Aira Force to Pooley Bridge via Great & Little Mell Fells

View Aira Force, then climb two easy Wainwrights in the area loved and lived in by Herdwick shepherd James Rebanks (author of award-winning book, “The Shepherd’s Life”). The walk also visits the site of a 3000-year-old settlement and uses part of the new Ullswater Way. This is a linear route returning by bus.

Start from Aira Force Car Park (grid reference NY 400 200, postcode CA11 0JS).


Distance: 11.5 miles and 2,900 feet of ascent

Time: 5 hours

Terrain: Grassy paths, including some steep and quiet roads.

Map: OS Explorer OL5


1. From the car park follow any of the paths to the 65-foot falls of Aira Force. Continue along the path on the west side of the beck, cross a bridge and continue uphill past High Force towards Dockray. Keep right onto the track signed Ulcat Row and walk alongside a wall to a roadside gate. Turn left and left again at the road junction. After 25 yards turn right at a footpath fingerpost and cross a boggy field to the A5091 at Matterdale End. Turn right and after ½ mile up a slope, before reaching a white house turn right onto a bridleway track. Turn right at the junction of tracks. Where the track descends amongst trees turn left at a gate/stile and ascend the grassy path, bearing right beyond the woodland. Follow the path past windswept larches up to the 1760-foot Wainwright summit of Great Mell Fell.

2. Descend by the same route and on reaching the track turn left. At the road turn right and after 200 yards, left, signed Green Row, then immediately right over a fence stile. Ascend to the top right corner of a young plantation, cross the ladder stile then go around the fence on the left past a farmhouse. Turn right at the end of the field to a stile at the bottom of the valley. Go over a footbridge and a tractor bridge then cross the field to a stile by a metal gate. Walk to the top right corner of the next field then turn right towards houses (Greenrow) and left onto the path signed Little Mell Fell. Turn right on the road and after 350 yards veer left onto a track. Turn right before a fence then walk up the steep slope beside the fence. Step over a fence ahead and continue to the final ascent of 1657-foot Little Mell Fell.

3. At the summit turn right (south). A good view of Ullswater appears on the left. Descend to the road to the right of a conifer wood, turn left and go downhill past the junction to Bennethead. Turn left to join the Ullswater Way footpath signed ‘Bennethead via fields’. At the road turn right heading towards Pooley Bridge but take the left fork signed Dacre. After ascending a slope the road bends left. Continue for another 300 yards then turn right onto the Ullswater Way path signed Waterfoot. Follow the footpath up to Maiden Castle, a defended settlement of the 1st millennium BC. Descend following the waymarked path along the valley bottom and through a gate into Waterfoot holiday park. Turn right after the hall onto the bridleway signed Pooley Bridge. Cross the A592 and follow the roadside path beside Dunmallard Hill to Pooley Bridge. The last 508 bus for Aira Force, continuing to Windermere and Kendal, departs at 18:03.

John Edmondson