Grasmere and Rydal are two Lake District hotspots with deep ties to one of England’s most well-known poets, William Wordsworth. His most well-known residence, Dove Cottage, was the starting point for this walk. Well, nearly. We started from a car park over the road from Dove Cottage, but it’s near enough.
Despite the summer tourist season being pretty much over, Grasmere and Dove Cottage was still swarming with tourists from all over the world. The house itself is really not that big, and has remained nearly unchanged since Wordsworth lived there in the early 1800s. Wordsworth lived in this house for eight years with his sister, and later his wife and children. Some of their belongings are apparently on show in the house too. I say ‘apparently’ because on this occasion I didn’t actually go into the house to save time on the walk, but the information boards outside say so, and I don’t think the National Trust would tell fibs.
Adjoined to Dove Cottage is the Wordsworth Museum, which brings together many of the poet’s letters, journals, and poems, as well as Dorothy Wordsworth’s (sister of William) ‘Grasmere Journal’.
The first part of the walk, once we’d finished crossing the road to Dove Cottage, took us up the ‘coffin route’ to Rydal. It’s a pretty steep chunk of path but once you get to the highest point (more or less) the views are all the reward you need.
Coffin routes, or corpse roads, are commonplace in the Lakes, as with many other rural areas. They were created to transport the dead to their final place of rest, and were actually feared back in Medieval times. Along the edge of some, you can see pathside stones which were used to rest the coffins on to avoid contaminating or cursing the ground with dead vibes. Maybe if I walked this at night, I might have seen a ghost or two!
After a while, we dropped down to Rydal Mount, another of Wordsworth’s residences. This house was the Wordsworth family home in the 40-ish years leading up to his death in 1850. It really is a very charming house, and it is easy to imagine him sitting in the gardens writing his most famous works. Wordsworth landscaped the garden himself, so kudos to him, it looks great. Rydal Mount is also where he published ‘Daffodils’ from in 1815. The house itself still belongs to the Wordsworth family, and is still used as a family home. How they cope with the swathes of tourists I don’t know!
Moving on from Rydal Mount, we pottered along to Rydal Hall, a 15th century home with spectacular views over Rydal Water. It was the ancestral home of the de Fleming family, but now is used as a retreat and conference centre… The scenery is still top notch though! One of the striking features on the property is the waterfall that cascades past the tearoom and down through the gardens. The power of the waterfalls is used and harnessed and generates sustainable hydro-electricity. This in turn gives power to many of the buildings on the estate, and heating for the Hall.
I love this area, and I have a bit of a special connection with it. My middle name is actually Rydal; so I was named after this lake. I’m not biased or anything, but it really is the best.
I’d really love to go on this walk again as well. It weighs in at 15.5km (roughly 9.6 miles) and is very easy to follow. As mentioned, the coffin route is a bit steep but very manageable, and there’s plenty of stopping points en route. Dad and I also nipped into Ambleside to buy some lunchtime treats! Whenever I go to Grasmere, I always (and I mean always) stop off at the Grasmere Gingerbread shop. It’s a well-known fact in the Lake District that Grasmere Gingerbread is the best there is, which is reflected by the huge number of visitors they get nearly everyday.
As with my two previous walks, I have included the map at the bottom of this post. If anyone else walks this route, I’d love to see your photos too!