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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.