The Lake District has been on my UK ‘must visit’ list for years – especially after it was listed as a UNESCO site in 2017, but it always seemed to hit the back burner when other European destinations came up. I was final able to go up and visit the first May Bank Holiday and was blessed with amazing weather! I was staying with friends in Lancaster, and ended up renting a car to do the beautiful 1-hour drive to Lake Windermere through the windy country lanes. Hiking Loughrigg Fell is a great intro to the Lake District and gives really stunning views over the fells (which in simple English aka Canadian, means small valley).
When we arrived to Ambleside, the starting point around 11am, we searched for parking for longer than we thought we’d need to. The park is free to enter but there’s paid parking within and it can be hard to come by. If you’re lucky, you might snag some free parking off the main road like we did. Allow yourself a bit more time to cruise around looking for a space, especially if you’re visiting over a long weekend.
Since I needed to conserve my battery for my #instas, we opted for a guidebook to lead us around the trails and back. I feel like this is a good time to introduce that this guidebook was actually over 30 years old, but more on why that’s relevant later. The total hike wasn’t very high compared to the other peaks in the park (say that 10x fast), and was meant to be around 10.4km (6.5 miles), taking you up to a vantage point overlooking Lake Windermere and back down onto the farmland below. We parked at White Moss Car Park in between Ambleside and Grasmere and set off through the wooden gates following the suggestions of the guidebook to the starting point opposite the base of the lake.
It’s All About the Climb
The beginning of the trail was through the gates and ran parallel to a rock wall which climbed up the hillside. The guidebook instructed us to go straight up the side of the mountain. We looked for any signs of a path but all we really saw was overgrown bush and rocks. Eventually we spotted a faint empty path and started our trek. At first I was excited thinking we had found some secret lesser-known trail to adventure on, especially as if you looked around the busy park there were people everywhere except where we were! We were literally taking the road less travelled. The trail went from a slight incline to a steep one very quickly but we carried on in the summer’s heat. Mid way up, the ground was getting muddy and mossy and getting a good grip was getting more difficult (especially as I only had on my sneakers).
We got to the top of the hillside to discover that this rock wall we were following up actually forked and on one side was a ditch, and the other was the trail we were actually meant to be on. In order to access it, we had to walk along the fork for another 10 mins. We were definitely getting our sweat on.
Finally, we reached the point of entry and joined our fellow hikers on the straight and narrow. By this time the sun was in full swing so we pealed off some layers and allowed our skin to soak up the vitamin D. It was a really beautiful day.
The trail becomes a bit rocky as you climb but it’s solid and not too challenging. I imagine after a good rain it would be pretty muddy and slippery though, so take care if that’s the case.
Not long after hiking you get really stunning views looking back down to the still lake. There’s abut 2-3 beautiful photo ops as you go up, and I would suggest you go to each one because you get a little disoriented as to where the top is as there’s a false peak the higher you climb. I can’t remember how far up it was until the real peak was reached, but once you’re up there you lose sight of the lake and instead see a vast distance of green farmland mixed with slate hidden in the plantation.
Once you reach the top, there’s a trig point (like a marker) which announces your arrival! Lots of people pause and have a picnic lunch at the top. I’d also suggest bringing a windbreaker or at least a layer for the top because it can be pretty chilly and gusty. If it hasn’t been for going the wrong way, I think the whole walk from the bottom by the take to the trig point would have taken about 45min – 1 hour.
On the way down, a popular place to stop is in the crazy cool Rydal Caves located on the north side of the fell and above Rydal Water. The cave is a man made quarry which produced roofing slates in the 19th century and can be accessed following the sign posts just off of the main trail. The signs are easy to spot and take you right to the entrance where you can hop across strategically placed stones to adventure inside. The cave isn’t that deep but it does get dark once you go around the slight bend. At the mouth of it you can spot some tiny fish swimming in the shallow clear water.
After the cave, we rerouted back onto the trail and started walking around towards another lake (I forget the name now soz), and the scenery turned into more farmlands. We followed along the gravel path around the outside of the lake making friends with the local sheep along the way. One of the many things I love about England is when you go on country walks you’re literally walking through people’s backyards with their animal flocks roaming around amongst you. You follow along wooden sign posts in the fields to find your bearings and open up gates to gain access to the rest of the trails.
After another wrong turn, we finally made it back on track towards the car park and let me tell you, homegurl’s legs were HURTIN’.
This was a really great walk and a good first introduction to the stunning Lake District. Next time, I’m going after Helvellyn.