The fell stands at the end of a short ridge ascending slowly to the north east towards Little Mell Fell. This ridge runs parallel to the middle reach of Ullswater, providing fine views of the lake. There are a number of intermediate tops along the way, including Great Meldrum (1,433 ft) Little Meldrum (1,325 ft), and Watermillock Common. Gowbarrow Fell is the high point of Gowbarrow Park, formerly a medieval deer park.
To the west of Gowbarrow Fell, separating it from the foothills of Hart Side is Aira Beck. This flows down from the rolling fells of the Dodds, passing through the village of Dockray, before turning south toward the shore of Ullswater. Two main waterfalls, High Force and Aira Force are within this final stretch as the water drops over 200 ft in total. The Aira Force attraction is blessed with two stone bridges at the head and foot, making it one of the most photogenic sites in the District with easy access from a main road. The bridges are of particular interest: the lower is made of vertical stones, not traditional in these parts, while the higher has horizontal stones, more in keeping with the dale customs. The falls and the main body of the fell are owned by the National Trust.
Gowbarrow Fell's northern boundary is formed by a wide bowl, across which is the domed form of Great Mell Fell. This basin drains to the north via Thackthwaite Beck and Dacre Beck, ultimately swinging around to the east to join the River Leven.
The southern slopes of Gowbarrow Fell are wooded, providing a picturesque backdrop for views over Ullswater. Above this is a fringe of rock, the main feature being Yew Crag at the south eastern corner of the fell. The woodlands and crags continue eastwards beneath Great and Little Meldrums, a rocky spur jutting out from the latter toward the lake.
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