The Ullswater Way was set up in the wake of Storm Desmond and a beautiful route it is too. We walked it a couple of years ago and very much enjoyed our exploration. But apart from the main route around the lake there are now two loops, heading away from Ullswater itself, but which explore some grand countryside. We’ve walked the paths involved often but were inspired to walk the loops themselves by a new edition of the official guide to the Way.
The loops – the Marmalade March around the environs of Dalemain, and the Lowther Castle Loop – are described in Mark Richards’ splendid Official Guide to the Ullswater Way. This publication – handsomely produced with text, maps and Mark’s beautiful drawings – is a snip at just £5 of which 50 pence goes to keeping the Ullswater Way in good repair. Every fellwalker’s bookshelf should have a copy. Worth getting even if you live miles from Lakeland, just to see how a good guidebook should be written and to enjoy the author’s sketches. Do make sure you get the 2019 edition which features the Lowther Loop.
We set out on a Monday morning, the countryside around Lowther Castle rich with the fullness of the Autumn colours. Walking our countryside at this time of the year has to be one of the great joys of living.
Lowther Castle is now mostly a ruin, though the courtyard with a shop and cafe thrives. I find it fascinating that so many of these northern stately homes have their rights of way preserved. Landowners in many parts of Britain used to get rid of them. The pre-war Lord Lonsdale, the so-called “Yellow Earl” positively hated ramblers and fellwalkers, and fought to keep them off his fells. Yet apparently didn’t mind them walking the paths of his immediate policies.
A pleasant walk through autumnal woods brought us down to the River Lowther, which Mark tells us comes from the Old Norse ‘slathering’ meaning foaming waters. As you leave the Lowther deer park behind, the loop follows pastoral footpaths to the very pretty hamlet of Helton. The walk over Askham Fell and Moor Divock is a regular stroll for us, and the area well worth exploring for the rich archaeology. It’s here, close to the Roman road of High Street, that the loop links with the high-level route of the Ullswater Way itself.
This is glorious walking country. In the far distance a cloud inversion filled the distant Eden Valley, the Pennine Summits rising above like islands above a white sea.
We descended to Askham, as Mark says, one of the loveliest villages in Cumbria. A place to rest and relax. We visited the church on our way back across the River Lowther to take a steep woodland climb back to Lowther Castle.
This Lowther Loop is a great addition to the Ullswater Way, taking you through a wonderful variety of countryside. Why not buy a copy of the Official Guide to the Ullswater Way and follow in our footsteps?
Text and pictures (c) J and A Bainbridge