Everyday Life UK Travel

The Rothay Circuit. An 8-Mile Circular Walk

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Walking The Rothay Circuit was first published in August 2014, and updated in May 2020.

As it’s National Walking Month, I wanted to give a shout out to the Rothay Circuit. An 8-mile route, starting and ending in either Ambleside or Grasmere, we’ve walked it so many times I’ve lost count. It’s one of my favourite walks in the Lake District.

Our First Holiday

The Lake District was the first place Ian, and I went on holiday together. We stayed in a small log cabin in Ulverston, so it wasn’t technically the Lake District, but it was all we could afford at the time. By night, we snuggled up underneath a blanket in front of the TV to keep warm. By day we drove up to Ambleside to go walking. Stock Ghyll Force (or the waterfall walk) was the very first walk we did, and we didn’t have a clue, about anything. Walking gear, backpacks, food, water…..nada. We bought the cheapest rucksack we could find then bought a small book from the tourist information centre: ‘Walks around Ambleside. 10 Walks Each Under 6 Miles’. It did what it said on the tin and helped us on our way to exploring the great outdoors. This book is now dog eared and torn; it’s also been sellotaped back together too many times to mention.Rothay Circuit

Rothay Circuit

18- years later we have many walks under our belt, including Helvellyn, The Fairfield Horseshoe, Red Screes, and Derwent Water. Come rain or shine, the Lake District fills my heart with joy and gives me a smile big enough to rival the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. Upon arrival, a sense of relief washes over me and my shoulders drop by about an inch. 

The Lake District is our sanctuary. It’s the place where we go to breathe, refocus and talk about the future. We slow down, watch the world go by and spend quality time together in nature. When we leave, I do so with a heavy heart. But at least I leave filled with inspiration and a clear head, which is something I never arrive with.

Rothay Circuit

The Rothay Circuit

After all these years, the Rothay Circuit is still one of my favourite walks. Starting and ending in Ambleside the walk takes in some historic sites like Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage, both of which were once home to the English poet William Wordsworth. That being said, we’ve never visited either of them. We always become too absorbed in our surroundings and pass them by, making a mental note that we should ‘make an effort to visit them, next time’.Rothay Circuit

Grasmere, the Half-Way Point of the Rothay Circuit

The village of Grasmere acts as the half-way point of the walk and we always use this opportunity to head to the village green and eat our sandwiches, or depending on the time of year, drink hot soup from a flask. The first cafe we discovered in Grasmere, was Heidi’s Grasmere Lodge and inside, it turned out to be a treasure trove of many pretty things. We’ve kept up the tradition, and all these years later, this is where we head for a soya vanilla latte, or a cup of green tea.Rothay Circuit

On the way up to Rydal Cave, we always stop along the shores of Grasmere and Rydal water to admire the view. If we’re lucky and have some tea or coffee left, it’s at this point we crack open the flask and have a final brew before starting the ascent to the cave. Looking out over the water is peaceful and calm, although as a popular place for sunbathing, swimming and eating picnics, the shores can get pretty crowded – especially on a sunny day.

Rothay Circuit

Rydal Circuit

Rydal Cave

Rydal cave is a disused quarry, and for a number of years it became unsafe, due to falling rocks. A fence was put up to discourage people from going in, but several years ago, it was taken down, allowing people to explore the cave once again. (photograph taken many moons ago pre-fence)

Rydal Circuit

From Rydal Cave, there is a descent that acts as what I call ‘the home straight’. Because from here, the return to Ambleside isn’t too far. It’s along the home straight where we start winding up whatever plans we’ve been talking about and make our way to the Apple Pie shop. We always find that a cup of coffee and some twice cooked chips is the perfect way to end our walk.Rydal Circuit

Rydal Circuit

Rydal Circuit

Rydal Circuit

Filled with inspiration and bursting with motivation, I try to hold onto these feelings as long as possible. For in a few days’ time my relief will be a distant memory. My heart will feel like lead, and I will wave goodbye to my sanctuary.


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  • Reply Tamzen April 8, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Your pictures are gorgeous, like they are out of a storybook! I found you on the Weekly Venture link-up, and I just thought it was funny that in the post I linked up had a photo of that swirly-stemmed plant too!

    • Reply Lorna April 8, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      Hi Tamzen, thanks so much for the lovely words and taking the time to comment! I had every intention of copying the fern and using it as inspiration for a linocut or something, but I still haven’t got around to it!

  • Reply Sarah Shotts April 17, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Thanks so much for joining the #WeeklyVenture Link Up! I’m featuring your post next month so keep an eye out! So glad you shared. 🙂

    One day I’ll make it to the Lake District. The photos are always sooooooooooo beautiful there, but it’s one of the places I just didn’t make it to during my grad program. Maybe I’ll take Nathan one day and we can have a nice romantic walk together. Cheers!

    • Reply Lorna April 19, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      Ah thanks Sarah! I’ll look out for it. You should definitely try and visit if you get the chance – it’s a beautiful place!

  • Reply Lucy May 2, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    I love the Lake District and your photos are amazing. My husband proposed at the top of Scafell Pike 9 years ago (nearly). And, I remember standing on the shores if Ullswater when I was still a child at the end of a day and bring enchanted. I loved Swallows and Amazons and Beatrix Potter too! I’m so glad I found your post through the weekly adventure linkup.

    • Reply Lorna May 3, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      Thank you! What an amazing place to be proposed to – how could you not say yes with a backdrop like that! 😉

  • Reply Julie Fiandt May 3, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous photos!

    • Reply Lorna May 3, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Reply Blair C May 3, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Love your photos! I recently drove through the Lake District on my way to another destination, and I was so sad not to be able to spend more time there! It’s definitely been bumped high on my “to visit” list, and your post has made me want to head out there this weekend. 🙂 Cheers!

    • Reply Lorna May 3, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Thank you! I love it there. The Lakes should be on everyone’s ‘to visit’ list! 😉

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