Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Coffin Trail and Rydal Water

I read about the Coffin Trail in a guidebook before we left the States. That’s a more pleasant name, I think, than Corpse Road which these paths are sometimes called. (Here’s an article about a walk that includes a corpse road in a different part of the Lake District.)

So why do these trails have such ghoulish names?  Not every village had a church and not every church had a graveyard, so when someone died, their coffin—or corpse—had to be carried to wherever the nearest graveyard was. Folks in Ambleside carried their dead along the Coffin Trail to St. Oswald’s in Grasmere. As we left Dove Cottage, we came upon the Coffin Stone where the men would pause to rest their burden. We noticed the stone because we were again on the verge of getting lost and so got to talking to a couple who was on the trail with us and they pointed it out. It turned out that the man’s relatives used to live just up from Wordsworth and knew him, and the man periodically comes back to see the house, though his family no longer owns it.

Unfortunately, I neglected to get a picture of the Coffin Stone, even though the woman very obligingly offered to pose on it for us.

We followed the path—or a path—for a while, heading toward Rydal.  Here’s a picture of Rydal Water.

Dove Cottage Rydal Water more distant from Coffin Trail

We ended up at the road that led past Rydal Mount. In retrospect, it might have been possible to do both Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount in one day, but I’m happy with the way we did it. For one, the day we saw Rydal Mount was rainy, so not a good day to be hiking along a rocky path. And for another, I don’t know about Mr. M, but I can’t absorb too much history at one time. Seeing the two houses on separate days helped me remember them better.

And we weren’t done hiking. I’d read an article in the Lakeland Walker (Mr. M had stopped to buy some wine, so I bought some magazines) that one of the best walks in all the Lake District is across Loughrigg Terrace which seems to be by Rydal Water. It showed up on one of our maps. So we crossed A591 again, and of course immediately went the wrong direction. If only we’d had this description to help us, I think we might have managed better, but we did realize our error pretty quickly. (Scroll down to the bottom of the walk description—which is pretty much the walk we did—to read the interesting notes.)

We asked some cyclists—we think they might have been from Scotland, because they had a rather thick-to-us accent—to be sure we were headed in the right direction. We decided to go down to walk by the water rather than staying up and going directly to the caves.

Rydal Water hike

Some of the path was washed away, so we had to get creative.

rydal water hike scouting a path

Here’s Mr. M  posing with the Water.

rydal water walk Mr. M by water

And me posing.

rydal water walk me and rydal water

We wanted to do the big loop on our map, but it was getting on in the afternoon. We came to a fork in the path and couldn’t tell which way to go. Some other cyclists came up (these had a milder accent) and we asked them. They studied our map and suggested we do the shorter path up to the caves, Given our propensity to get lost, we agreed that was a good plan.

rydal water walk me

We were a little sad about not being able to do the entire walk, but there was certainly enough beautiful scenery to enjoy.

rydal water walk scenery 3

And then we reached the caves, the result of quarrying.

rydal water walk me in rydal caves

And I’m happy to report we caught the last bus from Rydal Mount to Windermere.


  1. What gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing them.

    1. Thanks, Cara. Hope you found something useful here.