After deciding we need a night away, and with Mrs Waldron being a bit under the weather, I leave the hills to another day and plan a nice wander around the lake, and my favourite Rydal Caves walk.
Rydal Caves Walk
I’m taking my wife, Teresa, on a walk I’ve done in a number of parts over the years, but never done in one walk. It takes us through Rydal Village, up the Coffin Trail, around Rydal Water to the Rydal Caves and over the Rydal Stepping Stones over the River Rothay.
Rydal is gorgeous. I parked at the bottom of the lane near Rydal Hall, the church and Wordsworth’s home in the summer and as I climbed up Nab Scar to start the Fairfield Horseshoe, I got a perfect view of this beautiful lake. It’s a must if you fancy a low-level walk or want to take the ‘little people’ as my sister would say (children) for an adventure. With woodland, waterfalls, a picnic area with toilets nearby, the lake, caves and a river with stepping stones you have pretty much everything you need for a grand day out, technology-free.
We’ve stayed in Ambleside for the night in a reasonable B&B and a below-par Thai restaurant; I’ll only recommend something if it touched, moved or inspired me, so I’m not going to. Parking in ‘the car park’ at Ambleside will set you back a few quid so for this walk I recommend driving out of town half a mile toward Rydal to the cricket club and putting that few quid in their donations box (look for a blue P sign), I thought £4 was a fair tariff since that’s what I had in change!?
Heading back down the road a few hundred feet, on the left, you’ll see a wooden public footpath sign directing you to Rydal Hall. This part of the walk is a great start; when you get to the woods on the outskirts of Rydal Park to your North you may decide that your next camping trip with the kids will be right here, we did.
Rydal Tea Rooms
After having a hot chocolate at the Old School Room Tea Shop at Rydal Hall, with the cookies that we took from the room at the B&B, we take a little tootle up by the side of the building into the woods and up to the waterfalls. Here, you’ll definitely be glad you didn’t start the walk in Rydal.
Following the path past the tea rooms, we come out onto what we’ll call Rydal Mount Lane (for want of an official name, it may be Church Lane since St Mary’s is at the bottom on the corner). We turn right and then follow the signpost left for ‘The Coffin Route’. At this point, you pass Rydal Mount, William Wordsworth’s home between 1813 and 1850. There’s a path now, under Nab Scar, through the trees that leads right around the North of Rydal Water.
The Coffin Route
With great views of Loughrigg to the South and of course the crags on the face of Nab Scar you can’t get bored. The Coffin Route was where the people of Ambleside took their last journey, to St Oswald’s in Grasmere. St Mary’s was built on rocky ground so there were no burials in Rydal either.
Halfway along to the top of Rydal, you’ll happen upon a tree that’s toppled with a large branch. They call this the Money Tree on account of the coins that have been forced into the rotten wood over the years, I assume it’s a wishing well of sorts. There are some folk over the years considered carting it away to weigh it in for the copper but I hear the scrap value these days isn’t much, maybe they’re waiting for it to rise.
White Moss Car Park
A few miles into the walk and we come to a left hand turn off the track which leads down the hill to the road. At this point, you realise how odd tourists are. Behind the trees we’ve acknowledged at least 50 walkers, here at the car park, where the day visitors to Lakeland pay their token for a nice walk, nobody even looks at us. Jesus, I love the mountains.
Either way, take a pee here at the public toilets, have a picnic if you’re inclined, then follow the signs for the lake. When you cross the weir take a right aiming for the caves instead of left which will lead you down the pleasant path by the shore of Rydal.
I just thought the caves would be small natural holes in the crag by the side of the path, but they’re really quite large. The one at the top of the hill is huge with stepping stones in the water, nice for the kids and playful adults alike. There are lots of small fish in the waters.
Mining Rydal Caves
Inside, evidence of how the caves were dug out is apparent, if you look hard enough. Boreholes appear like stars on a dark night as your eyes adjust, drill holes where explosives were used to break away the slate in the late 1800s (used locally in Ambleside).
Loughrigg Quarry periodically releases it’s loosened grip on the odd rock, the last time being 9 years ago when some large pieces fell from around the opening. Watch your head, the dripping water seeping through the fell above is the least of your worries.
The Lower Cave
Down the hill is the lower of the two Rydal caves, much less accessible and therefore much more interesting to me. Climbing down by the Money Bench (a good place for a bite of chocolate) is the favoured descent into a hole in the ground.
Before you climb down, take a look at the rock to your left where a couple of men of our height engraved their names – ‘Mike and Alan 2015’. If they’d have done this fifty thousand years ago, we would celebrate their art; in this case, they’re known as dick heads.
In the hole in the ground, with confidence, you can quite easily climb up the rock and exposed roots of a small tree to enter the cave. It’s really rather nice that nobody, including the wife and the scattering of foreign teenagers, will brave the climb and spoil my solace in this hole in the mountain.
I imagine it’ll be another good place to camp one day.
So, off down the hill now towards the woods at the bottom of the lake, east, and if you’re lucky you’ll find the ice cream man just past the lovely row of holiday cottages. There’s just enough time to start my 99, after heading right and around Loughrigg, here we reach the Stepping Stones over the River Rothay.
Rydal Stepping Stones & The River Rothay
Starting from the cricket ground, this Rydal Caves walk takes you over the River Rothay. Really quite nice, the famous Rydal Stepping Stones lead us to a field taking us just up from the cricket club car park. Something to note, Stepping Stones House was once the home of William Wordsworth’s son.
This eight-mile walk is very rewarding. My wife, with her chest infection, is knackered, as would the kids be if we weren’t fortunate enough to have my mum be with them for the night.
Just as we get in the car, I hear a great noise and looking to the sky, see a Vulcan Bomber directly above me thundering by. This was to be its last flight before retiring!
Off to Ambleside in search of lunch.
Why Not Read…
Have a read about my camping trip with a group of friends, underground in Millican’s Cave, Borrowdale.