This fine 8 mile round trip is nearly that devised by Bill Birkett in his book “Complete Lakeland Fells”, but with a pleasanter start through the wooded Aira Beck valley, and an easier route through the Little Meldrum plantation. Thus it misses out on two “Birketts”, Green Hill and Little Meldrum. Note the walk is the best one to bag the Wainwright Little Mell Fell, and Gowbarow Fell (called Airy Crag by some) is likewise a Wainwright. The return via the balcony path overlooking Ullswater is one of the best non-ridge paths in the Lake District.
From the busy National Trust car park off the main road go upstream and cross it by the first bridge, to ascend on the east side of Aira Beck, which is much less crowded. An unusual huge L shaped branch from a large conifer will catch your eye, and wonder, “why?”.The wood is mainly of oak, and a delightful start to the day. After a long mile open country arrives, and a signed path right leads up the fell to the Trig point on Gowbarrow Fell, a great viewpoint for the eastern and northern Fells.
As the made path descends right, south east, a small branch goes left and up to a stile at the wall corner, then leads obviously over Great Meldrum and to a gate between plantations. Through (or over) this carry on to the corner of the Little Meldrum plantation and take the first break in it as you go round to the right. This leads rather boggily but easily compared with carrying on round, or trying to find Little M, to the northern edge, where a track leads over the ridge and turns north to join a road. The map unnamed Birkett Watermillock Fell, 424m, can be taken if wanted. A right on the road then a quick left leads to a steep ascent of the Little M Fell; Birkett returns the same way, but heading just south of east leads steeply down through bracken to a minor road just to the right of the only house on it.
The views across Ullswater and the distant Pennines are worth the slightly odd descent. Head South on minor roads to the B road and keep on down, till a signed path leads right and gradually ascends to the start of the Swinburn park wood, part plantation, part wood. This leads on to the splendid “balcony” path above Ullswater, becoming suddenly very popular at the Yew Crag corner.
Descend gently to the wood and path of the start. The ascent of these low fells together is a surprising 2,500 ft.