Rydal Cave


The river Rothay flows through the middle of Grasmere, and if you follow it south you soon get to Rydal and then Ambleside. It's not a long journey in a car, and it's also a pleasant walk. In case it seems a long way, it's worth remembering that Dorothy Wordsworth sometimes walked there and back twice a day from Dove Cottage to collect mail! 

Grasmere from the eastern shore

Grasmere from the eastern shore

Rather than following the road, it's nicer to keep one side or the other of the river and then rejoin the road once you get to the town. Another blog will talk about staying on the eastern side, following the Coffin Trail and crossing the lands of Rydal Hall. The route here stays on the west side, going over part of Loughrigg Fell before dropping down again.

Looking back north towards Helm Crag

Looking back north towards Helm Crag

You can begin your route from Lake View Country House on either side of Grasmere - the western shore makes for a more pleasant trip away from the A591, but it is longer. Either way, you will end up at the southern end of the lake. if you have chosen the road route, cut through the trees and cross the footbridge.

Once round the lake, you avoid the steep climb up Loughrigg Terrace, but keep to the eastern flank (left-hand side as you approach) of Loughrigg if you want to see Rydal Cave. There are multiple paths across the side of the hill. but you want a track which takes you part-way up, heading towards a flatter shoulder of the main hill. One thing this track shows you is just how extensive Loughrigg is! Do make sure you look back north from time to time  so that you don't miss the view up to Helm Crag and beyond.

Rydal Cave is actually a man-made cavern, hollowed out of a rocky outcrop which overlooks Rydal water. It was formerly known as Loughrigg Quarry. Over two hundred years ago, Rydal Cave was a busy working quarry supplying excellent quality roofing slate to the surrounding local villages: now it is simply a tourist attraction.

The interior of Rydal Cave

The interior of Rydal Cave

There are persistent stories of fish - including goldfish - in the water which covers most of the cavern's floor, though I personally have never seen them. The pool is stagnant, relying on rainwater to keep it topped up, but I suppose there is ample food from picnic crumbs to keep the fish alive. The water is shallow enough to wade through part of it, providing you have good footwear, and a convenient chain of stepping stones has been place so you can get from the entrance to the back without risk of getting your feet wet at all. From the entrance, the cave can sometimes look unwelcoming, but it's well worth making the trek in, if only to look back at the cave mouth and see just how large a digging job was made!

Once you have seen your fill here, turn south again (right as you come out of the cave) and either press on to Rydal or Ambleside, or else return to the delights of Grasmere, and Lake View Country House. I'll talk about those longer walks another day!

Map of the route to Rydal Cave

Map of the route to Rydal Cave
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