On 23 October 1802, Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal: “A breathless, grey day that leaves the golden woods of autumn quiet in their tranquillity, stately and beautiful in their decaying. The lake is a perfect mirror.”


This six-mile circular tour around Grasmere and Rydal Water illustrates perfectly how her description of the autumnal landscape is just as evocative today as it was when she wrote it in her journal 215 years ago. The route starts and finishes at Rydal, home to the Badge Bar – the perfect reward after a day on the trail.

Rydal Water in autumn
A stroll in the footsteps of the Wordsworth family offers exquisite reflections of autumn colour in the still waters of Rydal Water at Grasmere in the Lake District/Credit: Getty

Rydal Water and Grasmere walk

5.7 miles/9.25km | 3.5 hours | moderate

1. The Coffin Trail

The Coffin Trail runs below Nab Scar, not far from Rydal Mount house (once home to Dorothy and her brother William – and still in the Wordsworth family). This historic route to Grasmere’s St Oswald’s Church is the perfect altitude from which to absorb Rydal Water’s reflective autumnal views. Look long enough and not only are the season’s traditional red, orange, yellow and brown tones visible, but there’s also a wider palette of purples, silvers, greens and whites.

2. Luscious lemons

Further along, White Moss Common is ideal for glancing back at Nab Scar’s lower slopes, lined with larches of luscious lemon hues.

Grasmere Lake District
Grasmere, Lake District in summer/Getty

The Coffin Trail drops past another fascinating Wordsworthian property, Dove Cottage, before heading into the main village. With fewer tourists visiting in the autumn season, it’s the perfect time to explore the Wordsworth family graves in the churchyard.

The return circuit around the water of Grasmere begins at Red Bank, just opposite St Oswalds. For picturesque panoramas across the lake towards Loughrigg, take a brief diversion to Allan Bank, a third Wordsworthian dwelling.

Rydal Water, Lake District
Small islands appear to drift on the water's surface/Getty

About halfway along the lake, a footpath drops to the water’s edge, where mighty oaks display their golden crowns. The reflections of the wooded slopes of Lord Cragg and Banerigg create an arboreal kaleidoscope on Grasmere’s still surface.
On blustery, changeable days, a host of iridescent rainbows can be seen on Dunmail Raise to the north.

3. And so to tea

From Grasmere’s weir, a path runs alongside the River Rothay, through trees and their fallen leaves, before climbing to a stone wall. Turn left and marvel at Rydal’s seductive southern shores.

To complete the circuit, cross the River Rothay near St Mary’s Church, built in 1824 on a spot selected by William Wordsworth. Don’t miss Rydal Hall’s gardens, nor its excellent Old School Room tea shop, the perfect conclusion to this autumnal amble.


Rydal and Grasmere map

Rydal and Grasmere walking route and map

Rydal and Grasmere walking route and map


Simon Whaley
Simon WhaleyAuthor, writer and photographer

Simon Whaley is a Shropshire-based author, writer, and photographer.