WILLIAM Wordsworth described Rydal as "the loveliest spot that man hath ever found", writes JOHN EDMONDSON. One of the most popular walks in the Lake District is to stroll around Rydal Water and the old coffin road. This is an easy walk on good paths (all but a short stretch being suitable for wheelchairs) in spectacular scenery with fantastic views. It’s one you can enjoy whatever the weather and at any time of the year. In autumn the colours can be amazing.

The walk starts from the bus stop (and car parks) at White Moss Common, between Rydal and Grasmere, grid reference NY 348 065, postcode LA22 9SE.


Distance: 4 miles with 750 feet of ascent

Time: 2 hours

Terrain: good footpaths and 0.7 mile on a quiet road.

Map: OS Explorer OL7


1 Walk up the minor road on the Grasmere side of the car park on the north side of the A591 for about three quarters of a mile. Enjoy splendid views over Grasmere and Dunmail Raise: a beautiful example of a classic U-shaped glacial valley. The road passes Lady Wood, once a grove of fir trees loved by William Wordsworth’s brother John who was later tragically lost at sea. Descend to a junction and turn right onto the uphill No Through Road. The next mile and a half of the walk follows the old coffin road, a path used to carry the deceased to St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere, which until the 16th century was the only parish church in the area. The dead were carried feet first, supposedly to prevent their spirits from returning home, where they would haunt and cause trouble in the area. Where the tarmack ends continue walking ahead on the stony track. Pass the lily-covered Whitemoss Tarn, also called Skater's Tarn, and Wordsworth's Tarn, reputedly where the poet met a leech-gatherer who inspired his poem Resolution And Independence. A heron can often be spotted in this area. The path ahead includes a short section that is unsuitable for wheelchairs. After a large embankment wall (part of the Thirlmere aqueduct) take the path going beside a wall on the right to avoid an awkward rocky section. Alongside the coffin road are path side stones, which served as rests for coffins.

2 On reaching a tarmacked lane, turn right and descend past the late 16th century house of Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s family home from 1813 until his death in 1850. The house, which has changed little since they lived here, was rented from Lady le Fleming of Rydal Hall, which is on the other side of the lane. Turn right through a metal gate to walk past the chapel of St Mary, which was was built by Lady le Fleming in 1824. Wordsworth was churchwarden here from 1833 to 1834 and there is a memorial plaque to him. Descend through Dora's daffodil field to the A591. Cross the road with care, turn right then left opposite the Badger Bar to cross a footbridge.

3 Keep right on the path signed Rydal Water and Grasmere, going through woodland and then beside Rydal Water. The larger island is called Heron Island. A tiny rock to its left is frequented by cormorants. Look across the water for an impressive view of Nab Scar. The path then ascends to a wood. Turn right and walk down a path through the woods to White Moss. Cross a footbridge then turn right. After an open area beside the River Rothay bear left (path signed WC) to meet the A591 close to the bus stop.

Next week: Hurst Green, Lancashire

NB: restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.