Grasmere and Rydal Water

Cumbria, England

SummaryGetting there

A popular Lakeland village, memories of William Wordsworth and Rydal Water and Grasmere lakes.

Distance:5.3 Miles
Est. Time:2 hrs 40 mins
Difficulty: Easy 
Total Ascent:951 ft 
Total Descent: 955 ft 

DescriptionMap View

The RouteSafetyNotes


  • Grasmere lakeTwo of Lakeland's prettiest lakes
  • Caves
  • Woodland and mountain scenery
  • 2 William Wordsworth homes and the Wordsworth graves

Grasmere has been invaded by tourists since Wordsworth described it as the most delightful place on earth, but it is justifiably popular. This walk circumnavigates the two adjacent lakes and offers a range of memorable views and places of interest.

The Route go to top

Dove CottageWalk back to the Ambleside/Keswick Road (Ambleside end of the village). Cross near the roundabout and go up the minor road opposite. Pass Dove Cottage on the left (former Wordsworth home).

Continue up the lane, past the Coffin Stone to a junction where the sign points right to Ambleside. Go left at this junction following the half-hidden low sign saying 'Path to Rydal'. This former path is now a metalled road until it passes some cottages and downgrades to a bridle path running alongside a stone wall.

You will glimpse occasional views of Grassmere Lake on the right. Go through a gate into a wooded section. Cross a stream and, where the path forks, take the right fork following the wall down, then uphill again towards the rugged face of Nab Scar. Go through a gate. Another gate takes you to a terrace overlooking Rydal Water. The path continues to undulate and to wind to and fro near the edge of the woodland, but is well marked throughout.

Go through a gate onto a sunken track that turns away from the lake and goes past some cottages. The next gate leads to a T junction where you turn right onto a road.  Follow the road down into Rydal, past Rydal Hall (Conference Centre) and Rydal Mount (another former Wordsworth home - on the right). 

cave between Rydal Water an GrasmereCross the main road and turn left (towards Ambleside). Walk about 200yds to Pelter Bridge (packhorse bridge). Cross the bridge and immediately turn right. Go past the Car Park and on up past some cottages to a gate onto a bridle path. Continue through trees to another gate, where the end of Rydal Water comes into view. The path immediately splits and you should take the left (higher) path.

After a while the path moves away from the lake and passes a cave entrance. Continue up and follow the path as it sweeps left and up to another, larger, cave which you can enter by crossing stepping-stones over a shallow pool. Continue on the path past quarry workings and back to an overview of the lake. Looking across Heron Island you can see Nab Scar, which you passed on the first part of the walk. The path passes out of sight of the lake behind some trees, then it divides whereupon you take the right fork to pass the end of Rydal Water.

At a T junction turn left to walk alongside a wall (following the sign to Grasmere, High Close and Langdale). Where the path comes up to a ridge, giving a view of Grasmere lake, take the right fork and drop down towards the lake (follow the yellow arrow). Pass a footbridge and continue ahead to the lake shore. Go through a kissing gate and follow the path through the wooded edge, keeping close to the lake shore. The path crosses a wooden bridge and turns sharp left to pass a large house. Follow the path uphill and go up some wooden steps to turn right onto a road. Follow the road down into Grasmere.

Safety go to top

Overall 6 1/2 miles (approx) with just a few moderate inclines, this walk is relatively easy. However, smooth soled shoes should not be worn as some sections are rocky and can be slippery.

Notes go to top

inside one of Grasmere's man-made cavesCaves - Although impressive and, where accessible, somewhat attractive, the caves are not natural but are part of the former quarry workings. They are still worth a visit!

Coffin Stone - A flat stone beside the road leading up from Dove Cottage is known as the Coffin Stone. It dates back to a period when Ambleside did not have a church of its own and coffins were carried across the hill to St Oswald's church in Grasmere. The stone provided a convenient resting place for the tired pallbearers to recover their strength for a final (dignified) walk down into the village.

Grasmere - This is the name of both the lake and the village. By Cumbrian standards the lake is small, but it is very pretty and surrounded by trees and meadows. A cafe just outside the village hires rowing boats, which offer a pleasantly different view of the scenery. Grasmere village has several hotels, guest houses and B&B establishments, plus a number of pubs and restaurants. It has a good number of shops, including at least two that sell walking and climbing gear. There is good parking and a large Tourist Information office.

the Wordsworth family graves at St Oswald's church, GrasmereDove CottageDove Cottage - Wordsworth's first family home (as an adult) where he spent the early part of his career and where his children were born. It is maintained as a museum by the National Trust.

Rydal Mount - With increasing success and affluence Wordsworth was able to buy the much larger family residence of Rydal Mount.

St Oswald's Church, Grasmere - Notable for its annual rush laying ceremony (a throwback to the days of earth floors) the Grasmere parish church is much more famous for having the Wordsworth family graves at the back of the churchyard. The church is named after a Saxon king of Northumbria who was also said to have preached on this site.

expand contract Walking Guides

expand contract Accommodation