aira force waterfall in the lake district

7 Must Visit Waterfalls in the Lake District

25 January 2022 Local area

Our pick of the best waterfalls in Cumbria

The Lake District’s rugged landscape, towering fells and unique weather system makes it the perfect environment for waterfalls. There are hundreds to discover throughout the National Park, ranging from small trickles next to pretty streams to dramatic falls crashing down from above.

We’ve compiled a list of our top 10, must visit waterfalls in the Lake District to check out during your stay at our Lake District holiday park. They can all be incorporated into extended hikes, or visited as part of a shorter, more direct leisurely afternoon walk.

ritsons force

1.    Ritson’s Force, Wasdale Head

We highly recommend taking some time to check out Ritson’s Force during your stay at Park Cliffe caravan and camping park. The popular waterfall is situated within the Mosedale valley and flanked by picturesque hills and mountains, including Scafell Pike – the highest mountain in England.

Ritson’s Force is thought to be named after the former landlord of the Wasdale Head Inn, and consists of a series of smaller falls, which cascade over rocks before combining into one tumbling fall. The impressive formation makes it a favourite among landscape photographers, who flock to the area hoping to snap the perfect shot!

Getting to Ritson’s Force

Combine a trip to Ritson’s Force with a refreshing drink at the Wasdale Inn. To get to the waterfalls you will need to go through the beer garden at the back of the Inn, before crossing a stone bridging and making the short walk along a track to the gap in the stone wall. Finally, head up the hill to a group of trees where you will find a wooden gate that will lead you to the falls.

Car park postcode: CA20 1EX

Distance from Park Cliffe: 38 miles

Aira Force Waterfall

2.    Aira Force, Ullswater

Aira Force is the most famous waterfall in the Lake District and attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is situated on National Trust owned land and is surrounded by a network of woodland trails of varying length and difficulty. The powerful waterfall is an impressive sight, especially from the viewing platform. We suggest taking some time here to soak up the scenery and listen to the thundering sound of water crashing from the stone footbridge 65ft above.

The National Trust have installed various information boards around the site, many geared towards children. The grounds are home to a lots of wildlife, including elusive red squirrels, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled as you explore. There are a plenty of facilities on offer, making Aira Force one of our top family attractions in The Lakes. Facilities include a tea room, toilets, natural play area and picnic field.

Getting to Aira Force

There is pay and display car parking available at Aira Force and National Trust members park free. Due to the popularity of this attraction, spaces often fill up before mid-morning, so we recommend arriving early to secure your spot. This will also help you avoid the crowds and enjoy some peace and tranquillity during your Lake District holiday.

From the main Aira Force car park there is a 1-mile circular route to the main falls. This can be extended if you’re feeling adventurous!

Car park postcode: CA11 0JS

Distance from Park Cliffe: 21 miles

Scale Force waterfall lake district

3.    Scale Force, Buttermere

Scale Force is the highest waterfall in the Lake District, boasting an impressive 170ft drop. It is situated in a secluded location, behind a tree-lined gorge and best visited in the winter or spring, before the foliage gets too thick. There are two more, slightly smaller falls to see during your visit, which both measure around 20ft.

Even after prolonged dry periods, Scale Force is worth a visit. The waterfalls can be found close to a network of walking tails around Crummock Water, which can be extended to include the Summit of Red Pike.

Getting to Scale Force

There are a number of ways to reach Scale Force, but we recommend parking in the village of Buttermere. Parking is limited, especially during peak season, so you’ll want to arrive early or late in the afternoon. The car parks are pay and display with the exception of the National Trust car park, which is free to members.

The shortest walk is approximately 2.5 miles each way, so you should allow at least 2 hours for your visit. First head to the Bridge Hotel where you’ll pick up a signposted route to Scale Force.

Car park postcode: CA13 9XA

Distance from Park Cliffe: 37 miles

colwith falls

4.    Colwith Force, Elterwater

Colwith Force is situated on the River Brathay, just west of Ambleside. It is relatively small in comparison to other waterfalls in the Lake District National Park, but still worth a visit, particularly if you only fancy a short walk.

There are two viewing platforms, which provide excellent views of the falls. From the top platform you will have a unique view of the water, just before it tumbles over the final ledge. Next to the waterfall is a stone pump house with an intake pipe running up the bank. Although it is not possible to go in this building, it’s an interesting addition to landscape photographs.

Getting to Colwith Force

There is a limited amount of free off-road car parking available in laybys close to Colwith Bridge. From here, the walk to the waterfall and back is approximately half a mile, making it the perfect choice for visitors who don’t want to walk too far.

There are plenty of opportunities to extend the walk and see additional waterfalls if you want to make a day of it. Our favourite is a circular walk around Langdale, which includes Elterwater and Skelwith Force.

Car park postcode: LA22 9NU

Distance from Park Cliffe: 14 miles

tom gill falls lake district

5.    Tom Gill Falls, Coniston

Tarn Hows is one of the most popular destinations in the Lake District, attracting thousands of visitors each year. Most visitors enjoy a leisurely walk around the lake, but few venture to Tom Gill Falls, which is just a couple of minutes’ walk away.

There are two pretty waterfalls to admire along the route and plenty of opportunities for nature watching in the mature woodland. Tom Gills falls is an impressive sight, especially after heavy rainfall when the water crashes down at speed.

Getting to Tom Gill Falls

Park at Glen Mary Bridge and walk past the ticket machine and over a wooden bridge. Then go through the gate and follow a narrow path next to the stream. The path then ascends slightly and the terrain gets a bit more rocky. You will then see the waterfall on your left-hand side. Continue along the signposted route to reach Tarn Hows lake.

Car park postcode: LA21 8DP

Distance from Park Cliffe: 15 miles

Photo credit: Rum Bucolic Ape, Flickr


rydal falls lake district waterfalls

6.    Rydal Falls, Rydal Mount

Take some time to visit Rydal Falls during a trip to Rydall Hall – the historic former home of the le Fleming family. These iconic falls can be reached by passing through the formal gardens, before emerging into a wooded area where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the rocky ravine.

At the bottom you’ll see a stone ‘viewing house’ which was built by Sir Daniel Fleming in 1667. It is considered one of the oldest in the country and offers vistas of the bridge and lower falls as it crashes into the plunge pool below.

The viewing house frames the scenery beautifully and has been applauded by wordsmiths and artists. Acclaimed Lake District poet, William Wordsworth was fond of the area and drew inspiration for one of his earliest works ‘An Evening Walk’.

Getting to Rydall Falls

Rydal Falls can be accessed via Rydal Hall. Entry is free, though car parking costs £10 and includes a £5 voucher for use in the tea rooms on the same day (prices correct as of January 2022). The gardens and falls are usually open to visitors 9am-4pm, though times do vary.

Car park postcode: LA22 9LX

Distance from Park Cliffe: 12 miles

Photo credit: Dave Willis, Cumbria Media Library 

stock ghyll force waterfall in the lake district

7.    Stock Ghyll Force, Ambleside

Stock Ghyll Force near Ambleside is one of the Lake District’s best loved waterfalls and it’s not difficult to see why. The picturesque falls are around 70ft tall and can be enjoyed from a railed viewing platform, which offers an excellent vantage point from which to admire the water as it cascades over the rocks.

The waterfall is often referred to as ‘Rattle Ghyll’ as it once powered water mills and other buildings in the area. It played a vital role in local industries and the production of cotton bobbins, paper and ground corn.

Today, this visitor attraction offers visitors the chance to enjoy nature and a picturesque walk through woodland.

Getting to Stock Ghyll Force

Park in Ambleside and head to Stock Gyll Lane, which will you will find off of the main road, next to The Market Hall. Continue along the lane and veer to the left, where you will pick up a brown sign for the waterfalls. From here the route is signposted. Once in the forest follow the red arrows.

Car park postcode: LA22 9AN

Distance from Park Cliffe: 10 miles

Park Cliffe is perfectly placed for visiting beauty spots and attractions throughout the National Park. Choose from a variety of self-catering and glamping accommodation options or bring your own caravan or tent. However, you decide to stay with us, you’re guaranteed a memorable break. Enjoy some well-earned down time with family and friends as you take in the views over Windermere.