U.K. Ullswater

/ routes / United Kingdom / Lake District National Park

route overview


6Mi / 9.6Km

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Round Trip or 1-way:

Round Trip





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Contributed by
Scott Anderson

The Ullswater Reach is a 3-season kayakpacking route in the Lake District National Park located in the northwest corner of the UK. The second largest lake in the park (it's actually classified as a 'mere' or 'water'), Ullswater is 3.4 sqMi (8.9 sqKm) glacier formed body awash in both geological and natural history. With plenty of camping options to make it a great sub 24-hour overnight (S24O), Ullswater makes a great kayak camping getaway all but a short drive from some of the UKs major cities.


Easy water access via any one of many small lay-bys along the A592 allows you to custom make a long or short route on day one.  This round trip version puts-in and takes out at at a shallow-banked lay-by not even a quarter mile east of Lakefield Boathouse (www.lakefieldboathouse.com) at 54°34'37.2"N 2°53'43.1"W  – and puts the Wall Holm Island overnight camp at just 3.3 miles.

An early start will allow you enough time to explore the many islands and rocky outcroppings that frequent the landscape. A stop at Norfolk Island, the largest in Ullswater, will give you unencumbered views both northeast and south and reminds us that as kayakers we gain access to views that would otherwise be missed from the shoreline.

Camp for the night is just under a mile south on Wall Holm.  If you find yourself making this trek during the winter months (this trip was recorded in late November) you can expect air temps to be in the 37-39 F range (3-4 C) and the water hovering around 53 F (12 C) so plan on adding a wetsuit/drysuit to your kit.  Additionally the days are short at this latitude so plan on having your sleep system set up by 4 to give yourself enough time to make dinner and settle in while there is still light

This southern stretch of Ullswater in incredibly beautiful even in mid-winter.  Wall Holm is framed by the 2000ft (600m) Place Fell rising but a mile southeast of camp and equally high ranges to the northwest. Local populations of swans, ducks and geese will be regular companions on the paddle and with the relative remoteness of the park you will experience little light pollution so star-gazing can take the place of browsing your cell phone.

Favorable weather on your return trip could give you enough time to paddle the 7 miles all the way to the northern shore at Pooley Bridge Boathouse and still have you back at the take-out by mid-afternoon. 

route notes - Consider the wind

The wind typically blows off the fells at the southern end of the lake and leads to a south westerly wind which can prove to be very helpful when heading back to the put in. Check the forecast and bear this wind direction and speed in mind when planning your route, out in the middle of the lake it can pick up strength leading to slightly choppy and confused conditions.

  • Get Up Early - Sunrise over Ullswater can be pretty spectacular, making an early start and taking some time to appreciate a gorgeous sunrise over some of the most picturesque lakeland fells is well worth it.
  • If you want to make a longer trek make your way from camp and head up to the north end of Ullswater. Depending on your track It'll add some 12m (19Km) to the journey but well worth the effort.
  • Wild camping is allowed anywhere on Ullswater so long as the area is free from no trespassing placards. Legally wherever you camp you must have the permission of a landowner to camp on their land, though there is a tradition of wild camping in the Lake District.
  • There are lakeside campsites further south at Side Farm (www.patterdale.org) and down the Ulls Water creek at Gillside (www.gillsidecaravanandcampingsite.co.uk).  On the northwest end Waterside House (www.watersidefarm-campsite.co.uk)
  • North end camping. If you choose to extend your stay another night there are camps available on the north end of Ullswater. An overview map published by the Lake District is available here.
  • Leave No Trace - Wild camping is technically illegal in England however it is tolerated in certain areas including the lake district, especially on the fells. However this is by no means a right and therefore you should do as much or as little as possible to leave as little impact upon the landscape as possible. It is important to leave no trace, arrive late and leave early, if you brought it with you take it back out with you, the only thing you should leave behind is a flattened patch of grass.
  • One of the beauties of S24Os are that you can pack in everything you need, but in the event you've forgotten something there are many local groceries where you could stock-up. 
  • Filtering - The lake water is filterable in a pinch.
  • Boat Traffic - The further north you go on Ullswater the busier it gets with increasing boat traffic, the south end is very peaceful but you will need to pay particular attention to other water users and prohibited landing areas at the northern end of the lake.
  • Star Gazing - Set an alarm for the early hours, put a coffee on, wrap up warm and step outside the tent for half an hour to gaze at the stars. On a clear night this is something to behold. The Fells surrounding the lake block out most light pollution and give you a fantastic chance to gaze upon the milky way.
scott anderson

SCOTT ANDERSON is a professional photographer, outdoor enthusiast and self-described 'intrepid traveller'- a trait that runs long and deep in his family.

He resides thoughtfully in North-East England near the Nothumberland coast which serves as a backdrop for some of his many adventures.


Terms of Use: All water sports are inherently risky.  Always wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) while in a water craft of any kind. Kayakpacking should be considered dangerous and participating in this or any water sport can cause serious injury or death. As with each kayakpacking route guide published on KayakPACKING.co, should you choose to paddle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check on this or any adventure consult current local weather, water conditions, local laws and restrictions. While paddling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety, personal floatation, and navigational equipment. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated maps and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author/contributor is not guaranteed. kayakpacking.co LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, loss of life or any other such situation that might happen to individual paddlers kayaking or following this route.