Aira Force - Dockray - Aira Force

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Aira Force may not be the highest waterfall in the Lake District or carry the greatest volume of water, but it is certainly the best known and is visited by crowds of people every year. It is a memorable sight – and sound – from the stone bridges above and below the falls as Aira Beck plunges some 70ft vertically down a narrow, rocky chasm into the pool beneath the lower bridge.

The route also passes the upper falls of High Force, which fall some 35ft and are also impressive, particularly when in spate. Its popularity is undoubtedly due to the charm of the falls' setting. The Greystoke family, who owned the area in the nineteenth century, followed the fashion for romantic landscaping and they planted 60,000 trees of both native and introduced species around the falls and in Gowbarrow Park. It was purchased by the National Trust when the estate of Gowbarrow Park came up for sale in 1906.

This short walk is at its best after rain, not unusual in the Lake District. The walk is short but not particularly easy as it climbs 140m to the falls. The ascent is made easier by the steps and good paths that the National Trust maintains, but these can be slippery when wet and are quite steep and uneven in places. After admiring the falls most people just return to the car park, but this route continues along the lower slopes of Gowbarrow Fell to the hamlet of Dockray with its welcome pub. The Royal Hotel (017684-82356; www.the-royal-dockray.co.uk), has developed from a former coaching inn where both Mary, Queen of Scots and Wordsworth are reputed to have stayed. An alternative refreshment stop is the tea shop adjacent to the car park. The excellent views of Ullswater and the surrounding mountains on the return from Dockray to the gorge are another highlight of this walk.

One final interesting feature is the money tree, passed just before the end of the walk. This is a fallen beech about 10m long that shows that money really does grow on trees in Cumbria. People have hammered thousands of coins into the wood, presumably as an atavistic offering to the gods of this special place.

England - North England - Cumbria - Lake District - North East

Features

Birds, Butterflies, Good for Kids, Great Views, Mountains, National Trust, Pub, Public Transport, River, Tea Shop, Toilets, Waterfall, Woodland

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