little and Great Dummacks. Beware however as the climb up the waterfall is quite steep and is descent off Great Dummacks down Pickering Gill. This walk should not be attempted in the mist or low clouds.
7. Skelwith Force, Skelwith Bridge
Grid reference NY340 035
Distance 1/4 mile
Starting point - Silverbridge parking area
Time - 20 minutes
After giving you the tallest waterfall with the most difficult walk, we though we'd now give you the smallest one that is the easiest to reach. It's relatively unknown however and has the fewest visitors so we wanted to make sure we included it on our list. It's only fifteen foot tall situated just up river from the hamlet of Skelwith Bridge. It's created by a combination of waters flowing from the River Brathay and Langdale Beck. It's most impressive after heavy rain as the River Brathay carries large quantities of water down from the Langdales to Elterwater.
Starting at Silverbridge parking area, cross the road and join the path opposite. Go through a gate and at the T-junction turn left to follow the river. The falls are only a 1/4 mile along the road so it's very easy going. You then follow down a short path to the right. The height may not be that impressive but it's it's the volume of water that makes for a very dramatic scene.