Ullswater is the second largest lake in the English Lake District, being approximately nine miles (14.5 kilometres) long and 0.75 miles (1,200 m) wide with a maximum depth of slightly more than 60 metres (197 ft).
Many regard Ullswater as the most beautiful of the English lakes; it has been compared to Lake Lucerne in Switzerland and it is a popular tourist destination. It is a typical Lake District narrow “ribbon lake” formed after the last ice age when a glacier scooped out the valley floor and when the glacier retreated, the deepened section filled with meltwater which became a lake. A total of three separate glaciers formed the lake. The surrounding mountains give Ullswater the shape of a stretched ‘Z’ with three distinct segments (or ‘reaches’) that wind their way through the surrounding hills.
For much of its length Ullswater forms the border between the historic counties of Cumberland and Westmorland.
The origin of the name ‘Ullswater’ is uncertain. Whaley suggests ‘Ulf’s lake’, from Old Norse personal name ‘Ulfr’ plus Middle English ‘water’ influenced in usage by Old Norse ‘vatn’ ‘water’, ‘lake’ ….’Ulfr’ is also the Old Norse noun meaning ‘wolf’, and Hutchinson thought that the name might refer to the lake as a resort of wolves, or…to its elbow-shaped bend (citing a Celtic ‘ulle’…).”
Some say it comes from the name of a Nordic chief ‘Ulf’ who ruled over the area; there was also a Saxon Lord of Greystoke called ‘Ulphus’ whose land bordered the lake. The lake may have been named Ulf’s Water in honour of either of these, or it may be named after the Norse god Ullr. Hodgson Hill, an earthwork on the northeast shoreline of Ullswater may be the remains of a Viking fortified settlement.