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.
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.
The Walk to 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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