If you are visiting Aira Force from the north as we were, there are two easy ways to get there if you have driven down the M6 as far as the junction 40 the Penrith turn off. After turning off the M6 onto the A66 at Penrith and heading west you can take a drive along the A592 which gives good views of Ullswater and a nice place to stop if you have brought a packed lunch or you can continue along the A66 before taking the A5091 which gives a scenic route through Troutbeck and Dockray. Anyone who has visited and driven in the Lake District will tell you that some of the roads do not make for easy driving with the sometimes very narrow roads continually twisting and bending to accommodate the ever changing landscape. At the height of the holiday season this can be made even worse when the number of visitors to the region explodes, this increased volume of traffic can change your journey time dramatically as you become stuck behind a campervan or even worse a group of amateur cyclist who between them are wearing enough lycra to cover the millennium dome and no matter how slowly they are cycling decide to remain three or four abreast so it's always worthwhile allowing a bit of extra time.
Aira Force, as the banner above shows is a waterfall. I always have difficulty in saying Aira Force without getting an image of Harrison Ford dangling out of the back of the presidential jet after he has spoiled a kidnap attempt by Gary Oldman. There are actually a series of waterfalls with the main fall dropping 65 feet after the stream has passed under a small stone footbridge. During the late 18th century the area around the falls were landscaped by the local land owner and it was used as a pleasure garden. As part of it’s development species of conifers from all over the world were planted which gives a great variety to the surrounding woodland you walk through. Aira Force and the surrounding land came up for sale in the early 1900s and the newly formed National Trust purchased the area to prevent housing development.
The National Trust have provided three car parks for visitors at different locations although I only found two of them and I would recommend the main car park which has it’s entrance on the A592 mainly because it’s larger, has toilets, a tea room and a visitor information centre. The car park is not free and there are machines where pay and display tickets can be purchased. The cost of parking ranges from £5 for 2 hours to £9 for the whole day but is free for National Trust members and this free parking is also available for National Trust Scotland members which is a welcome benefit but remember to get a member of staff at the information centre to scan your membership card.
The walk itself is circular and not to strenuous even although you do climb to a good height along well maintained paths which are very narrow in places so care is needed when passing walkers you will meet who are walking in the opposite direction to you. The shortest walk should only take about an hour to complete and will allow you to visit the main fall which is what we did on our first visit during April, this is the most popular part of the walk and can be busy with other people enjoying a day out. If the paths are a bit to busy for your liking you can take a bit of time out by relaxing on one of the many strategically placed benches and just enjoy watching the world go by until you are ready to move on. If time permits and you feel a bit more energetic it’s worth continuing past Aira Force and heading on up stream towards another fall called High Force, this path is not as busy and although the fall is not as spectacular it’s still worth a visit.
If you are lucky enough to live within reasonable travelling distance it’s always worthwhile trying to make a visit at different times of the year this way you can see and enjoy how much the surroundings change with the seasons. It goes without saying a visit after prolonged heavy rain will show of the full power of nature as the volume of water crashing down the fall increases dramatically. I haven’t experienced this personally but have seen some video footage of the falls in full flow and it does look spectacular if not a bit wet from the spray.
Is it worth a visit? I would say yes and I will go back again.