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Rydal Water lies between Ambleside and Grasmere. The second smallest of the lakes, it is 0.75 of a mile in length and width and 55 feet deep.
Small is indeed beautiful and it offers visitors some wonderful walks full of changing views. As you approach the water the vista is classic. The lake stretches ahead, Loughrigg rises up on the west and Rydal Mount and Heron Pike are just across the water. Parking can be found near Pelter Bridge along the southern shore and is £7 for the day.
When you get to the beginning of the walk, we suggest that you avoid going down to the lake shore, but instead take the higher track above the lake where you will come across two caves. From the caves the track stays above the lake until you come to the northern head of Rydal.
You can then veer off and explore Loughrigg and its little tarn, then extend the walk down to Grasmere. Return via the river track, through White Moss and pick up the track again by the lake shore, where you can sit for a while and ponder the wonder of nature.
In the footsteps of William Wordsworth
Two of William Wordsworth’s former homes are close to the shores of Rydal Water and the poet took much of his inspiration from the landscape of this magical little lake.
Walk the pathway alongside Rydal water and you’ll come across some steps leading up to a patch of rocks. This is said to have been William Wordsworth’s favourite viewpoint and is known today as ‘Wordsworth’s Seat’.
Dove Cottage is a short walk from Rydal Water close to the popular honeypot village of Grasmere. You can take a guided tour of the home where Wordsworth created many of his well-known works and explore the beautiful fell-side gardens.
Rydal Mount is where William Wordsworth lived in later life and the carefully preserved rooms contain many of the poet’s treasured possessions. The elevated position of the house has wonderful views over Rydal Water and across the surrounding fell to Windermere. You can enjoy a wonderful walk around the gorgeous gardens which include rock pools, rare shrubs and an ancient 9th century mound.
Dora’s Field is a National Trust site that was once owned by William Wordsworth and is named after his daughter. When Dora tragically died, Wordsworth planted hundreds of daffodils in her memory at this field in Rydal which is next to the village’s St Mary’s Church. You can wander around the pathways here and take a seat on one of the benches to enjoy the colourful display.
Things to see and do
You'll find an array of things to do around Rydal Water with some wonderful places to explore.
There are around 30 acres of grounds and gardens to explore on a visit to Rydal Hall with a sculpture trail to follow, a grotto where you can watch the spectacular Rydal Falls and a 500 year old chestnut tree. The grounds also include a secluded patch of woodland that is teeming with local wildlife and leads to the peaceful Rydal Beck. There are a selection of nature hides in the gardens where you may well spot a red squirrel or two.
The man-made Rydal Cave is a remnant of the 19th century slate mines at Loughrigg Fell and is just a short walk from the shores of Rydal Cave in the surrounding White Moss woodland. You’ll find beautiful still pools of water inside the cave with stepping stones to climb over and rock perches where you can sit and enjoy the reflections. There’s lots to explore in the woodland too including a large rock that’s great fun to climb and picnic benches where you can stop for a rest and a sandwich.
As one of the smallest and shallowest Lake District lakes, Rydal Water makes a great choice if you fancy trying out some wild swimming. Rydal tends to be the first of the lakes to get warm enough for swimming in the summer months and flat surrounding rocks make for an easy entrance and exit to the water. Look out for one of the regular guided swimming sessions if you prefer the safety of swimming in a group.
Ambleside and Grasmere
Rydal Water is a short walk from the bustling town of Ambleside and the pretty village of Grasmere and there is also an assortment of restaurants, shops, and attractions in both of these popular locations. It’s well worth picking up some famous Grasmere Gingerbread or taking a relaxing cruise around Lake Windermere from Ambleside Pier.
Rydal Food and Drink
There are lots of scenic spots to stop for a picnic around Rydal Water, along with a selection of cafes, pubs and tea rooms where you can call in for refreshments.
The Old School Room Tea Shop
This charming cafe is part of the Rydal Hall estate, housed in a stone building that was once used as a school room for Sir Daniel Fleming’s children. Every month the paintings of two local artists are displayed in the tea shop and the menu includes hot and cold drinks along with assorted sandwiches and snacks.
Rydal Mount Tea Room
During the summer months the tea room at Rydal Mount is located in an outbuilding that was once the saddlery for the estate. They serve tasty home made cakes which you can wash down with a drink while looking out over the pretty gardens.
The Badger Bar
Image credit: Reimar/Shutterstock
This dog-friendly Rydal pub has open fires, real ales, board games, and a welcoming atmosphere. Food on offer includes homemade pies, fish and chips, and traditional Sunday roasts. There are a couple of large beer gardens which are ideal for the warmer summer months and the extensive grounds are home to a resident populations of badgers who can regularly be seen feeding after dark.
Rydal River Cafe
Look out over Rydal Falls and the River Rothay from the pretty garden of this streamside cafe. Delicious home-cooked food and a wide selection of coffees and cakes make this the perfect place to stop in for brunch, lunch or afternoon tea after a walk along the river.
Where to stay near Rydal Water
If you have been inspired to spend some time at Rydal Water, here are some of the nearby cottages to stay at:
This spacious holiday home for two has a prime spot in Ambleside with Rydal Water just a shirt walk away. Open beams and vaulted ceilings give the traditional stone cottage lots of character and charm.
Located on the banks of the River Rothay close to Grasmere and Rydal Water, Riverbank has wonderful views across the water from outdoor decking and is a warm and cosy place to stay for up to four people and a dog.
Carr Crag Cottage
This peaceful detached property looks out over the dramatic craggy peaks of the Langdales from a spot near Skelwith Bridge to the south of Rydal Water. The large grounds include pretty gardens and in addition to a living room that’s warmed by a woodburner, there’s also a light-filled conservatory.
Fall in love with this small but beautiful lake with a Lake District holiday. Take a look at our Rydal cottages to find your perfect place to stay.