A humble little village in an incredible setting, Glenridding squats at the foot of the rugged Helvellyn range, on the southern shore of sparkling Ullswater. This is where rock and water come together to form one of the most visually appealing combinations in the natural world – and Glenridding is at the heart of it. Little more than a collections of small shops, hotels, guesthouses, campsites and cafés, this former mining village is now a great base for outdoor enthusiasts. They come here year-round to walk, climb, kayak, scramble, go mountain biking, wild swim, even ski.
The village developed after the discovery of lead at nearby Greenside in the middle of seventeenth century. By 1849, there were several hundred workers at Greenside, and during the 1940s it was the largest producer of lead ore in the UK. It ceased operations in 1962. Since then, some of its buildings have been converted to outdoor education centres, while the area around the mine has been stabilised.
Greenside is located in the middle reaches of Glenridding Beck, on one of the many paths used to reach Helvellyn, at 3116ft/950m, England’s third highest mountain. The most famous route, though, is via Striding Edge, one of the two knife-edge arêtes that cradle Red Tarn. On good days, you’ll often see a line of walkers strung out along its exposed, rocky apex, slowly making their way on to the summit plateau. The other arête is Swirral Edge, less scary than its neighbour on the other side of the glacial corrie, but still a serious undertaking – and, with the ground dropping away steeply on either side of the ridge, best avoided if you don’t have a head for heights. In full winter conditions, these ridges are the domain only of experienced and properly equipped mountaineers, while the corrie’s headwall attracts ice climbers. Skiers too are drawn to the Helvellyn range, the Lake District Ski Club operating a single tow and a heated members’ hut on nearby Raise.
If Helvellyn’s a bit much for you, both Red Tarn and Sheffield Pike make for superb half-day walks, and there are easier strolls up Grisedale or along the lakeshore to Aira Force.
For activities based on the lake itself, the Glenridding Sailing Centre offers sailing courses and taster sessions. Its hire fleet includes kayaks, Canadian canoes and dinghies. Various vessels, including motor boats and rowing boats, can also be hired from St Patrick’s Boat Landing on the road to Patterdale.
For a more relaxed experience on the water, the Ullswater ‘Steamers’ have their main pier in Glenridding. Two nineteenth-century ‘steamers’ still operate on the lake – the Raven and the Lady of The Lake – although both were converted to diesel in the 1930s. A further three boats have since been added to the fleet. Services run to Pooley Bridge, Howtown and Aira Force all year round, weather permitting. One of the most popular outings is to catch the boat from Glenridding to Howtown and then walk the seven glorious miles back along the waymarked Ullswater Way.