Waterhead, High Sweden Bridge and Ambleside

THIS walk begins with a gentle stroll around the head of Windermere, climbs to the attractive High Sweden Bridge then descends through pretty woodland into Ambleside, writes JOHN EDMONDSON. Along the way you can enjoy river scenery, colours and great views over the waters of Windermere and Rydal.

Start from Waterhead Car Park, grid reference NY 376 032, postcode LA22 OES


Distance: 6 miles with 900 feet of ascent

Time: 3 hours

Terrain: good paths and lanes

Map: OS Explorer OL 07


1 Leave the car park and turn right onto Borrans Road. After passing the Wateredge Inn car park turn left into Borrans Park. Walk along the lakeside and enjoy long views over Windermere. Go through a metal kissing gate and explore Galava Roman Fort. Built around AD90, this was most likely a communication and supply centre for the Lake District, particularly to Hardknott Fort; in Roman times, the river was much closer to the fort. Continue around to the left, beside the river, to the confluence of the rivers Rothay (whose name probably refers to red trout) and Brathay (meaning broad river). Go through a field gate and turn right; cross the main road then turn left. Turn left onto the road to the coach and HGV park. Keep left of the coach park and join a narrow footpath signed Rothay Park from an overgrown entrance before the car parking area. Walk alongside the River Brathay as far as Miller Bridge. Do not cross the river but turn right and follow the path beside Stock Ghyll to Stoney Lane. Cross the A591, turning left, then, right into the entrance to the health centre and up the steps ahead. Walk past the front of the University of Cumbria building called Scale Howe then turn left past the Langdale building and up steps past The Barn cafe. The redeveloped Ambleside campus is now home to the National School of Forestry, the Centre for Wildlife Conservation and outdoor studies courses. More outdoor students study with this University than with any other higher education institution in Europe.

2 Turn right, then left, going uphill along the tarmacked lane. Go through Woodend Farm, then cross Scandale Beck via Low Sweden Bridge. The stony track bends right, ascends to a gate then continues uphill passing an ancient pollarded ash tree. During the ascent, pause and look back to the views over Ambleside. After passing through a gateway with a sheepfold on the right, keep right and descend to cross a ladder stile then go down a stepped path to the attractive packhorse bridge called High Sweden Bridge. Its name comes from ‘swithen’ meaning land cleared by burning.

3 Keep right and descend the stony track above Stock Ghyll. This pretty woodland would once have been a busy industrial area including three fulling mills. The word stock may have referred to the hammers used to cleanse the woollen cloth that was supplied to Kendal to make the material known as Kendal Green. The lane passes Sweden Wood that was generously donated by a local landowner to Friends of the Lake District. Go down the tarmacked road (Sweden Bridge Lane) keeping right and turn right on Kirkstone Road. Turn left onto North Road across Stock Ghyll then walk through the centre of Ambleside. Continue along Lake Road (the A591) for three quarters of a mile and after crossing MacIver Lane turn right down steps leading to the car park where the walk began.

Next week: Whitestone and High Newton reservoirs

NB: restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.