Cumbria Scenes – 27.4.12

Rydal Cave

Inside, looking out.
Call it Rydal Cave, or Loughrigg Cave, or give it no name whatsoever, which is how things once were, this is a fascinating spot, not only easy of access but also clearly visible from the main Ambleside to Grasmere road.
The cave is, of course, artificial. The Lake District has few natural caves, unlike the Yorkshire Dales and the Three Peaks, where pot-holing is carried out so enthusiastically. The Lakes has always been an area of mining and quarrying, and this spacious cave is one of many examples, and all the more popular from being one of the few that is totally safe.
It is dug into the northern flank of Loughrigg Fell, overlooking Rydal Water. Loughrigg, as the fell is usually known, locally, is a low, sprawling wedge of land stretching from Ambleside to Grasmere along the main road, and forming the wide end of the ridge separating Grasmere from Great Langdale.
For a fell of such modest proportions, it offers a multitude of approaches, one from the centre of Ambleside itself, passing the church and the old golf-course to gain the low ridge.
This route goes nowhere near the cave. For that, you should choose a route that brings you to Loughrigg Terrace, a beautiful, wide, level green route that allows a gentle ramble from end to end, enjoying views over Rydal Water and Grasmere, and over the Vale of Grasmere towards the Lion and the Lamb and the deep trench of Dunmail Raise. Approaches from Rydal, from the capacious parking areas off-road, on the approach to the Water, or from Grasmere from the infamous Red Bank road, lead to this route, which makes a perfect evening stroll in its own right.
The cave is massive. Solemn and silent, dry beyond the pools of water that lie in its mouth, deep, but not so deep as to ever lose the light from its massive gateway. Fifty years ago, Wainwright observed that it was big enough to house the entire population of Ambleside, should an evacuation ever be necessary, and even now I think there would be little overflow if you tried to cram them all in.


If you go to the Fairfield Horseshoe entry and follow it to the last photo, looking down on Rydal Water, the cave is clearly seen, above and slightly to the right of the larger island in the lake.

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