Rydal Water and Grasmere

Walk date – 3rd June 2019

Distance – 7.9 miles

Weather – mainly overcast with brief spells of sun, cool, windy


The weather has been very dreary and unsettled since our last walk with cool temperatures, strong winds, heavy showers, and monotonous grey cloud blanketing the skies. It wasn’t going to be a great deal better today but the forecasts did at least indicate a dry day. On the other hand the prediction for strong winds was the determining factor in our choice of walk today so we decided to stay off the fells and have a relatively wind free walk around Rydal Water and Grasmere. The weather stayed dull and overcast for the most part but that was more than made up for by the absolutely glorious display of colour provided by the overwhelming profusion of rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom everywhere along the route. A truly memorable sight which we will always remember.


Lay-by A591 –  Town End – Dove Cottage – Lady Wood – White Moss Common – Coffin Route – Rydal Hall – Pelter Bridge – Rydal Water – Grasmere Water – Grasmere Village – Lay-by A591

Heavy cloud above a very dour looking Helm Crag, taken from the lay-by just before we set off down the road towards Grasmere village. Even down here at ground level the wind is brisk and long trousers, fleeces and lightweight jackets are the order of the day.

We turn off at Town End and walk up past Dove Cottage which is undergoing some sort of makeover so there will have been a few disappointed visitors today. I couldn’t see any indication of when the work might be completed but on checking the website it states that it will be open from July to October for guided tours (exact dates to be confirmed) after which it will close again until 2020. The museum, close by, will be closed for the whole of 2019.

A sign of things to come when the rhododendrons make their first appearance as we continue on up the lane from Dove Cottage …..

….. and make our way up to the junction where the sight of the huge bank of rhododendrons pulled us magnet-like towards it.

My photography doesn’t do it justice but the sight of them all the way along the lane was spectacular. We had intended going further up beyond the junction and following the ‘coffin route’ but for now we just enjoy the spectacle, we can pick up the route later on.

The view across Grasmere to Silver How from the lane. A little further on we leave the lane and pass through a metal gate bearing a sign telling us we were about to walk through Lady Wood …..

….. which, although not a very long walk through, was very attractive and had some fine specimens of mature trees. It isn’t a very big wood but it was a very pleasant diversion nevertheless, light and airy, with many different varieties, (e.g. oak, sycamore, beech, ash, etc), it was lovely to walk through and much nicer than peering through the gloom of a conifer plantation.

We pass through the gate at the other end of the Lady Wood trail and back onto the lane once again, where the rhododendrons are still lining the edges and putting on a great show. ‘Blooming marvellous’ as the tabloid headlines might describe it.

Heading down the lane now towards the car park at the bottom with Nab Scar immediately ahead of us. The rhododendrons have vanished for the time being, they will be back!

From the car park we followed an indistinct path and began climbing over White Moss Common to pick up the coffin route a short distance above us. Once at the top of the common we found numerous trails and had a little exploration by following a few of them. The views were rather different from this area of the Common and this one in particular gave us a good view of Rydal Water, its usually quite difficult to get a full length view of it so it was a nice surprise when we saw it. The heavy cloud is keeping the Wansfell skyline looking decidedly gloomy.

More colourful blooms on White Moss Common, yellow azaleas this time.

Back on the coffin route proper now and taking a look past the gate up through Dunney Beck, one of the many routes leading up to Alcock Tarn. The sky is still thick with cloud but somehow the sun manages to break through it and brightens things up for a few moments. We keep saying we’ll walk up there but so far we haven’t got on with it, one of these days we will.

Another bright spell, plus the rare sight of blue sky, and the hitherto murky slopes of Loughrigg spring into a patchwork of colour and detail. The scree and rocks of Grey Crag were particularly well highlighted during the brief break in the cloud.

A view across the outflow end of Rydal Water from the path high above the A591 followed by …..

….. a look back across the gentle countryside to Loughrigg Fell above the inflow end.

As we head towards Rydal Hall the hillside to our left is littered with fallen trees which adds something of the surreal to the gentle and picturesque landscape. This one looked like a deathly claw scrabbling through the bracken. In places the bracken was already three feet high, I hate the damned stuff.

The coffin route path eventually tips us out at Rydal Mount where a very large tourist coach was having quite a struggle negotiating the turning circle at the top of the road. We carried on down the road passing St Mary’s Church on the way and where the rhododendrons are beginning to appear once more.

A break in the traffic on the A591 gets us across the road after which we have a short walk down towards Pelter Bridge from where I took this upstream shot of the River Rothay flowing out of Rydal Water, followed by …..

….. this shot of the bridge, after which it was back to the riverside path beside the bridge. There were plenty of cars parked at the bridge but no queue for ice-cream at the van so the seller was occupying himself with the back page of one of today’s tabloids, obviously more interested in sport than the US president’s state visit, details of which were plastered across the front page.

The day might be dismal but the fabulous colours more than compensated for it as we walked up the lane from Pelter Bridge.

After the usual dithering, and for no particular reason, we branched off to the right at the path junction but it makes very little difference which one is chosen, all the paths skirt the south side of the water and all have the same views so I suppose it comes down to how close to the water you’d like to be, particularly if you have a dog walking with you.

The view along Rydal Water as we drop down to the shoreline path. We’ve turned into the brisk wind now so its a little chillier than it was on the opposite, and more sheltered, side. I remember it being much warmer than this in February when we walked up Great Rigg in short sleeves, there’d be goosebumps aplenty if we did that along here today.

Another hint of brightness lands on Nab Scar across the wind-ruffled surface of Rydal Water.

Just before reaching this point we arrived at yet another path junction where we had the usual “which path shall we take” discussion. As ever it turned into the inevitable “I don’t mind, whichever one you want to follow” conversation which eventually resulted in me breaking the deadlock and taking the lower one of the two, naturally thinking that J would be right behind me. A little further along I stopped and looked back but there was no sign of him, I thought something must have attracted his attention and slowed him down a little. I carried on a short distance and then looked back once again, only to see him coming around one of the bends in the path and quite a way back from me. When he caught up with me I discovered that he had taken the upper path at the junction just at the precise moment I had taken the lower one without either of us noticing. I thought he had heard me saying “Let’s take the lower one then” but he hadn’t, and it was only when he got some way along the upper path and couldn’t see me either in front of, or behind him, that he decided which direction I must have taken and came back to check. What do you mean, poor communication skills? Anyway, be that as it may, back to the shot and below us the water from the Grasmere outflow is on its way to join Rydal Water, while on the skyline above the woods are Stone Arthur, Heron Pike and Nab Scar.

Loughrigg’s Grey Crag from the shoreline path …..

….. followed by a look along Grasmere towards Silver How, on the left, from the outflow weir. There were plenty of people around, dog walkers, family groups with young children, couples etc with quite a number of them sitting on the grassy banks just by the beach and enjoying the view. Nobody, not even the dogs, were venturing into the water.

Continuing around the shoreline and beyond the choppy water is the familiar U-shape of Dunmail Raise between Helm Crag and Steel Fell on the left and Seat Sandal on the right.

The shoreline path eventually disappears so we climb up from it and follow the track through Deerbolt Woods, another very pleasant saunter.

Across the water from left to right are Seat Sandal, Stone Arthur, Heron Pike and Nab Scar. Now we’ve lost the relative shelter of the outflow end the wind seems to have picked up even more so out come the tissues to wipe my brimming eyes.

A little area of beach appeared so I dropped down to take a look back towards Loughrigg, illuminated once more by another few seconds of brightness.

Despite the greyness of the day its still a lovely view northwards across Grasmere.

The laid path eventually turns away from the water when it reaches private land and leads us back up to the tarmac road coming down from Red Bank. The gardens of the houses bordering the road provided yet another magnificent display of rhododendron blooms.

Nearing Grasmere village now and its Seat Sandal’s turn for a spell of sunlight.

Every garden was a blaze of colour so here’s a couple of shots from along the road …..

….. absolutely stunning.

Almost back in Grasmere now so a last look across the water to Loughrigg Fell from the Faeryland Cafe where a queue of people were buying teas and coffees. We fancied an ice-cream which they only sold in tubs, not as good as a cornet though in our opinion so we carried on into the village hoping for better fortune in the ice-cream cornet hunt.

A recent addition to the Grasmere landscape judging by the amount of sawdust still lying around. Hope it lasts longer than something similar in the small public garden where we used to live. A tree which had been damaged in a storm was eventually turned into a carving of a monk, appropriately enough as the lovely gardens in which it stood had once been the vineyard of a monastery. Within a year it was covered in graffiti, by the second year the head had been chopped off, and great chunks gouged out of the rest of it. It had been completely ruined and became such an eyesore that the local council had little option but to saw it off at ground level. I do wish people would leave things alone.

Having tracked down the ice cream cornets we were looking for, and paying over the odds for the one scoop of ice cream plonked on top of them, we wandered back through the busy village, ducked down the riverside path next to the gingerbread shop and left the crowds behind. In the hotel grounds on our left was this magnificent island of rhododendrons, most definitely a ‘stop you in your tracks’ moment with the colours strikingly intense against the dull grey skies.

On the other side of the path in another garden was an equally eye catching display so I zoomed in on this particularly striking orange variety, it almost looks good enough to eat. A dazzling burst of colour amidst the softer pink and lilac tones of its neighbours.

As we walked across the fields back to the lay-by the clouds finally decided to thin out a little more allowing bursts of light to land on Helm Crag and Steel Fell. The cloud continued to thin and break and we drove back home in increasingly longer spells of sunlight, so much so that by the time we reached the Eden Valley the north Pennines, which we haven’t seen for days, were clearly visible and bathed in sunshine. The weather forecast later in the evening informed us that we’d be back to square one for the rest of the week, cool, wet and windy, so getting out again any time soon is somewhat unlikely, but we’ll keep an eye on things nevertheless.