Skelghyl Wood's Champion Tree Trail
Skelghyl Wood's Champion Tree Trail

On the outskirts of Ambleside stands Skelghyll Wood, an ancient forest covering over 95 acres that boasts some of the tallest trees in Britain. Within the woodland is Jenkins Crag, one of the Lake District's most popular viewpoints, offering superb views over Lake Windermere and the fells beyond.

The woodland at Skelghyll was created around 1860 by Victorian plant hunters. These plant hunters scoured the globe for rare and unusual species and brought them back to Britain. They planted over 150 specimen conifer trees at Skelghyll. Not all the rare varieties managed to thrive on the wooded slopes above Lake Windermere, but over time Skelghyll Wood developed into a wonderful example of a Victorian arboretum.

Follow the Champion Tree Trail signposts
Follow the Champion Tree Trail signposts

Champion Tree Trail

This wonderful 45-minute circular route follows a track through conifers planted by Victorian plant hunters. Many of these historic trees are tagged with small plaques noting the species (Latin and common English names) and the part of the world the tree is native to. The Trail is very well signposted; just follow the numbered posts with green tree labels. Make sure to start the trail in an anti-clockwise direction!

The star tree is a Grand Fir (Abies grandis) measuring 58m (190 feet) high. It is the tallest tree in Cumbria and North West England and the tallest Grand Fir in England. To put that height into perspective, the tree is as tall as a dozen double-decker buses stacked on top of each other. By comparison, the tallest Grand Fir in the UK is at Ardkinglas Woodland Garden in Argyll, Scotland. It has been measured at 64.5m, higher than Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

Other 'star' trees include the tallest Wellingtonia in Cumbria, measured at 54m in 2011.

A Wellingtonia, native to California
A Wellingtonia, native to California

Some of the species planted in Skelghyll Wood include Western Red Cedar, Wellingtonia, Grand Fir, Douglas Fir, Sawara Cypress, European Larch, Corsican Pine, Noble Fir, Hondo spruce, Blue Colorado spruce, and Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana). As you can tell from this overview the trees planted here come from across the globe.

There are quite a few conifers native to North America, but also several species native to South America, Asia, and Europe. The outstanding feature at Skelghyll is that so many of the trees are tagged with their names and origins. Champion Trees also have their heights indicated.

Within the woodland, you will come across a charcoal hearth, a flat area used by charcoal makers using coppiced wood.

The tallest Grand fir in Cumbria (58m)
The tallest Grand fir in Cumbria (58m)

The circular Champion Tree Trail returns to the parking area by following an attractive brook as it tumbles down the hillside.

The Trail is easy to follow and should not prove challenging for anyone of reasonable fitness. There are picnic benches at several points along the Trail.

What is a Champion Tree?

According to the Royal Forestry Society, a Champion Tree is an individual tree that is an exceptional example of its species due to its exceptional size, age, rarity or historical importance. The Tree Register of the British Isles maintains a list of over 190,000 individual trees in Britain, with each tree's height and girth. The list includes trees measured as early as the 17th century.

Western Red Cedar
Western Red Cedar

Getting There

Skelghyll Wood is signposted at the southern edge of Ambleside on the A591. Look for a small National Trust sign on the first bend just as you leave the village. The lane leads to a small parking area between shared by Stagshaw Garden (well worth a visit in spring) and Skelghyll Wood. The garden is to the left of the parking area and the Wood is to the right. There is no charge for parking.

Alternatively, you can walk to Skelghyll Wood from the Waterside car park on Borrans Road in Ambleside (use the postcode LA22 0ES for your satnav).

More Photos

About Skelghyll Wood
Address: A591, Ambleside, Lake District, Cumbria, England, LA22 0HE
Attraction Type: Countryside - Arboretum
Location: At the southern edge of Ambleside off the A591. Look for the National Trust sign and follow the minor lane to a parking area shared with the Trust's Stagshaw Garden.
Website: Skelghyll Wood
Location map
OS: NY382028
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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