surprise view over derwentwater

The view of Ashness Bridge with Skiddaw in the backdrop is one of the most iconic views in the Lake District, Cumbria. So much so that if you are ever in the National Park and perusing postcards in the local shops, this view will almost certainly be on one of them.

ashness bridge with blencathra behind

It is perfect for a picture postcard for sure. Ashness Bridge, an old little packhorse bridge with Blencathra perfectly framed behind it.

What makes this place even more special is what is rightfully known as Surprise View and the walk or drive to get there from Ashness Bridge is definitely worth it when you visit here.

Where Is Ashness Bridge?

What makes the view from Ashness Bridge very popular and busy is the fact that you do not need to climb up to it on foot.

You can drive directly up to this old Grade II listed packhorse bridge, and especially in the Summer months the banks of the beck are adorned with families, walkers and photographers.

To get there, if coming from Keswick, head past the Derwentwater car park and into Borrowdale on the B5289.

After a few miles, when you are halfway down the lakeside, you see a small road off to your left heading uphill with a sign to the bridge. It is a 2 mile climb in the car on a steep, narrow road.

You must cross the bridge to get to the car park so be careful of people coming down the hill as there will be some giving way on the narrow lane.

ashness bridge over the stream

Ashness Bridge

The bridge itself passes over Barrow Beck that brings water down from Bleaberry Fell above.

It is an 18th Century bridge that was built when pack horses were used to transport goods around the fells and valleys.

In the last century it was widened in the advent of the car, but yes it is only just wide enough.

The stones by the side of Barrow Beck just above the bridge are  worn down and smooth from the thousands and thousands of people who have stood or paddled here, in this great setting.

the river at ashness bridge

Different weathers and seasons bring whole new perspectives here. Skiddaw often hides its top in the clouds. A great iconic mountain that is framed above the bridge and by the hillsides either side.

Bark House Bothy

There is an old looking stone building by Ashness Bridge known as Bark House Bothy. It looks like an old barn.

A plaque on the side of it reads ‘Bark House Mountain Base 1964’. It was used as a mountain base hut in the past as well as a scout hut for a period.

bark house bothy at Ashness Bridge

It is now a single room space where volunteers are sometimes on hand with local info, a warm fire and refreshments.

Surprise View

Now then if you carry on up the road for half a mile above Ashness Bridge, you will come to what is known as Surprise View.

derwentwater with bassenthwaite lake in the distance

Believe me, it is worth the effort no matter if you drive or walk there. The road is well kept so even if it is uphill you will manage it with a pram etc. But yes there is a car park also at Surprise View you can use if you drive.

You pass through Ashness Wood which are full of Red Squirrels and ancient oak trees. These oak trees are a remnant of far back in the past when this area was a temperate rainforest.

Apart from the red squirrels, wildlife spotters may want to look out for Greater Spotted Woodpecker or Pied Flycatcher. If lucky you may see a red deer too.

Again there is a car park, this time on the left. But to your right you see the gap in the trees and a view you will not forget.

derwentwater and skiddaw from surprise view, lake district

Down and before you are the Lake District delights of Derwentwater with Bassenthwaite Lake behind, and Skiddaw rising above the town of Keswick.

You can look up, down and across Borrowdale with the River Derwent and of course fells in all directions.

Across the water is the unmistakable Catbells, a climb that is a fond one of so many people in the area. You may get to see the trails of people marching up.

derwentwater with cat bells on the left

Looking the other way you see deep into Borrowdale with Castle Crag bookending the end of of Derwentwater.

Most people will turn round here back to Ashness Bridge, but if you carry on along the top road and take the path off that branches to the right, you can walk to another Borrowdale beauty spot, Lodore Falls.

Conclusion

This is a spot I thoroughly give as a tip to venture to in each season. Every time I come here the view is changed by the colours of seasons or by the weather that be, each time individually dramatic.

Two incredible views in one, up an obscure road up the hill. If you are visiting Keswick or Borrowdale, go for it, take in the fresh air and the views.

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2 Comments

  1. Julie Brown says:

    This article is sheer perfection in every possible way.
    Thank you,
    Julie Brown

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi there! Thanks so much

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