Aira Force (I’m so tempted to just called this the Air Force Waterfall) was an attractive 20m waterfall (though it seemed a bit taller than that) that tumbled over several tiers between a pair of footbridges spanning the Aira Beck. Like other waterfalls in this part of Northern England, the place name reflected a Viking heritage that dates back some 1100 years though the falls itself was said to be touristed over the last 250 years. The name of the falls was said to derive from the word eyrr meaning gravel bank along with the word á, which was Old Norse for river (a word that was familiar to us during our trip to Iceland where Old Norse was said to be preserved). So as much as I’m tempted to think of Air Force, this really was the Gravel Bank River Waterfall as “force” came from the word “foss”.
Anyways, nomenclature aside, this was a pretty easy waterfall to experience for the whole family. Not only did Julie and Tahia do the entire loop walk on their own, but there were enough picnic spots and little things here and there that seemed to keep our little daughter pre-occupied and happy. Then, there was the waterfall itself that allowed us to experience it from its top as well as its bottom along with a few places to get a glimpse of the nearby lake Ullswater and its surrounding mountains.
We followed the so-called traditional route, which meandered about the loop path in a clockwise manner. Initially, the trail passed through a grassy area as it gently climbed uphill. It then went past an intriguing log with a bunch of coins lodged into it along with a red squirrel statue that Tahia seemed to enjoy. Then, the trail continued further uphill as it narrowed then bent towards the bridge atop Aira Force. There was a spur trail that led down steps right to the bridge before the base of the falls, and it was from this spur trail that we probably got our best photos of the waterfall (see photo at the top of this page).
At the top of the falls, I was able to get a closer look at some of the smaller cascades eventually making their way to the main drop of Aira Force directly beneath the bridge. Looking down from the bridge, I could see the alternate trail and the steps leading down to the bottom where the people that went this way looked small given how high up I was. While I could have continued the loop path past the upper bridge and eventually back down the other side of Aira Beck, I backtracked then went down that alternate path myself since that path also would connect to the rest of the loop trail on the other side of Aira Beck. And after about 50 minutes of time away from the car, we were back at the very busy car park, where it seemed like parking was getting increasingly more difficult to find as we saw many more people show up and circling around waiting for someone to leave.
From Kendal, we drove north then west along the A591 for about 10 miles towards the busy town of Windermere. At a small roundabout (basically a white painted circle in the middle of the road), we turned right onto Patterdale Road (A592), and we followed this narrow road for just under 15 miles towards the well-signed Aira Force car park along the northern shores of Ullswater (it was just east of the junction with the A5091 road). This drive took us about 55 minutes, where most of the time was spent behind lorries, tour buses, and slow drivers in passenger vehicles on the narrow roads between Windermere and Ullswater.
Something worth mentioning about the car park was that we had to pay a very steep 5 pounds to park for 2 hours, which was enough time for us. Four-hour parking was 7 pounds, and all day was 9 pounds. National Trust members do not have to pay these car park fees.
Finally, for some geographical context, Kendal was 87 miles (over 2 hours drive) west of York, 73 miles (90 minutes drive) north of Manchester, 236 miles (4.5 hours drive) north of Bath, and 271 miles (over 5 hours drive or 3-4 hours by train) northwest of London.
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