I must begin this post with thanks to author and poet, Michele Lee Sefton, for suggesting I write about my recent visit to the Lake District. This walk is certainly worth recording, and it gives me joy to relive it. And, heaven knows, we could all use some joy right now. So thank you, Michele Lee: here is my response to your “What moves you?” challenge, though it is some months late!
Loughrigg Fell and its surroundings
Standing a modest 1099 ft (335 m) above sea-level, Loughrigg (pronounced Luffrigg) forms the backdrop to the southern prospect of Grasmere lake, and is situated in the heart of Wordsworth country. It is not tall and dramatic, but rather, broad, expansive, and boggily welcoming. As such, it is a wonderful fell to climb with children. It is, in fact, one of the first fells I climbed in my youth, and so has a special place in my heart.
Walking from Grasmere to Ambleside via Loughrigg and Todd Crag
As this is a linear walk, I recommend taking the dramatic 555 Bus route to Grasmere, which takes around half an hour from Keswick in the north, or Windermere in the south. You can pick up the bus again at Ambleside and return to your destination. Services currently run once an hour. The distance is around 6 miles (9.5 km), with a total elevation gain of 1200 ft (391m). You will need sturdy boots and waterproof clothing!
Leave Grasmere village via Red Bank Road behind the Red Lion Inn. Follow the road until a signpost indicates a public footpath to ‘YHA and Loughrigg Terrace.’ Follow this path to rise gradually through Nicholas Wood and Red Bank Woods, a fairytale scene unfolding before you. Re-cross the Red Bank Road before entering Deerbolt Wood to finally emerge at the start of Loughrigg Terrace, with the most dramatic panorama of Grasmere and Dunmail Raise unfolding to the north.
If you are not looking for a mountain climb, Loughrigg Terrace makes a fine walk in itself, and ends at Rydal Water, close to Wordsworth’s Rydal Mount residence. For our walk, however, the path ahead is a steep stone staircase, which my six-year-old son raced up, leaving me struggling to keep up with him! The climb eases as the horizon is reached, though the summit is still somewhat distant at this point (ah — the ‘false horizon’ — all Lake District fellwalkers must know it well!)
We stopped to picnic at a viewpoint over Grasmere just below the summit. The view from here is spectacular, the Langdale Pikes, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags all now visible to the north-west. And it was much less crowded than the summit, which had been overrun by ‘Wainwright Baggers.’*
The highest point of the fell is marked by an Ordnance Survey trig point. From here, descend by the main path heading south, away from Grasmere. There are rocky outcrops all along the route, affording stunning views of the Langdale valley to those who visit them. Just take care not to lose the path altogether, as there are still steep slopes around, which can be perilous in poor weather.
Eventually, you will cross a bridleway linking the Langdale and Rydal valleys. Leave this path for the more winding route to the south-east, which will pass several charming little tarns, before arriving at the Todd Crag viewpoint over the head of Windermere.
From Todd Crag, follow the path through delightful woodland to Rothay Park in Ambleside, enjoying panoramic views of the Fairfield Horseshoe as you descend. The bus stop is on Kelsick Road, close to the entrance of the park.
What moves me?
I came among these hills…like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led
So writes Wordsworth in his poem, ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.’ I always think of scrambling up Loughrigg in a fervour (as my son did yesterday) when I read these lines. Todd Crag was my go-to sprint before catching the bus home, after having climbed a much taller mountain, in my youth. I doubt I could manage such feats anymore, without being unable to walk for several days afterwards! But, like Wordsworth, I find ‘abundant recompense’ in the peace afforded by these wild places.
I hope you enjoyed this Lake District Love Letter! You can find more photos from the walk on Instagram.
*Wainwright Baggers — a relatively recent phenomenon in the Lake District. Generally, walkers who race up and down fells without taking the slightest bit of notice of the unique character of each one, in order to tick them off a list of ‘Wainwrights’ — fells over 1000ft described by A. Wainwright in his series of meticulously-penned, and rightfully-celebrated guides. He described these books as his ‘love letter’ to the Lake District fells (hence the title of this series). I can’t say for certain, but I imagine he would be horrified at the prospect of such quick-fix mountain tourism. You occasionally meet people who have ‘done them all,’ and on such occasions, I can’t help but think, ‘and what a shame, to have done so much, and learned so little.’