In the second of this series, I take you on a walk above the former home of the celebrated poet William Wordsworth. Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage in the beautiful village of Grasmere from 1799-1808. He later moved to the grander location of Rydal Mount a few miles down the road, where he lived until his death in 1850. He is buried in St Oswald’s Church, Grasmere, and you can still walk the Old Corpse Road from Rydal to Grasmere in order to visit the poet’s grave.
Today’s walk takes you high above these historic sites to a fell (mountain) not particularly well known, but perfectly situated for stunning 360 degree views of the Lake District’s major mountain ranges.
Climbing Great Rigg
From the centre of Grasmere village, several fells dominate the skyline: to the west is Helm Crag, topped by the ‘Lion and Lamb’ rock formations, while to the northeast, the village is overlooked by the rocky outcrop of Stone Arthur. Stone Arthur is really just a spur on the side of Great Rigg fell, but from Grasmere, it appears as a distinctive summit, so we will head there first.
Head northeast out of the village along Swan Lane, and cross the A591 with care to reach the Swan Hotel. Continue behind the hotel until you see a signpost to the right for Greenhead Gill and Alcock Tarn. The path follows the banks of Greenhead Gill (waterfall), before forking left to lead up the mountainside towards Stone Arthur (signposted). The walking from this point is steep and unforgiving, and it takes around one hour at a fair pace to reach Stone Arthur summit, whose height is 503 m (1,650 ft).
From the summit of Stone Arthur, the route ahead to Great Rigg is obvious, and the gradient eases somewhat, though the ascent is still substantial to attain the summit height of 766 metres (2,513 feet). From here, take the time to appreciate the extensive views in all directions, which on a clear day take in Scafell Pike (England’s highest mountain), Skiddaw to the north, Helvellyn to the northeast, and the Coniston Fells to the South West. You should also have extensive views of Windermere and Coniston Water, and even out to sea on a very clear day.
The highest summit on the ridge is Fairfield, 873 m (2,864 ft), and if you are feeling energetic you can extend your walk on to this peak and descend the latter half of the Fairfield Horseshoe walk to the town of Ambleside.
Descent via Alcock Tarn
For a delightful half-day excursion (around 3 hours of walking in total), continue down the ridge to the summit of Heron Pike – 612 m (2,008 ft). The route from here continues down to Nab Scar, which is a pleasant walk but ends at White Moss rather than Grasmere village. To return to the starting point of the walk, look out for a path to the right which leads past the atmospheric Alcock Tarn back to the slopes of Greenhead Gill and the path back to the Swan Hotel. Grasmere has many delightful cafés and bar-restaurants, so you won’t have to look far to replenish lost energies after the walk!