Last month, during our Hoseasons holiday at Ullswater Heights, we were determined to explore as much of the area as possible. As National Trust members we always try and make the most of our passes and, having visited Acorn bank a few days earlier, next on our list was Aira Force.
The National Trust describe Aira Force as “a showcase for the power and beauty of nature; it’s a place to escape the ordinary.” and, from the second we arrived I completely understood why. With the sun cracking the flags, the children all in a great mood, and all of us determined to enjoy the last of the Summer, I knew we were in for a great day!
For 300 years visitors have come to Aira Force to walk in the woodlands, spot the red squirrels in the Himalayan Firs, and most of all, visit the impressive 65 foot waterfall. With a bag filled with snacks, and armed with our map, we set off into the woodlands in search of the waterfall.
The woodland glades are utterly beautiful with paths right the way round at different levels depending on how far, and how challenging, you want your walk to be. We decided to do the mid-range walk which involved mostly flat paths, mainly for my own sanity as the higher level had some steep drops and honestly, Harry cannot be trusted!!
When the children were younger and we used to enjoy days like this together with them in their prams or snuggled up in the sling, I used to wonder whether they would enjoy it the same when they were older? As beautiful as it may be to explore nature, nothing spoils a view more than a child whinging they are bored or their legs ache and yet, honestly, maybe we’ve been lucky, or maybe all kids just embrace being outdoors in the same way we do, they absolutely love it.
As long as they have a stick to
wield hold and a tree to climb they will happily walk for mile after mile, albeit spurred on by a bagful of snacks or the promise or ice cream. And I love days like this where the three of them play together without bickering or fall-outs, when I see that glint of mischief in their eyes as they climb that little bit higher, or the sound of their laughter as they jump out from behind a tree. I love knowing that these are the moments they’ll look back on and smile, just as I do from my own childhood.
As we walked, the sound of the water grew louder and louder and after around thirty minutes we finally arrived at Waterfall Bridge where the most beautiful waterfall fell from the cliffs. With the sun shining and the spray from the waterfall, rainbows appeared right the way across and it felt like a little nod from Joseph, something I am always grateful for.
After a quick snack stop we were ready to keep walking and follow the trail round. You can actually buy a Tree Trail sheet from the Welcome Building for £1 should you wish to find out more about the collection of trees at Aira Force. I didn’t think the children would be overly interested in learning about the types of trees as to them there are just two types – climbing trees and Christmas trees!
In the thick of the woodland glades I can completely understand why the National Trust claim Aira Force is a place to escape the ordinary. Despite being a popular tourist attraction, it often felt as though we were the only people there, completely silent but for the sound of the water in the distance and the children talking. For me these days are so necessary where we switch off our phones and just be fully present in the moment.
Although Aira Force is undoubtedly lovely in the sunshine, I can imagine that in the Autumn it is utterly beautiful. I can imagine when you’re wrapped up in a warm coat and wellies, it’s one of the most stunning Autumnal spots in the Lakes.
As we came to the end of the trail we headed back to main entrance where there are picnic benches, and information centre and locally produced ice cream. After all of that walking we had definitely earned one!
For those wanting something more substantial to eat, there is a Team Room at Aira Force selling a range of food including traditional cream teas. Outside of the Tea Room is a little timber trail play area for the children which our three couldn’t wait to play on!
Across the road you can access the gateway taking you down to Ullswater Lake, somewhere we had never actually been before but had heard it was utterly beautiful. I’m sure that when many people think of the lakes they think of Windermere, I know I do, and yet actually some of the smaller lakes are even more picturesque as we were soon to find out.
I often feel that when we visit somewhere such as this, it almost doesn’t feel real that something so incredible can be right here, just an hour from our doorstep. Framed by the most epic hills and that clear blue sky, Ullswater was completely breathtaking and I think I can say, of all the places we have ever visited in the Lake District, this right here was my favourite.
With the temperature so warm the children instantly took off their sandals and jumped straight into the water squealing when they realised it was far colder than it looked! With no-one else around it was like our own little paradise and I know I’ve said it before but when the weather is good, you just can’t beat the UK!
Gaz and I must have sat there for a good couple of hours just watching the kids play, enjoying the freedom to actually have a conversation without one of them interrupting, and basking in the heat. Often when we visit the Lakes we talk about the future and how, one day, we will retire here to a house on the lake where we can see these beautiful views every morning. One day…
We decided to have one final walk around the lake, stopping at Aira Force pier where you can walk to the end so close to the lake you can almost touch your feet in the water. It’s the perfect spot to admire the view and later, watch some of the older children enjoying a paddle boarding and canoeing lesson.
At the end of the day it was time to leave and I think we were all a little reluctant for our day to end. We have visited some amazing National Trust sites over the years but Aira Force is possibly the most beautiful of them all.
Sitting here now, with grey skies and torrential rain for the third week running, I would give anything to go back to the Summer with the children beside me, the sun our faces, and the world at our feet.