Any trip to the Lake District to see family means a good excuse to plan a good trail run and with no end of places to run in the area, I was spoilt for choice. I had a few options for the run but was looking for something around the 20-mile mark I opted for the Ullswater Way circular loop.
Being a circular route I had two options – attack the hilliest section first or save the best/worst until last. As much as I like a hill I wanted to get the best/worst out of the way early so decided to head out anti-clockwise.
The route starts out along Dunmallard Hill which is an easy forest trail that tempts you early on to start photographing the lake (who was I to resist) and then descends back down to the main road. At this point my new Skechers Go Trail Ultra 3 shoes were holding well but leaving the road I entered a field that very quickly became wetter and muddier.
Recent rain meant the ground was extremely waterlogged and muddy and with hills to climb a run turned into a slow trudge. The Skechers were doing a good job of draining water although they’re more suited to less muddy trails. I was questioning at this point whether I should continue or not but figured that it wouldn’t be like this all the way.
The muddy fields continued with some sections proving particularly troublesome especially those frequented by cows. It took me far longer than expected just to get a couple of miles.
Finally some Solid Ground
A tarmac road was a welcome reprieve from the muddy conditions and a look at the OS map on the phone indicated that I’d be able to enjoy it for a mile or so. The road passed through a small hamlet and caravan site and was then due to go back off-road but a sign in the field suggested that rather than running through a very muddy field it would be wiser to continue along the road. That was a sign that I was going to obey.
Eventually the road rejoined the path which headed upwards towards Swinburn’s Park, a wooded area with a good mix of terrain including wet, rocky and softer forest trails. By this point my feet were as wet and muddy as they were ever going to get so I gave up avoiding puddles and ploughed on through whatever was in front of me.
Leaving Swinburn’s Park you enter the distinctly more barren and rocky Gowbarrow Park. The path clings to rocky crags which is far more technical to run along but much more rewarding, exhiliarting and rewarded you with some of the best views on the run with the south of Ullswater and Glenridding in the distance.
The path leads to the base of Aira Force where you can admire the double stone bridges that decorate the spectacular waterfall. After a few days of rain the waterfall was certainly living up to its name.
The route skirts around Glencoyne Park on a man-made gravel track which is straightforward to run along and is popular with walkers making the journey between Glenridding and Aira Force. At Glencoyne Bridge you get a view north along Ullswater which puts into perspective the distance you have run (and you can’t even see all the way to the starting point).
Glenridding and Patterdale
Reaching Glenridding involves some sections on the main road and then running through the village and onto Patterdale. Being a populated area does mean that you can stop to use the toilet or pick up supplies.
The eastern side of Ullswater is far more remote than the western side with very little civilisation and no roads, although there were still plenty of walkers and backpackers walking in both directions. The path along this section featured running streams, slippery rocks and giant tree roots. All good fun but it sure slows you down.
Eventually, Dunmallard Hill appears in the distance – the starting point on this route. It’s still a fair distance away and the legs were tiring which meant trudging through some muddy terrain and even the easy tarmac was difficult to run on.
I’d reached the point in the run where I wish I could have ended it but knew that I still had a few miles to go so had resorted to walking sections.
With Pooley Bridge drawing closer, the end of the route was in sight and I was I had a craving for some milk and fortunately there was a shop right at the finish.
Race Map and Profile