Ullswater - inspiring gem of the Lake District

Beauty Spot

Ullswater - inspiring gem of the Lake District

Ullswater is the second largest lake in the English Lake District, being about 9 miles long and 0.75 miles wide. It is known as the 'Dark Lake' with links to Arthurian legend, and has been the inspiration of poets and artists, and a much-loved visitor destination.

The name 'Ullswater' may derive from its original name 'Ulfr"s Water' after a Viking Lord. Alternatively 'Ulf' is the Scandinavian word for wool, and it is said that the Danes used the lake to clean their fleeces. In medieval times, monsters were believed to live in the dark waters. The Arthurian story goes that a mound near a slipway at Waterside used to be the home of Sir Tristan – one of the knights of the round table. But it is actually thought to be of glacial origin.

Romantic poet William Wordsworth visited Ullswater at the age of 18 in 1788. One of his most famous poems The Daffodils was inspired after a walk there in 1802. Wild daffodils can still be found in abundance on the lake shore in the Spring.

By the 1890s, Ullswater had become a fashionable holiday destination for the British aristocracy, thanks to its good sailing conditions and proximity to fell shooting estates. In 1912, Wilhelm II, German Emperor visited Ullswater and toured the waters on lake steamer the MY Raven, which was re-fitted to act as a royal yacht.

The Ullswater Steamers company has been offering trips around the lake since 1877, calling at Pooley Bridge, Glenridding, Howtown and Aira Force. These sail all year round and were originally working boats which, from the 1850s moved mail, workers and goods to and from the Greenside lead mine at Glenridding, which closed in 1962.

Ullswater, the depth of which is a little over 60 metres, is also a sailing location with several marinas round the lake. It is home to the Ullswater Yacht Club and the Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy, held annually on the first weekend in July. This regularly attracts over 200 sailing boats for two races covering the length of the lake.

Another attraction is the waterfall of Aira Force, midway along the lake on the western side, part of the National Trust's interests around the lake. Close to the falls is Lyulph's Tower, a castellated building built by a former Duke of Norfolk as a hunting lodge.

A 20 miles (32 km) walking route the Ullswater Way was officially opened in 2016 by writer and broadcaster Eric Robson.

Donald Campbell set the world water speed record on Ullswater on 23 July 1955, when he piloted the jet-propelled hydroplane Bluebird K7 to a speed of 202.32 mph (325.53 km/h).

During WW2, Ullswater was used to test mini-submarines, naval craft and flying boats and perhaps the targeting system for the bouncing bomb created by Barnes Wallis of Dambusters fame in 1942.

Further reading

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