Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular Walk

Difficulty
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Moderate
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
4-6h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
14.3 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
610 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular Walk

The Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular is a fantastic walking route in the Lake District due to the spectacular lakeside scenery that is surrounded with dramatic hills in every direction. The trail sets out from the historic village of Pooley Bridge and traverses the beautiful farmland and moors that provide a nice view overlooking Ullswater. After traversing the hilly terrain and arriving at the hamlet of Howtown, you will make your way along the edge of the lake on a path that will take you back to the trailhead. This dramatic landscape has often served as inspiration for writers and poets, so be prepared for a memorable adventure!

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Route Description for Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular Walk

The Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular Walk is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the Lake District and as a result, the route is a popular one. Pair this with the fact that there are several campsites located in and around the trail, and you have a recipe for a busy walking route! Make sure to arrive early enough to secure parking at the trailhead. Additionally, this route features a bit of uphill walking and some areas can be a bit boggy. Wear a sturdy pair of walking boots to stay comfortable out on the trail.

Even though it might be a bit of a busier walk, the breathtaking views overlooking Ullswater and the surrounding hillscape are enough to make you forget about the rest of the walkers out on the trail. The route sets out from the historic village of Pooley Bridge and climbs uphill through the scenic farmland to traverse the rugged terrain of the moor to the south. From here, you will make your way across Arthur’s Pike and Bonscale Pike to receive some stunning views overlooking the water and surrounding hills. The trail then descends the hillside toward the hamlet of Howtown before turning to the northeast to skirt along the edge of Ullswater on the way back to the starting point of your journey. This walk offers some truly beautiful views across the magical Lake District landscape, so why not make your next big adventure a scenic walk through the Cumbria countryside.

Setting out from the car park in Pooley Bridge, head north for 55 m and turn right along the road to make your way through the village. After 0.6 km, you will need to head right at the fork in the road to pass by the Hill Croft Caravan Park and begin the climb uphill through the open farmland. After passing the caravan park and a cottage on your left, make your way through a gate and keep straight for 1.4 km to arrive at a four-way intersection in the trail. Here, you will have a nice view of Heughscar Hill on your left.

Turn right at this junction and follow the trail for 0.31mi to arrive at another junction, this time next to the Cockpit Stone Circle that is believed to date back to the Bronze Age. Turn right and keep straight along the path for the next 1.0 km, as it traverses the moor to the southwest and crosses over Aik Beck. From here, turn left at the next junction and keep straight for the next 3.1 km, as you climb uphill along the rugged and rocky terrain to reach the summits of both Arthur’s Pike and Bonscale Pike.

From these stunning hilltop perches you will experience some amazing views overlooking the dark blue surface of Ullswater, as well as Hallin Fell to the west, and Birk Crag directly across the lake. From here, you will descend the steep hillside for 1.4 km and arrive at the edge of the hamlet of Howtown.

With the uphill climbing portion of the walk completed, all that remains is a leisurely stroll through the farmlands that line the edge of the lake on the return to the village of Pooley Bridge. Follow the trail straight for the next 1.5 km as it skirts along the foot of the hill and you will arrive at a fork. Head left to make your way past a few buildings and turn right at the junction to cross over Swarth Beck.

From here, follow the path for 0.15mi and turn right, continuing straight for the next 0.7 km to cross over one road and arrive at another along the edge of Ullswater. Head to the right here and follow the road northeast to enjoy the sweeping views across the beautiful lake. Although this road is fairly quiet, make sure to exercise caution in regards to passing vehicles.

In 1.3 km, you will find a path on the left that will take you closer to the edge of the water. Follow this for the next 1.8 km, as the trail skirts around the edge of Gale Bay and provides a scenic picture across the lake. After passing through several gates, you will arrive back in the car park where you began the Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular. From here, feel free to take some time to explore the historic village or pop into the Pooley Bridge Inn for some post-walk drinks.

Trail Highlights

Ullswater

At roughly 14.5 km long and 1.2 kmmiles wide, Ullswater is the second largest lake within the Lake District, next to Windermere. This elongated, z-shaped body of water is surrounded by some of the most picturesque scenery in the Lake District and often served as a source of inspiration for the English poet, William Wordsworth.

Pooley Bridge

Replacing an earlier structure from the 16th Century, Pooley Bridge was a charming stone bridge constructed in 1764 that spanned the River Eamont along the historic boundary between Cumberland and Westmorland counties.

Unfortunately, this historic structure was destroyed by floodwaters that were the result of Storm Desmond in 2015. The bridge has since been replaced with the UK’s first stainless steel road bridge in 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happened to Pooley Bridge?

The old stone bridge dating back to 1764 was washed away by flood waters caused by Storm Desmond in 2015. A new stainless steel bridge was dropped into place in 2020.

Can you swim in Ullswater?

Yes you can swim in Ullswater. The lake was formed by the process of glaciation, and as a result the water quality here is excellent. Along the shores of the lake you will find numerous beaches and small islands that offer access to recreational activities.

Insider Hints for Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular Walk

  • Parts of this trail can be wet and boggy, make sure to wear proper walking shoes.
  • Pair this walk with a weekend of camping at one of the many campsites located along the trail.
  • Stop into the Pooley Bridge Inn for some post-walk refreshments.
  • Arrive early to secure parking in the village.

Getting to the Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular Walk Trailhead

To reach the car park for the Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular Walk from Stainton, drive southeast on Snuff Mill Lane for 0.6 km and turn right onto A592, following it for 4.7 km. Turn left onto B5320 and make a quick left turn to stay on the road for another 0.8 km. Turn right here to enter the car park.

Route Information

  • When to do

    Marc-November

  • Backcountry Campsites

    Waterside House, Park Foot, Hill Croft, Cross Dormont

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    Moderate

  • Route Type

    Circuit

Pooley Bridge & Howtown Circular Walk Elevation Graph

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