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High Sweden Bridge: a short hike from Ambleside

by | Destinations, England | 16 comments

The walk to High Sweden Bridge is one of my favourite walks from Ambleside.  It is a relatively short walk, but it gives the feeling of being right in the heart of the Lake District. It is one of our go-to dog walks and it never disappoints. With views of Rydal Water, Lake Windermere and the surrounding fells, not to mention woodlands, rocky streams and waterfalls, it is a landscape to enjoy.

View over the fells from trail to High Sweden Bridge

And then of course, there is High Sweden Bridge itself. Originally a pack horse bridge dating back to the 18th Century, it is a quaint stone bridge spanning Scandale Beck. Neither High Sweden Bridge nor Low Sweden Bridge (yes, there is a low version as well!) has any connection with Sweden. It is likely that the name comes from the word “swidden” meaning an area of land cleared for cultivation by slashing and burning vegetation.

High Sweden Bridge near Ambleside

The Walk to High Sweden Bridge

Me sitting on High Sweden Bridge

The walk to High Sweden Bridge is a circular walk and takes about an hour and a half depending how quickly you walk. In length, it is slightly over three miles. The terrain is quite rocky and often wet so walking boots are recommended. The first part of the trail is a steady uphill walk, the steepest part of which is just after High Sweden Bridge before the downhill descent.

 

The route to High Sweden Bridge

Map of route to High Sweden Bridge

Click this link to open up ViewRanger for interactive map    © OpenStreetMap contributors

Typically we park in Ambleside at the Rydal Road carpark. Cross the road just before the mini roundabout and head up the hill past the Golden Rule Pub. A little after that on the left is Sweden Bridge Lane. Basically, follow this road. Initially it is a tarmacked drive leading to several houses above Ambleside, but then there is a gate and the drive becomes a rocky track.

The Folly of Friendship and Beauty

Soon after passing through the gate, remember to look right across the field to see the folly: “The Tower of Friendship and Beauty”. It stands in the grounds of country house, Eller How, and is easy to miss from the trail unless you know to look for it. The folly was built by one Henry Boyle in the late nineteenth century and carved into the stones are the names of several visitors from that time. William Wordsworth is among them.

Folly of Friendship and Beauty

To the Bridge and then down

The trail heads steadily upwards with great views over to the Langdales and to Rydal Water.  Lake Windermere is behind on the upward trek and in front when heading down. The path goes through wooded areas and meets with Scandale Beck at points along the way. Eventually the trail leads to the very picturesque High Sweden Bridge.

Beth sitting on the bridge

It is possible to extend the walk from here and hike over to the Kirkstone Pass, but that is a day hike rather than a short walk. To complete this shorter,  circular route simply follow the trail across the bridge and then head up the steep stepped path at the other side.

Steps heading up the hill

There is stile to climb and the trail then continues down the valley back towards Ambleside. The views ahead are of Lake Windermere and on a clear day, these are stunning.

Low Sweden Bridge

When the path starts to level out and just before turning right through a gate, the trail crosses Low Sweden Bridge. This is not quite so picturesque as the narrow pack horse High Sweden Bridge.

From Low Sweden Bridge it is just a matter of heading down. The trail goes through a farm and joins a narrow road which leads back down into Ambleside.

Cows on the hillside above Ambleside

 

There are many walks from Ambleside and in the surrounding area, but this one of the best short walks in the Lake District. It takes less than ninety minutes and can be enjoyed by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. The trail is very clear and it would be difficult to get lost on this walk!

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16 Comments

  1. Sometimes we overlook hikes and walk that are close by. You are showing all of us we should take a closer look around our homes.

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  2. Nice post.

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  3. I really enjoy the fact that you point out hidden treasures and that you take into account all levels of fitness when you write about these walks, Jane. It’s something I think about more when I travel with my parents. It’s really nice to know what to expect!

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  4. The scenery looks stunning Jane and ideal walk for Jasper. I can’t believe I’ve never been to the Lake District! Love the scenic pictures.

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  5. You are so lucky to have this walk on your doorstep. I miss the old stone bridges, High Sweden Bridge is beautiful. Pretty amazing that it dates back to the 18th Century too. What a wonderful dog walk this is.

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  6. Looks like a fun walk and a lovely bridge. As soon as the lockdown is over Ellie & I will start planning our next trip to the Lake District. Fingers crossed it won’t take forever until the lockdown is over.

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  7. This does look like a delightful short walk. At 1 hour, it’s just the right amount of time and right in the heart of the Lake District. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. I remember hiking this area of the Lake District many years ago. I totally forgotten about the bridge until I saw this post! How I miss hiking in this region, its been a while, hopefully be back up there this summer, or I might hold on until things have calmed down. I can see thousands of people hitting up the lakes this summer once Covid starts blowing away.

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  9. I just love the Lake District! So many beautiful places to walk. Thank you for sharing the cool history of this old horse bridge, I would love to walk this one day

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  10. that old bridge has so much character! I love hearing the background to these distinctive places too. Always think the Lake District looks BEAUTIFUL but didn’t know much about Ambleside. Looks like an amazing place to enjoy nature and go hiking

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  11. What a beautiful, short and sweet hike! I’ve never seen a stone bridge like that and it even looks a bit precarious, although I’m guessing the arch gives it stability? I also admit I had to look up what “folly” means, but I love the name and the fact that names have been carved into it.

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  12. I have just finished a book set in the early 1900s where people went walking in the Lake District and it is wonderful to see your images. The stone bridge is quite special and looks precarious but I know its engineering is sound. What a beautiful walk.

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  13. What a fantastic walk this looks like looks so beautiful and some great scenery. Love all the stonework also gives a lovely character

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  14. Stone walls, stone bridges, stone follys- this all looks so peaceful. I’d give my right arm to be able to go out and do a walk like this now. A really lovely stroll through your countryside Jane.

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  15. I’m up for a peaceful walk here. This looks like a nice relaxing day out with beautiful scenery. This seems to be the walk in I envision when I need to get away.

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  16. The Lake District is very much somewhere we would like to visit again. Great walk taking in unexpected sights and great views.

    Reply

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Hello

Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

We gave up work in order to travel and do all the things we were not able to do in our careers. We know we are incredibly lucky to be able to do this.

We are quite active and love skiing, hiking, biking, exploring etc, but we also enjoy history, art, music, science…..and good food and wine! In this blog, you will find articles on all of these subjects as we discover them on our travels.

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Jane

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