Five best parkruns in the Lake District

WE are used to having tourists visit us in the Lake District. But now we’re getting a new kind of visitor: the parkrun tourist. So just for you, here’s our choice of the five best parkruns here in the Lakes.

But we don’t want to be controversial and say which is our favourite! Instead, we’re going to use an alphabetical list, because we know that YOU will have your own favourite.

Fell Foot parkrun. Spectacular location at this National Trust park right on the shore of Windermere, at the southern end of the lake near Newby Bridge. The summer route is two laps of a big meadow, with one loop in between them, which features the notorious Cafe Hill. The winter route is a fun and slightly crazy four lapper with lots of out and back sociability, but alas, four ascents of Cafe Hill. Winter route isn’t suitable for dogs or pushchairs; you’ll see why. Plenty of parking – it’s just £1 for parkrunners, though free if you’re a member of the National Trust. Not easy to reach by public transport. There’s a cafe in the boathouse right by the lake. Very strong tradition of going for a swim after your run – or even before your run! Always lots of tourists here. Course record is 15.26.

Ford parkrun. This is a delightful community event in the bottom left hand corner of the Lakes, in the pretty town of Ulverston. It’s 3.5 laps around the park, on paths and grass, with not much in the way of hills. The cafe here is super, and on site in the park itself. There’s plenty of nearby parking (see their website regarding special arrangements) and it has a nice homely feel, with seldom more than 100 runners. Course record is 17.11, but as with all parkruns, you’re just as welcome if you are walking round the route.

Keswick parkrun. A really interesting out and back route on the line of an old railway, including a long (and stunningly constructed) tunnel, in which men and boys can’t help hooting and whistling. Feel free! It’s relatively flat, with just a bit of a rise in the middle. The volunteer team is led by a comedy genius who said once, on a very wet day: “Do you really want to run? Or shall we just wait here (under a shelter) and I’ll tell you funny stories for half an hour?” Very nice cafe across the road in Fitz Park (where the junior parkrun is staged on Sundays). Limited parking on the approach road but lots of car parks in the town centre. Portaloo on site. Course record: 15.07.

Rothay parkrun. This is our local parkrun in Ambleside, just a ten minute jog from our front door and yes, we will arrange an early or late breakfast for you! It’s a real community event with a host of friendly and encouraging volunteers. The route is three laps of the park and the adjoining Miller Field, on a mixture of grass and tarmac (so one road shoe and one trail shoe will be ideal 😉). It’s surprisingly flat, for the Lake District, but not all that fast because of a few out and back sections. There’s no cafe in the park, but a super coffee van just outside, and umpteen cafes just a short walk away in the town centre. Plenty of nearby parking. Course record: 15.57.

Whinlatter Forest parkrun. Here’s the big daddy of them all, the wonderful and scary forest run which has (allegedly) more climbing than any other parkrun in the world. The start is lower than the finish. The first half mile is all steeply downhill. The last 400 metres are downhill. So you can imagine what the rest is like. (Actually, you can’t! But it is wonderful.) We love the forest paths, good running surface. We love the mountain views as you climb above the trees. We love the friendly volunteers, and the gorgeous cafe (where they do a parkrun special deal). The course record is an amazing 16.19; he must be a fellrunner – or a bird – in another life.

Return to our main site if you want to come and stay here with us!

The best walks from Rydal

HERE at Rydal Lodge we believe we have the best location for walkers in the whole of the Lake District. We can cater for walkers of every ability, experience and level of ambition. So if you are new to the Lake District, want an easy few days strolling, or a hike to the high tops, we can share the routes from our door.

But first: please get a map! We have some basic route maps here at Rydal Lodge, but there’s so much fun in learning how to read a map, to plan where you’re going, and better still,to relive the memories afterwards. Don’t rely on your phone. Google Maps is great at ground level, but what happens when your signal disappears in the mountains?  We have friends in the local mountain rescue team and we don’t want to make their lives any busier!

And make sure you have the right kit. Full waterproof and windproof cover if you’re going on the high tops, and decent walking boots. At lower level you’ll manage with trainers, as long as they have a good grip. Take extra layers; it can get very cool even on a summer day. Take plenty of water, and energy-giving snacks. Please, tell us where you’re heading. It’s just a safety net in case anything goes wrong.

But we’ll start with the easier walks, where you won’t be far from civilisation, and yet still in the loveliest countryside in the world.

  • To Ambleside and back via Rydal Park. This is an ideal introduction on your first day here, especially if you’re new to the Lake District, want to get your local bearings, and maybe call in some shops midway. Head south along the main road for 100m and then turn right over Pelter Bridge and walk ahead on the road known as Under Loughrigg. There might be a few cars, but you’re more likely to see hikers, robins, and perhaps a heron on the River Rothay on your left. Just over a mile along here, take the left turn over the old packhorse bridge, Miller Bridge, and then right through Rothay Park into Ambleside town centre. Time for some shopping, a coffee at Zeffirellis, maybe book a cinema ticket for later in the day. Then head up to the main road, turn left (opposite Fred Holdsworth’s bookshop) and walk along as far as a mini roundabout, where you turn right, and soon sharp left onto Nook Lane. Follow this through the yard at Nook End Farm, over historic Low Sweden Bridge, and then downhill with Scandale Beck on your left until you reach a bigger track. Turn right here, and head along towards Rydal Hall. (The field on your left is the venue for the annual Ambleside Sports, held on the last Thursday of July each year.) In the grounds of Rydal Hall, take a small detour into a quiet garden, and round underneath a bridge to the wonderful surprise view at the Grotto. (No explanation: that would spoil the surprise!). Then through the exit, down to the main road, and you’ll be directly opposite Rydal Lodge. 4 miles, easy.
Rydal water
  • Around Rydal Water. Another relatively easy four mile walk, but almost all off-road this time, apart from having to cross the A591. And that’s how you set off, from our door, across the road and up the hill towards Rydal Mount. This was the long-time home of the poet William Wordsworth, and the house and grounds are well worth visiting. Go behind the house, and take the signposted track on the left known as the Coffin Trail (because along here coffins were once carried for burial in Grasmere).  This path follows the lower slopes of Nab Scar, with lovely views of Rydal Water and Heron Island down to your left. Take the first available (steep) track on your left which brings you down to the A591; cross here carefully, and head for the interesting footbridge and a path through the woods. As you leave the trees, take the upper path and follow it round to the left; this is the track known as Loughrigg Terrace, after the fell above you. Down below are more lovely views of Rydal Water. Eventually you will reach one of our seven wonders, the magnificent Rydal Cave which you must go inside; after the entrance stepping stones, it’s all easy going. Back in the daylight, take the rocky path downhill and through the woods to Dipper Bridge, but don’t go all the way to the main road (unless you fancy a pint in the Badger Bar); the secret gate into our garden is here on your right.
Secret gate
  • To Grasmere and back. Here’s a longer walk which starts from our secret garden gate, and heads up to the Terrace and Rydal Cave. But this time, when you reach the end of Rydal Water, continue heading west to the weir that marks the beginning of the next lake, Grasmere. If it’s a fine day, there will be plenty of people paddling and picnicking here at Penny Rock. Follow the lake shore path until it winds steeply uphill to meet the road below Red Bank. This leads down into Grasmere village (do stop off at the delightful Faeryland tea room, where you can take a rowing boat out on the lake).  There’s plenty to see and do in Grasmere, including the lovely Heaton Cooper Studio and art gallery, and another of our favourite bookshops, Sam Read. Then take the road past the church to the junction with the A591, cross over, and take the minor road that leads past Dove Cottage, another home of Wordsworth, and heads above White Moss Common to join the coffin trail route back to Rydal Mount. Where you’ll be glad to stop for a pot of tea on the garden cafe, before heading home to Rydal lodge.
Faeryland at Grasmere
  • Our favourite small mountain, Loughrigg. It may be low in stature, just over 1000ft, but this a sprawling mass of a fell, which many hidden valleys, small tarns, and surprise views. From here at Rydal Lodge, the shortest way to the summit is via our garden gate, over Dipper Bridge, towards Rydal Cave and then take the path behind the cave that heads upwards. Loughrigg is criss-crossed with many paths, but as long as you keep climbing UP, you’ll reach the summit cairn, an OS trig point column, and wonderful views. For variety on the way back, take the path that leads north-west from the summit and will bring you via some newly-built steps down to Loughrigg Terrace, for a scenic stroll back home. It’s a round trip of about 5 miles, but allow around three hours because of the climbing – and the need to stop and admire views.
  • The Fairfield Horseshoe. This is the giant of all the walks from our doorstep, a magnificent and famous circular route taking in eight mountain summits and offering the very best of Lakeland terrain. (Please do ask to take Gnigel, our gnome, with you. He’ll fit in your pocket, and he’s trying to tick off all the Wainwright fells.) Which is a good reminder to take along a copy of Wainwright’s Guide to the Eastern Fells along with a map, for entertainment and education as much as route finding. We recommend doing this route anti-clockwise, so that you’ll finish by descending Nab Scar very close to home. So cross the road, go through the Rydal Hall grounds and along by Rydal Park until a gap on the left takes you towards Low Sweden Bridge. But bear off left before the bridge is reached and follow this path first over Low Pike and then High Pike to the summit of Dove Crag. The route then takes you north west over Hart Crag on very steep and rock ground to the highest point of the walk, Fairfield, at 2860ft (873m). Please be aware that the top of Fairfield can be confusing in mist, so do have a compass with you. The main path leads south west to Great Rigg and then over Heron Pike to Nab Scar. The descent this way is easier terrain, until the final drop down to Rydal on seemingly-never-ending stone steps. Then it’s a short stroll down the lane to the main road and Rydal Lodge – though you deserve a tiny detour north to call at the Badger Bar for a pint. This is a serious undertaking, and although it’s only nine miles, it takes strong walkers around six hours to complete.