Visit Wild Haweswater

Wild Haweswater is a partnership between the RSPB and United Utilities, working together in this stunning landscape to benefit wildlife, water and people. Set within the eastern Lake District National Park, this site features 30 square km of woodland, moorland, farmland, river and meadow, cocooned in the mountainous landscape surrounding Haweswater Reservoir.

Please read the tabs below to make the most of your visit to Wild Haweswater.

Visitor Parking

Located at the southern end of Haweswater Reservoir, Mardale Head is where you’ll find the main visitor car park for the site. It can be reached by slowly driving along the winding road on the edge of the reservoir, enjoying spectacular scenery as you go.

What3Words location: weary.intrigued.published.  

Grid reference: NY46951073

Plan your visit

🥾 Haweswater is wild and wonderful, best explored with sturdy boots, a backpack and a map!

🗺 All the public rights of way across the site are marked on OS maps (OL5)

🚗 For visitor parking, please see the tab below. 

Haweswater does not have RSPB trails, a visitor centre, public toilets, public hides or a café – we recommend you bring an Ordnance Survey map, picnic and a raincoat to enjoy exploring the beautiful fells here. Please also bear in mind that the upland landscape is incredibly steep and rugged, with very uneven terrain, so the paths can be demanding on your physical fitness. 

🌦 Prepare for your visit to Haweswater by checking the weather forecast before heading into the hills and please be aware that phone signal is absent throughout most of the site.

🎒 We recommend packing the following items to enjoy a day on the fells: lunch and snacks, water bottle, hot flask, OS map (OL5 for this area), waterproofs, drybags, hat, gloves, scarf, tissues, small first aid kit, small torch and a sense of adventure! It is also a good idea to bring a different pair of shoes and socks to change into when you arrive back to your car as the weather can get wild here in the Lake District, even in the summer months.

🛖 Our RSPB office for Haweswater at Naddle Farm does not have public parking other than for pre-booked hides and visits and we don’t have a visitor centre here.

📧📞We are happy to offer advice on visiting Haweswater, by email or phone and invite you to get in touch using the details at the bottom of this page if you have questions about your visit.

🦡 Whether run by the RSPB, or our partners, we have pre-booked wildlife hides and a variety of unique events and experiences available, which can be found in the ‘Events and Experiences’ tab above. 

Located at the southern end of Haweswater Reservoir, Mardale Head is where you’ll find the main visitor car park for the site. It can be reached by slowly driving along the winding road on the edge of the reservoir, enjoying spectacular scenery as you go.

You can find the What3Words location for this car park here: weary.intrigued.published.  Grid reference: NY46951073

From here you can follow public rights of way (marked on OS maps OL5) into the fells:

  • If you’re into climbing Wainwrights, from the car park you can head up Selside Pike, Branstree, Harter Fell, Mardale III Bell, High Street, Kidsty Pike and more.
  • Hike up to Blea Water – the deepest tarn in the Lake District.
  • Walk in the footsteps of people of the past on Gatesgarth Pass.
  • Take the Old Corpse Road from Mardale Valley into Swindale Valley where we’ve re-wiggled Swindale Beck.
  • From the car park, the second exclosure you come to is Mardale Mountain Meadow. Follow the arrows to discover the alpine plant communities we’ve been restoring here.

Mardale Head car park is open at all times

A donation cairn, to support the RSPB’s work at Haweswater, is situated in the car park. We suggest a donation of £2, but any amount large or small is gratefully received. Please note that only cash donations can be made in the cairn as the lack of mobile phone reception means we are unable to take card payments. However, if you wish to send an online donation to support our work, you can do so here.

There is also a Mountain Rescue cairn in the car park, we kindly encourage you to support their life-saving work if you feel able to.

Haweswater’s trails can be accessed at all times throughout the year and the main visitor car park at Mardale Head does not have opening hour restrictions.

The RSPB site office at Haweswater is open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, so any visitor enquiries made will be answered within these hours. There is no visitor parking here, other than on pre-booked hides, visits and experiences. 

The temperate rainforest of Naddle Forest, peat bogs of Mosedale, rushing streams running through the valleys and wildflowers of the meadows and fells, each provide homes to both rare and common wildlife. 

Unlike many traditional RSPB managed sites, Wild Haweswater isn’t a place where there are designated viewpoints, hides or spots to see specific wildlife. It is a landscape restoration project, so our work here is about reviving damaged habitats and making them more resilient to the impact of climate change (for example through planting trees and Alpine plants, re-wiggling rivers, re-wetting peat bogs and more). We’re delivering benefits to nature, water and people too. This in turn is restoring the site for the special wildlife that lives here, along with reintroducing lost species, but the plants and animals are very much within the landscape – which is mountainous and vast and so doesn’t always make them easy to see like they are on other sites.

If you’re casually visiting, it’s a case of walking on the network of public footpaths and bridleways throughout the valleys and fells here, seeing what is around, and being lucky. See above information on parking and facilities. 

The RSPB and our partners also have a range of nature-based, exciting events and experiences through the year, to help you discover the wonderful wildlife of this beautiful, rugged landscape. Check out the ‘Events and Experiences’ tab above. 

🌸 Spring 🌸
As the winter fades away, spring at Wild Haweswater sees Ring Ouzels, Wheatears, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits return to the fells around the reservoir from Africa. Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers and Cuckoos migrate back to the forests of Naddle and Swindale valleys.  Join us for a Dawn Chorus walk in May to experience the sound of nature’s early morning music festival. 

Our Badger Watching Hide re-opens for the season from April through to October, giving you the chance to see this iconic mammal up-close. 

Mountain Ringlet butterflies emerge on remote fells, flitting among the grasses. 

Our flock of Cheviot sheep and herd of hardy Scottish cattle, have their lambs and calves in the fields close to our farms in Naddle and Swindale valleys. 

Summer
At this time of year, the wildflowers in Swindale Meadows and the Arctic-Alpine plants of Mardale Mountain Meadow come into their full, colourful bloom. Join us for a National Meadows Day walk in July, to experience the magic of this season. 

Dark Green, Small Pearl Bordered and recently recolonised Marsh Fritillary butterflies flit around Swindale Meadows along with Golden Ringed dragonflies and a whole host of other marvellous insects. 

We cut our hay in late July onwards, to allow the wildflowers chance to set seed.

Fell Pony Adventures will take you on a unique, wild camping experience. 

🍄 Autumn 🍄 
As the summer moves into autumn, the unusual sound of roaring Red Deer can be herd echoing across the fells. Join us for a Red Deer Rut on Foot event in October, to experience the sights and sounds of this natural spectacle. 

A wide variety of fairy tale-like fungi can be spotted in Naddle Forest (and if you’re really lucky, a pixie or two sat on top). 

Listen for the sound of Pink-footed Geese flying overhead as they migrate back to the UK from their breeding grounds. 

Wild Intrigue‘s Woodland Wildlife Hide re-opens for the season in November through to June. 

❄️ Winter ❄️
The snow-capped fells and icy streams give the whole site a Narnian-feel this season. 

Atlantic Salmon make their way from the sea into Swindale Beck to spawn. 

Redwings and Fieldfares spend the winter here, feasting on berries to survive the colder months before migrating north to Scandinavia to breed.

Tree planting season is in full swing, with our staff and volunteers planting thousands of trees from our nursery, back out into the landscape as part of our restoration work. Join us for a Tree ID walk or plant a tree in Celebration Wood to remember a life or mark a special occasion. 

🌳 Year Round 🌳
Red Squirrels scamper through the forest (why not have breakfast or afternoon tea with them?), recently re-introduced Water Voles plop into the becks, Dippers plunge into the fast-flowing streams, and Buzzards circle overhead.

Our herds of native Cumbrian Fell Ponies, Highland, Luing and Belted Galloway cattle, and Cheviot sheep can be seen around the site, carrying out their important conservation grazing. 

At Nature’s Pace offer a range of  nature connection and wellbeing adventures at Wild Haweswater through the seasons. 

We welcome group visits to Haweswater and love to share our work with anyone who is interested in discovering more.

Our Open Days through the year are for any individual or group interested in learning about our work in a professional or practical sense, to book onto. There is a maximum of 20 spaces to ensure that attendees can get the most from their visit and due to our limited parking. If you have a party bigger than 20, please get in touch to discuss options. 

We ask for a suggested donation to contribute to our work here. This is payable beforehand via this online link or on the day by card only.

  • £10  per person (community donation)
  • £15 per person (corporate donation)

Please note, these Open Days aren’t suitable for children or dogs. 

Our Open Day dates for 2024 are as follows: 

  • Thursday 25 January 
  • Tuesday 13 February  
  • Wednesday 20 March 
  • Thursday 11 April (5 spaces remaining) 
  • Tuesday 21 May (full) 
  • Wednesday 19 June (16 spaces remaining) 
  • Tuesday 2 July (full) 
  • Tuesday 13 August (19 spaces remaining) 
  • Wednesday 18 September (full) 
  • Thursday 24 October (20 spaces remaining) 
  • Tuesday 19 November (20 spaces remaining) 
  • Wednesday 4 December (20 spaces remaining) 

All visits are 10am-1pm and include a warm welcome, introductory video and talk and hot drinks at our office at Naddle Farm, followed by a look into our tree and plant nursery and discussion on our eco-tourism offer. We then head round to visit Swindale Valley to explore our river restoration work and farming operation. This is guided by experts from our team. Afterwards we can give directions on other parts of the site to visit in the afternoon, with ideas on the best places to go depending on the season, if you want to explore further, self-guided. 

To book your place or find out more about arranging group visits to Haweswater, please contact us [email protected] and a member of our team will be pleased to discuss this with you.

Please note, we don’t have coach parking and the local roads are unsuitable for large coaches. 

Tree Nursery Visits
If you have your own tree nursery or are looking to start one up and would like to visit ours to learn more about our story, then please contact us via email. All nursery visits are an hour and have a maximum of 10 places. We also ask for a suggested donation of £10 per head to contribute to our nursery work. 

At Wild Haweswater, we’re demonstrating that nature restoration and farming can thrive together. Much of our work is hidden within the landscape, where we’re restoring natural processes to benefit wildlife, water and people; for example by restoring peat bogs, rewiggling Swindale Beck, and replanting lost trees.

Within these restored habitats wildlife is returning, such as nesting birds on rougher ground, Red Squirrels in the trees, scarce alpine flowers on the crags and Peregrines in the skies.

Alongside these beautiful, restored habitats we manage livestock including sheep, cattle and Fell ponies, which move through the landscape regularly to allow plantlife to return.

Please do consider these special habitats, species and our livestock when visiting Haweswater:

  • Stay on public rights of way.
  • Keep dogs on leads during the bird nesting season, around birds that are resting on the ground, and around livestock. We have sheep, cattle and ponies on-site.
  • Remember to close gates.

Discover how to explore our wild spaces responsibly with the Countryside Code.

There is plenty to do in our serene corner of the Lake District National Park, why not stay for longer? There are many excellent food, drink and accommodation providers in the local area.

Food and drink
You won’t go hungry when visiting Haweswater, with plenty of nearby places to eat and drink.

Within 10 minutes drive:

Within 15-20 minutes drive:

Places to stay  
There’s lots of lovely options for places to stay nearby.

  • Our excellent, local, community pub, The Mardale Inn at Bampton, is just 5 minutes drive away and offers newly refurbished rooms at a discounted overnight rate to Wild Haweswater visitors, available using the code “WildHawes23YTS.”
  • The nearby 4* Haweswater Hotel is just 5 minutes drive away with stunning views over Haweswater reservoir itself.
  • Rosie’s Barn in Butterwick, about 10 minutes drive away, is a romantic escape just for one couple, blending rustic elegance and stunning landscapes.  Self-catering but with a hearty breakfast included. Dogs welcome. 
  • The Queen’s Head and the Punchbowl Inn, both at Askham are 15 minutes drive away.
  • There are a number of bed and breakfasts, holiday cottages and pubs with rooms 20 minutes away in Shap including New Ing Lodge, Wainwright’s Rest, The Greyhound pub and more. 
  • Local campsites include Setterah Park Farm, New Ing Lodge and Aragon campsite
  • Further afield in the Lake District, try Another Place at Ullswater or lots more options here.

Travel to us

Walk or bike

There are lots of beautiful walking and biking routes which take you to Haweswater, and what better way to gain a real sense of place than by discovering it on your own two feet or wheels? Get in touch with us to find out which walking routes are available in our area. Otherwise, the following transport options are detailed below.

Train

The closest station is Penrith, which is 14 miles/22.5 km from Haweswater.

Bus

Sadly there are no bus routes to Haweswater.

Car

Please refer to the visitor parking tab above for information on visiting Haweswater by car.

Visitor & General Enquiries

Email: [email protected]
Tel: 01931 713376

Postal address: The RSPB, Wild Haweswater, Naddle Farm, Bampton, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2RP.

(Please note, this is the RSPB office for Wild Haweswater, not a public visitor centre. There is no public parking here, other than for pre-booked hides, events and experiences. Visitor parking is at Mardale Head – details above).

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