It should come as no surprise that Grasmere is one of the most popular spots in the South Lakeland area, and indeed in the entire Lake District National Park. The village’s shops and tea-rooms make it a welcoming destination in itself, as well as a friendly stopover for walkers. In addition to being a part of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast 200-mile route, Grasmere is a starting point for a number of shorter nearby walks, from the scenic paths around the lakes to the more challenging hikes atop the fells.
The walk described below is a gentle five-mile loop, beginning and ending in Grasmere. It takes in nearby Rydal Water and provides a number of picturesque spots to stop, admire the view, and enjoy a picnic. It is suitable for any time of year, although of course, wear appropriate shoes and take a raincoat, just in case.
The walk starts at St. Oswald’s Church, just next to Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop. Given the incredible scents of Grasmere gingerbread wafting from the shop’s kitchen, it may be difficult to move any further. The promise of a purchase can serve as an enticement to finish the walk. Alternatively, pick some up to provide sustenance along the way.
Pass by the church, final resting place of poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, and follow the road (with the church on your left) towards the main road into the village. Cross the road and walk up past Dove Cottage, continuing along the lane to How Top Farm. Here, a left turn will take you up a hill for a few hundred yards.
You will notice that the signposts for the footpath mark it as the Coffin Route. The name comes from bygone days when the dead were carried along this path from Rydal to St Oswald’s for burial.
The signposted path continues for about a quarter of a mile, passing a small stream and going through several gates. As always, be sure to close any gates behind you. For the next mile, the walk is fairly straight, with the main road and the lakes below on your right. Walking along the lower part of Nab Scar, you should be able to enjoy some beautiful views of Rydal Water.
When you arrive at a T-junction with the Hart Head Barn to your left, turn right. Follow the road down past Rydal Mount and St Mary’s Church. At the bottom of the hill you will rejoin the main road from Ambleside. Cross the road and turn right, as if walking back to Grasmere. Barely 100 yards along the road, a signpost will point left. It leads down to a small wooden footbridge. Once across the bridge, the path leads up into Rydal Woods before bearing right down to the shores of Rydal Water.
Continue along the edge of the water to the remains of an old stone barn and a wall. With the wall on your right, follow the path up the slope and over. You will now see the waters of Grasmere ahead.
Ignore the small footbridge to your right (this leads to a car park and a wooded area). Instead, walk along the lake’s shoreline. This is a popular spot for many visitors to enjoy the views.
Just beyond the end of the “beachy area” where so many dogs enjoy a splash, the path takes a left away from the water. It goes uphill for a few hundred yards before joining a small lane. Turn right onto the lane, taking care for any cars, and stroll back down into the village and to get some more gingerbread.