Pooley Bridge sits at the northern end of Ullswater, on the banks of the River Eamont as it issues from the lake. Swans and ducks waddle around the car parks and grace the usually sedate waters that started life on some of England’s highest hills.
The village itself is a modest affair, consisting of a few cottages, three pubs, a couple of cafés, a handful of shops and a fine dining restaurant. There are plenty of accommodation options in and around Pooley Bridge, including several lakeside campsites and a few luxury hotels within a short drive. It can be easily accessed from Penrith and junction 40 of the M6, either via the B5320 through the village of Tirril or along the A592 from the Rheged Centre. (At the time of writing though, access to the main part of Pooley Bridge from the A592 and the car parks on its western side was limited to pedestrians only.)
If you want to get out on the water, rowing boats, motor boats and canoes can be hired from Lakeland Boat Hire, a three-minute walk from the village centre. Further down the lake’s eastern shore, near Sharrow Bay, the Ullswater Yacht Club hires out paddle boards and a variety of sailing boats.
The Ullswater ‘Steamers’ have a pier on the western edge of Pooley Bridge. It’s just over an hour on the boat from here to Glenridding at the other end of the lake. Alternatively, combine a trip on the ‘steamer’ with a walk by following the Ullswater Way up on to the low moorland of Askham Fell. Here you can visit The Cockpit stone circle before walking the bridleway along the base of the fells to Howtown, where you catch the ‘steamer’ back to Pooley Bridge. With spectacular views throughout, there can’t be many walks in the Lake District that provide so much reward for so little effort.
Visitors can also saddle up and enjoy the scenery on horseback. The Park Foot pony trekking centre, less than a mile from Pooley Bridge, has direct access to the fells so riders don’t have to venture on to the roads. The centre offers guided treks of between 30 minutes and two hours, providing customers with riding hats and, if necessary, waterproofs.
Among the nearby attractions are Lowther Castle and Gardens, about five miles to the east, and Dalemain, an attractive mansion with medieval, Tudor and early Georgian features. Visit in May to see the dazzling display of Himalayan blue poppies, or in June and July to appreciate the Rose Walk. Dalemain is just a short drive up the A592, but it can also be reached on foot by following the five-mile Dalemain Loop. This waymarked walking route is a relatively new extension to the existing 20-mile Ullswater Way. The ‘loop’ also passes along the base of Dunmallard Hill, the site of a small Iron Age hill-top settlement.