Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.
The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District. It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.
Grasmere village is a very pretty and popular tourist destination. It is situated on the River Rothay which flows into Grasmere Lake from where the village takes its name. Surrounded by hills the village is overlooked from the north-west by the rocky hill of Helm Crag also known as “The Lion and the Lamb” or the “Old Lady at the Piano”. These names are derived from the shape of rock formations on its summit depending on which side you view it from. To the east it is overlooked by Heron Pike and Great Rigg on the western ridge of the Fairfield horseshoe. To the south-east by Loughrigg Fell and to the west the long ridge comes down from High Raise. There are a number of walks that start from Grasmere and the village is also on the route of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk. Grasmere is home to Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread and the famous Grasmere Gingerbread Shop can be found at Church Cottage tucked away at the corner of St Oswald’s churchyard. Church Cottage which was built in 1630 was originally the village school. William Wordsworth who described the village as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found” lived in Grasmere for fourteen years. Dove Cottage located on the main road just outside the village was once an inn and became the home of the famous poet William Wordsworth for 8 years in 1799. He married Mary in 1802 and three of his five children were born there. Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth Museum next door and Dove Cottage Garden, which has been restore to the half wild state that William and his sister Dorothy created, are all open to the public. Wordsworth moved to Allan Bank in Grasmere village to accommodate his growing family and finally in 1813 to Rydal Mount in Rydal until his death in 1850. He is buried in St Oswald’s Parish Churchyard alongside his wife Mary, daughter Dora and other family members. Next to the church is a Daffodil Garden in memory of the poet. Grasmere Lake, one of the Lake District’s smaller lakes, is both fed and drained by the River Rothay which rises close to Rough Crag above Dunmail Raise and flows through the village of Grasmere before entering the lake and then exits downstream into Rydal Water then continues south to merge with the River Brathay. The rivers then continue into the northern end of Windermere. The lake containing a single island known simply as The Island is leased by the Lowther Estate to the National Trust.
Seat Sandal at 736 metres (2415 feet) is very noticeable from the village of Grasmere but is overshadowed by its much higher and more dominant neighbours in the Eastern Fells, Helvellyn and its parent fell, Fairfield. Whilst Seat Sandal’s eastern slopes are steep and craggy as they fall away towards Grisedale Hause containing Grisedale Tarn, its western slopes above Dunmail Raise are smooth and grassy. The summit views are wonderful. Towards the west the Solway Firth and Criffel can be seen and to the south on a clear day Morecombe Bay can be viewed. To the north and east the distant view is limited by the Helvellyn and Fairfield ranges.
Grisedale Tarn below Seat Sandal lies at about 500 metres (1770 feet) between the higher fells Fairfield and Dollywagon Pike. The tarn which is about 33 metres (110 feet) deep is the Lake Districts highest substantial tarn. It flows out to Ullswater to the north east and is home to brown trout, perch and eels. Legend says that Grisedale Tarn is the resting place of the crown of the Kingdom of Cumbria, after the crown was taken there in 945 by soldiers of the last king, Dunmail, after he was slain in battle with the combined forces of the English and Scottish kings.
From the lay-by we walk along the road towards the Travellers Rest pub. At the bus stop we turn right crossing over a cattle grid onto a track that leads to a farm called Winterseeds. We walk round the back of the farm and bear right across the field to go through the wall and turn left. We head forwards over the field to go through the gate in the wall corner then turn right leaving the track going uphill to the wall at the far side of the trees. We go through the gate and turn left following the yellow arrow. We head forwards following the track with the wall on our left. The track bears right and we go through a gate and keep heading forwards uphill along the valley, crossing over the stream twice. As we get near the top we cross over the stream again just in front of a waterfall. We keep heading uphill over the brow then the path levels out before rising again. We go over the top and Grisedale Tarn is in front of us. We turn left at the broken wall and start to ascend very steeply uphill. There is some scrambling to do as we make our way up to the summit of Seat Sandal following the broken wall. At the summit cairn we head straight forward to the next cairn and bear slightly left to a third cairn. We start heading downhill bearing slightly left on the faint path. We now follow the ridge steeply downhill we can see Grasmere in front of us in the distance. As we get near the bottom we go through a wooden gate to the left of the ridge. We head forwards then follow the path round to the right until we reach a stone barn. We go through the gate on the left at the side of the barn then turn right and follow the track until we reach the main road. We now turn left and follow the road back to the car park.
This is a moderate walk on grass and gravel tracks and paths also some tarmac road. The ascent to Grisedale Tarn, on well walked paths and tracks, is steep in places. The ascent to the summit of Seat Sandal from Grisedale Tarn is very steep and requires a little scrambling and the descent path is faint. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Elevation: approx lowest point 78.3m (256.90ft) approx highest point 734.80m (2410.76ft) approx ascent 677.5m (2222.77ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 4.8 miles allow 3 to 3½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL7 and OL5, The English Lakes, South-eastern area and north-eastern area.
Start point: lay-by car park on the A591 on the right just beyond the Travellers Rest pub travelling from Keswick.
Grasmere is located just off the A591 south of Keswick and north of Windermere and Ambleside in the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 at Threlkeld take the B5322 on the left, which by-passes Keswick. At the t-junction at Legburthwaite turn left onto the A591 which runs by the side of Thirlmere Lake to Grasmere. The free lay-by car park is on the right just past the Travellers Rest pub on the A591 before Grasmere.
Parking: There are three Pay and Display car parks, £8 for all day, in Grasmere and very limited free road side parking. There are three free lay-by car parks on the main A591.
Toilets and Refreshments
There is no public toilets on-route the nearest ones are in the pay and display car park on the right just before entering Grasmere village and also in the village near the police station. For refreshments in Grasmere there are three pubs the Red Lion, the Wordsworth Hotel and Spar and the Grasmere Hotel plus there are many cafes and other places to eat and drink. There are also plenty of shops to browse round. There are three more pubs nearby on the A591 the Travellers Rest, the Swan Inn and the Daffodil Hotel and Spar. The nearest town is Ambleside.