Our Lakes: Rydal Water

Our Lakes series pays a visit to pint- sized Rydal Water which was often an inspiration for one of our country’s greatest poets. It might be less than a mile long but small is no less beautiful when it comes to this little gem.

Rydal Water is both fed and drained by the River Rothay and while the valley may contain more famous names like Grasmere and Windermere, William Wordsworth was clear in his admiration of the Vale of Rydal claiming it was ‘The loveliest spot that man hath ever found’.

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Wordsworth lived in the area for most of his life and spent his final 37 years dwelling in Rydal Mount which sits on the eastern end of the lake. The elevated position of the house provided the poet with wonderful views over the water until he died in 1850.

The views from Rydal Mount are enchanting but if you follow the pathway alongside the lakes shore you’ll come across steps at the western end leading up to a patch of rocks known as ‘Wordsworth’s Seat’.

It was reputedly his favourite viewpoint of the area. You can’t escape the great romantic poet if you visit the Rothay Valley and another of Wordsworth’s homes, Dove Cottage, is accessible on the short walk around the lake. Back in the hamlet of Rydal, you’ll find St Mary’s church, where Wordsworth and his family worshipped and beside the church is Dora’s Field, which is named after his daughter who tragically died aged 42.

Dora was the inspiration for much of his writing, when she died Wordsworth and his wife, Mary, planted hundreds of daffodils in her memory in the field. You feel like you’re almost reaching back into history as you wander the pathways or take a seat on one of the benches when the daffodils are in bloom.

Modern day visitors will take as much inspiration from the landscape around the magical little lake as the poet. A short walk from Rydal Mount is Rydal Falls, it was a frequent destination for Wordsworth on his rambles.

The waterfall stands in dense woodland and is reached via a footbridge where a grotto provides the perfect viewpoint. On the other side of the lake, Rydal Cave might seem like something straight out of a fairytale but it’s far from a geological marvel. Sadly it’s a man made feature from the 19th century and was once known as Loughrigg Quarry.

The cavernous interior that fills visitors with wonder, once used to contain slate that has sat on the roofs of locals homes for centuries and the walking track to the cave was created by workers bringing slate down to the main road for transport.

Despite its industrial past, the reflective pools, stepping stones and rock perches are still beautiful and it’s a wonderful place to enjoy the reflections. Rydal Water was formerly known as ‘Routhmere’, which is the lake of the Rothay and it doesn’t take much imagination to envision the pastoral scenes that gave Rydal its name as the valley where rye is grown, a combination from Old English ‘ryge’ and Old Norse ‘dalr’.

Small is charming and Rydal offers visitors wonderful walks full of changing views whatever the season. With features like Loughrigg rising up on the west side and Heron Pike just across the water, walkers are in for a treat. They can set off on the nine mile Fairfield Horseshoe or the Rydal Round which partially follows the old coffin trail and meanders along the hillside to Grasmere. Follow the footsteps of Wordsworth around Rydal, you won’t be disappointed.

If you would like to discover more about your local Lakeland areas visit Our Lakes full series HERE.


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