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As the A591 winds its way north from Ambleside to Keswick it passes close to the shores of Rydal Water and Grasmere offering glimpses of these two beautiful lakes. For car drivers this can be an exasperating experience as walls and trees obscure some of the views. To get the best of this section of road dump the car and take the bus instead. A number of buses work this route but the long-standing and much loved 555 is the best bet. The extra height and more relaxed speed of the bus (in summer open top double-deckers run) allow more of the scenery to be taken in. The A591 however is not the only route that links Ambleside and Grasmere, at a higher-level running through the meadows of Rydal Park and across the slopes of Nab Scar, is a very much older track. It dates back a very long time and is called locally, the Coffin Road, due to the fact that the only consecrated ground for burial in the area was the grave yard at St Oswalds in Grasmere and it was therefore used to convey coffins on their final journey.
Walking the Coffin Road from Ambleside to Grasmere then taking advantage of the bus for the return journey makes an excellent outing. The Coffin Road rises and falls gently along its course and gets you to a whole variety of viewpoints. The scenery in this corner of the Lake District was a strong inspiration for Wordsworth and along the way the route passes two of his homes, Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage. They are both open to the public and with an early start both can easily be visited on the walk. Also crossed and not to be missed is White Moss Common, it was a favourite spot of Wordsworths sister Dorothy and the views down towards Grasmere village are just stunning. Once in Grasmere it is also worth making a detour around the churchyard of St Oswalds, it's a beautiful and peaceful place and makes a perfect end to the walk. Wordsworth and his family are buried here and an interesting time can be had reading the head stones and viewing the church that in parts date back to Norman times.
Ambleside - Grasmere
3 - 4 hours
1. From Ambleside head North on the A591 (in the direction of Keswick) for 750m until you reach Scandale Bridge over Scandale Beck. Cross the bridge and immediately turn right on to a path. This path follows the side of the beck for a short distance then swings north towards the trees of Rydal Park. Follow it past the pasture and trees to Rydal Hall. The path loops around the back of Rydal Hall and joins a rough tarmac lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it a short distance up hill to Wordsworths House, Rydal Mount.
2. A bridleway starts around the back of Rydal Mount. Join it and follow as it climbs alongside the garden wall of Rydal Mount and then works its way West across the lower slopes of Nab Scar. The bridleway pops in and out of the trees and dips up and down for 1.5km until it comes to a junction with another bridleway on the left. Ignore this and carry straight on to reach a tarmac lane on White Moss Common by some cottages. Ignore the bridleway that drops away on the left and continue heading West along the lane. This is followed steeply down hill to join a road at How Top.
3. Turn right onto the road and follow it down to Dove Cottage. Dove Cottage is open to visitors as is the Jerwood Centre, so if you have time both are well worth a visit. To reach Grasmere the A591 must be crossed; the safest place to do this is by the mini roundabout. On the other side follow the road into Grasmere. St Oswalds church is reached just after crossing the bridge over the River Rothay. There is a footpath that leads around the graveyard past Wordsworths grave. The path loops back to the road which is then followed into the centre of the village. The bus stop is near the village green.