The elongated hamlet of Patterdale has a rugged, mountain quality. Sited below the mighty Helvellyn massif its straggle of houses, inn, hotel, mountain rescue base, church and school have a bleakness about them. This makes a perfect contrast to the splendour of Ullswater, whose southern shore lies hardly a stone's throw away. This walk strolls through mixed woodland and open aspect above the shores of the lake to visit the famed viewpoint of Silver Point. The adventurous may wish to make the detour to the top of Silver Crag, as did horsedrawn coach parties of old, for a better view of the lake. Alfred Wainwright (1907–91), known for his seven Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, regarded this to be a part of one of the most beautiful walks in the Lakes.
Undoubtedly one of the loveliest of the lakes, the three legs of Ullswater add up to a total length of 7.5 miles (12.1km), with an average width of 0.5 miles (800m) and a maximum depth of 205ft (62.5m). It is Lakeland's second largest lake, not quite measuring up to Windermere. Its waters are exceptionally clear and in the deepest part of the lake, off Howtown, lives a curious fish called the schelly – a creature akin to a freshwater herring. Apart from rescue and Park Ranger launches, you won't see many power boats here, but Ullswater Steamers have up to five boats operating between Glenridding and Pooley Bridge all year round. Preservation of the lake in its present form is due to a concerted campaign, led in Parliament by Lord Birkett, against the proposed Manchester Corporation Water Act in 1965. Although the act was passed, and water is extracted from the lake, the workings are hidden underground and designed in such a way as to make it impossible to lower the water level beyond the agreed limit. It was the golden yellow daffodils of Glencoyne, on the northern shore opposite Silver Point, that inspired William Wordsworth's most widely known poem, I wandered lonely as a cloud, or Daffodils, as it often referred to (published in 1807). His sister Dorothy recorded the event vividly in her diary: 'I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones about and around them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillar for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew them over the lake.' There is no doubt that this later helped William to pen his famous verse.
From the car park walk to the road and turn right. Pass the school and take the track leading off right, beside the Alpine Club hut. Follow the track over a bridge and continue through the buildings of Side Farm to join another track.
Turn left along the track, with a stone wall to the left. Pass through mixed woodland, predominantly oak and ash, before open fellside appears above. Continue above the campsite, and pass a large cairn-cum-seat below a stand of larches before descending to cross a little stream. The path ascends again to crest a craggy knoll above the woods of Devil's Chimney. Make a steep descent before the path levels to traverse beneath the craggy heights of Silver Crag. A slight ascent gains the shoulder of Silver Point and an outstanding view of Ullswater. A short there-and-back to the tip is worthwhile.
Follow the path beneath the end of Silver Crag, and descend to a marker post where a steep pitched path breaks off to the right. Ascend this, climbing through the juniper bushes. Gain the narrow gap which separates Silver Crag, on the right, from the main hillside of Birk Fell on the left. This little valley is quite boggy and holds a small tarnlet. At its end is a low grassy saddle.
The adventurous can enjoy a short detour here to the top of Silver Crag for a wonderful view, but care must be exercised for steep ground lies in all directions. For the detour, take a faint trail to the right as you approach the saddle. When it splits, bear right again to fight your way through the juniper, on a steep, rocky trail, to the summit. Descend back to the small valley and the main path by the same route. The main walk continues over the saddle and along an easy path, traversing the open fellside. Pass open quarry workings, where there is a large unfenced hole next to the path (take care). Descend slightly then bear left at a level spot overlooking Side Farm. Climb slightly and cross the spoil of a larger, tree-filled, quarry. Descend to a little footbridge leading to a gate.
Go through the gate and turn left along the lane. Keep right at a junction, cross the bridge and join the road. Bear right through Patterdale to return to the car park.
Stony tracks and paths
Lake and fell views, mixed woodland
Passes through working farm and open hillside grazed by sheep, so dogs must be under control at all times
AA Walker's Map 2 Central Lake District
Pay-and-display car park opposite Patterdale Hotel
Opposite White Lion Inn in Patterdale village centre
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Cumbria's rugged yet beautiful landscape is best known for the Lake District National Park that sits within its boundaries. It’s famous for Lake Windermere, England’s largest lake, and Derwent Water, ‘Queen of the English Lakes'. This beautiful countryside once inspired William Wordsworth and his home, Dove Cottage, in Grasmere is a popular museum. Another place of literary pilgrimage is Hill Top, home of Beatrix Potter, located near Windermere. Tom Kitten, Samuel Whiskers and Jemima Puddleduck were all created here.
Much of Cumbria is often overlooked in favour of the Lake Distirct. In the south, the Lune Valley remains as lovely as it was when Turner painted it. The coast is also a secret gem. With its wide cobbled streets, spacious green and views of the Solway Firth, Silloth is a fine Victorian seaside resort. Other towns along this coastline include Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport. Carlisle is well worth a look – once a Roman camp, its red-brick cathedral dates back to the early 12th century and its 11th-century castle was built by William Rufus.