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If anybody ever tells you that the Lake District is crowded, odds on they don't know what they are talking about. This first day will prove categorically that it is easy to get away from the madding crowds even on the very doorsteps of the areas most popular villages.
For the first leg we head out from Inn on the Lake and follow the ancient route over to Ambleside via Brotherswater and Caiston Glen and then cross Scandale Pass to arrive at the Queens Hotel in Ambleside. With the arrival of the present road route over Kirkstone Pass, this route fell out of favour and is now pleasantly quiet and only ever used by walkers. Considering how close it is to civilisation if you meet more than a handful of fellow walkers you will have hit it on a busy day!
Before setting off please make sure you plot the suggested route on OS maps and pack a compass. They are essential for a safe, enjoyable day in the hills!
Ullswater - Ambleside
5 - 6 hours
1. First to the Inn on the Lake, right on the edge of Ullswater; the second largest lake in England. Relax, take in the stunning views and experience fine Cumbrian hospitality with a few pints of award winning Jennings Ales in the bar. Cocker Hoop, a beer of great character, is one of the original golden ales and an excellent to start to the Jennings Ale Trail! Although very tranquil now the often calm waters of UIlswater have hosted numerous world water speed record attempts, the last being by Donald Campbell in July 1955 before he moved his efforts to Coniston water.
2. From the hotel head south through the village on the A592. The road is narrow in parts but there are permissive paths on either side. Cross Grisedale Bridge and walk past the church at Patterdale to a track on the left for Side Farm (campsite). Follow the track to the farm and through the yard to join the bridleway behind the farm house.
3. Turn right on to the bridleway (the lower of two bridleways) and follow it to join a minor road. Follow this for a short distance to a bend. Turn left and follow the track/path to Rooking. Continue along the path to pass Beckstones and to a junction with a bridleway. Go left passing Dubhow until the bridleway joins the minor road just west of Hartsop.
4. Turn right along the road to the A592. Turn right onto the A592 and follow it a short distance to a track on the left at Cow Bridge (by the small car park). This track gives access to Hartsop Hall and is followed pleasantly through the trees beside Brothers Water to a junction of paths just past the hall.
5. Take the middle of the three paths and cross Dovedale Beck, continue to another path junction at the mouth of Caiston Glen. This is the start of the old packhorse route up through Caiston Glen to Scandale Pass and is the main climb of the day. This was the main trade link between Ambleside and Patterdale before the improvement of Kirkstone Pass. Caiston Glen is in complete contrast to the pastoral landscape of Patterdale and Brothers Water and has a remote and wild feel to it. The climb is actually well-graded and once you put your mind to it, it is soon over. Don't forget to look back as the views down Caiston Glen are very impressive.
6. The packhorse route crosses straight over the broad col at the top of Scandale Pass. Ignore the paths to the left and right, follow the path to the wall corner. From here follow the good path, then track, south to a junction at High Sweden Bridge. Ignore the path over the bridge and continue straight on through the trees and then all the way down into Ambleside and the Queens Hotel.
7. Head through the double doors, across the welcome mat, and through to the bar. You've reached your destination so it's time to get a pint of the distinctively dark Jennings Bitter, find a seat in the local's corner and savour the taste of the original beer to come from the famous Cockermouth Brewery.