Grasmere and Rydal Water lie to the east and south-east of Grasmere village. Two of the smallest lakes in the National Park, they are linked by a half-mile stretch of the River Rothay. Grasmere is the larger of the two, and has a wooded island in the middle of it, owned by the National Trust and home to a small heronry. Rydal Water, home to a couple of smaller islands, sometimes freezes over in the winter.
With a two bridges over the linking section of river, it’s possible to walk a circuit of each of the lakes by itself. Alternatively, the route around the two together is only a little over five miles and makes for a great outing. Among the many highlights along the way are Loughrigg Terrace, a level path that traverses the lower slopes of Loughrigg Fell, providing beautiful views of Grasmere below. In spring, the slopes here are covered with bluebells. Above the southern shore of Rydal Water are the Rydal Caves, a series of caverns quarried out of the hillside for their slate. Stepping stones cross the pool at the mouth of the most easily accessible cave.
Those circuiting the two lakes together often opt to walk the old ‘corpse road’ above the northern shore of Rydal Water. Before St Mary’s Church in Ambleside was consecrated, coffins had to be transported along this route from Ambleside to St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere for interment. There are no motor boats on either lake, making them particularly good for swimmers. Canoeing, kayaking and rowing are allowed on Grasmere but not Rydal Water. Rowing boats can be hired from the Faeryland tea garden on Grasmere’s north-western shore.