The Lake District is known for a huge array of walking trails. From the more intense high peaks, to country strolls, there is something for everyone. A walk doesn’t have to be difficult to have great rewards! Some of the easiest walks in the Lake District have great views. Rydal Caves has it all – impressive lake views, easy terrain, and caves to explore! This place is well know among locals, and I have visited countless times! However, I often encounter tourists who have no idea it exists!
Where is Rydal Cave?
The cave itself is nestled into the side of Loughrigg Fell. It is not signposted or advertised along the route, so you need to know where you are going. The hamlet it gets its name from is tiny. Rydal itself consists of a handful of houses and a popular stately home. It is about half way between Grasmere and Ambleside. You also have Rydal Water, a small lake which is very pretty. You can see the cave on the picture below. It is easy to find on GoogleMaps, but is not so obvious how to get there, so I suggest you read on!
How to get to Rydal Caves
Most people choose to walk, as it is easy and offers great views. For most people staying in the area, you will be coming from either Ambleside or Grasmere. I have laid out below how to reach from both of these villages. You can also read my instructions below and combine them, taking you from one village to the other, via the caves!
There are a couple of different ways to reach Rydal Caves from Ambleside. My favourite route is “under Loughrigg”. The walk takes you out of Ambleside towards some pretty stepping stones. Many people walk this route just to see the stepping stones as it is a popular walk from Ambleside in itself! Startby making your way out of town, through Rothay Park. heading out of the Southern end of the park, you will cross 2 bridges and a cattlegrid. From here you just follow the road for around a mile. It is a road, however it is extremely quiet. Do bare in mind though, vehicles can and do use this road, particularly in the summer. Always be careful with children and dogs as there are blind corners.
The stepping stones will be on your right and are worth a few minutes of time! If it has been dry, and the river is low, you can cross the river. However, the stones are irregular and can be very slippery. The water can also be too high or fast, so never attempt to cross if it looks unsafe.
Continue on past the stones until you reach a fork in the road. A small humpback bridge takes you to the main road. Forget that and take the left hand road, leading you past a small car park and up a steep hill. Don’t be put off by the sharp incline – once you reach the top you are rewarded with this stunning view over Rydal water!
Once you have reached this bench, do not head down to the water, but rather stick to the high path that bends to the left. Continue on with the water on your right hand side. The path will start to incline. Half way up, slightly hidden, you will see a cave. Don’t be fooled – this isn’t the best cave! I do not recommend trying to get in this cave, it is difficult and requires some serious scrambling. Rather, continue up until you reach the bigger cave. You cannot miss it as you round the top corner and it is straight ahead!
Reaching Rydal Caves from Grasmere is equally a scenic. My favourite route is around the back of Grasmere water. Head out of Grasmere town toward Red Bank. This route will take you past Tweedies Bar, Faeryland cafe and then onwards. It is a road so beware of passing traffic. You will gradually ascend until you reach a gate on your left. Head through this gate which takes you down to the lakeshore. Continue on, walking along the shore of the lake in a southerly direction. You will reach a kind of weir, with a bridge, at the very end of the lake. At this point, don’t cross the bridge, but continue on upwards. Eventually you should be walking up and along a ridge, offering sweeping views over Rydal Water. The cave is just over the brow of the hill.
This route is a little harder to explain, but you can search directions in google maps by foot and it gives you the options. Also, it is definitely worth noting that phone signal in The Lake District is patchy! I really recommend going old school and investing in a good old fashioned map of The Lake District!
An alternative option is to continue up Red Bank further instead of turning onto the first path. This is more of an uphill, but eventually you turn off the road onto a track. You are now joining the ridge and should find the cave!
Can I drive to Rydal Cave?
The cave itself is only accessible by foot. There is no road up to it, so you have to walk. However, you can park nearer than Ambleside or Grasmere if you want to shorten the walk. The closest place to park is Pelter Bridge car park. From here, just follow the directions above from Ambleside, as Pelter bridge is the car park you come to after the stepping stones. On sunny days, or bank holidays, this car park can fill up quickly! Also, be aware this is a Pay and Display car park.
Can you go inside Rydal Cave?
At the moment, yes! As someone who has visited many times over the years, I can confirm that has not always been the case. On a few occasions over the years, the caves has been fenced off. there is never any prior warning of this. I imagine it is if some areas have become unsafe. You could always ask at the local tourist information centre if worried. The last time I can remember the cave being fenced off was at least 5 years ago, so I doubt it will happen again. I have been inside many times, and it is great fun.
Don’t be put off by the word cave. In reality, this cave is so big, you can always see natural light. It is always very wide and tall, not at all claustrophobic. There is usually a bit of water inside and occasionally a pair of ducks! Watch the rocks, they can be slippy!
- Take water – there are no shops along the way!
- Let someone know where you are going – phone signal is patchy
- Weather in the Lake District is unpredictable, even the nicest day can turn wet in minutes. I always take a lightweight rain jacket.