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Children dressed as William and his sister Dorothy at the National Trust's Wordsworth House and Garden in Cumbria
Follow in the footsteps of Dorothy Wordsworth in the Lake District | © National Trust Images
Lake District

Dorothy Wordsworth walking trail

Mark the life of Dorothy Wordsworth by making the journey from her birthplace in Cockermouth to the place where she died in Rydal. Dorothy Wordsworth was a creative force in her own right, just 19 months younger than her famous brother William and they were close all their lives. You can create your own route – this one follows the valleys so that you can use the frequent bus service to join up the sections of the walk.

Walk the route in two days

The walking route stays close to the main bus routes between Rydal and Cockermouth so that you can break the walk into sections and catch the bus home. We suggest splitting the walk at Keswick, doing steps 1–8 as Day 1, and steps 9–14 as Day 2. You can also split it into shorter sections and make the journey over more days.

Total steps: 14

Total steps: 14

Start point

Wordsworth House and Garden, Main Street, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 9RX

Step 1

Facing Wordsworth House, turn right and head east along Cockermouth Main Street, crossing over the River Cocker and bear left up Castlegate past Cockermouth Castle on the left. Continue along Castlegate Drive past the school until you reach a kissing gate on the left, 1.24 miles (2km) from the start, signposted Isel (grid ref NY 133312).

Step 2

Follow the path diagonally uphill towards Watch Hill, passing through four gates. Keep the wall on your left and enter Hill's Wood (grid ref NY 148320). Follow the bridleway downhill, keeping the wall on your left until you reach the road at grid ref NY 162328.

Step 3

Continue in the same direction on the road for 328 yards (300m). Turn left down the hill signposted to Isel. Cross Isel Bridge and turn right signposted Bewaldeth and Sunderland. Walk along the road for half a mile until a sharp bend to the left, where you continue straight on the bridleway signposted Coalbeck Farm (grid ref NY 175335). At the end of the stock yard bear left to go through the gate and follow the concrete track alongside the fence on your left. Follow the bridleway for 2.17 miles (3.5km) passing Cumbria Wildlife Park on your left. Turn right at the gate onto a metalled road. Continue past the entrance to Armathwaite Hall Hotel to reach the B5291 (bus stop at grid ref NY 209325).

Step 4

Turn right onto the B5291 (No footpath for 328 yards (300m) then cross the road before the green overhead bridge to a metal gate and public footpath sign to Scarness 1 mile. Follow the footpath keeping the fence to your right through fields, which can be muddy and occasionally flooded. There are several stiles and gates to traverse. After the fifth stile the path changes to a boardwalk through woodland. Then the path crosses rough pasture, bearing left away from the fence to stone slabs across a stream. Continue towards the field boundary, bearing left to cross a wooden bridge, go through the gate towards the footpath sign. Cross a further stream and head diagonally left to two gates. Continue to driveway and turn right, following a footpath sign until a T-junction, turn left for 55 yards (50m). Turn right next to the entrance to a holiday park on a footpath towards Scarness Bay.

Step 5

Follow the footpath south-east to Bowness Bay and on to reach the minor road (grid ref NY 225299). Turn right and after 219 yards (200m) bear right through a gate following a footpath sign towards Mirehouse. Crossing the first field, bear left to exit by a small gate, then cross four fields and a wood until you see St Bega's church off to the right. Cross the stream and turn left on the footpath, keeping the woodland and Mirehouse on your left until you reach the A591 (bus stop).

Step 6

Cross the A591 into Dodd Wood and walk through the car park with the tea-room and bridge on your left and toilets on the right. Follow the path uphill with Skillbeck on your left and continue straight on past a wide turning on your left, opposite a clearing on your right, until you reach a T-junction after a slight rise. Turn left away from the osprey viewing station. Follow the track as it bends to the right uphill through an open gate. Continue on this track past the second osprey viewing station, out of the woods.

Step 7

Bear right on a wide downhill track, eventually crossing Scalebeck Gill. The wide track ends in a loop. Look for the path on your right heading downhill with Scalebeck Gill on your right. At a junction of paths keep left, crossing a small beck and up over a stile. Turn right to follow the path steeply downhill to a stile and a beck down to the road at Millbeck.

Step 8

Turn left through the village and take the right turn opposite the village hall, and shortly turn left onto a farm track with a footpath sign. Bear left between the farm buildings and follow the footpath between two walls to reach a gate. Bear right below the barn and continue through a gate to a field. Bear left to another gate. Continue across the field to another gate, over a beck and pass close to the house on your right. Head towards a house on your left, through a gate onto a drive and turn right onto a minor road. Continue on the road through the village, turn right at the junction and then immediately left following the footpath sign over Applethwaite Gill. Keep left at the first gate and at the second gate bear right diagonally across the field towards Ormathwaite Hall. At the road, turn right and after 273 yards (250m) take the footpath on your left. Follow the footpath crossing three fields to join the Cumbria Way track, turning right towards Keswick over the A66 bridge. At the road at Briar Rigg turn right, and after passing the remains of a railway bridge turn left through a metal gate into Fitz Park. Follow the path through the park towards the river, cross the river at the footbridge and turn left and then right to arrive at Bank Street. Turn right and after 100m turn left into the marketplace and the tourist information centre (Moot Hall).

Step 9

From Keswick tourist information centre walk south-east past the Royal Oak pub towards St John Street, past the cinema and St John's Church along Ambleside Road. Turn right into Springs Road and at the end of the road follow the path through the woods signposted Castlerigg Stone Circle and Rakefoot. Keep the beck on your left and follow the path, turning right before a bridge. Continue uphill on the path until you cross a footbridge followed shortly by a gate onto a minor road. Turn left and then immediately right at a footpath signposted Castlerigg Stone Circle. Follow the wall on your left through two gates, then follow the footpath signs until you reach the A591.

Step 10

Turn right for 415 yards (380m), crossing the road at the third footpath sign on the left. Cross the field downhill to climb over a wall with a stone stile. Turn left following a footpath sign to a gate and then cross the track to another gate. Carry on downhill, keeping the wall and fence on your left to pass through another gate at the bottom of the field. Follow the path to cross a concrete bridge. Turn left through the gate or over the stile following the sign for St John's in the Vale Church. Go through the next gate and head for a bridge. Then head for a gate in front of you to the right of Sykes Farm. Once through, head uphill over rocks to a gate onto a farm track. Turn right and follow the minor road that becomes a bridleway that skirts the foot of the fell, before heading towards the A591. Cross a narrow field before crossing the A591.

Step 11

Head along the track towards Shoulthwaite Farm caravan site. Through the gate turn left between the barns and through another gate heading south-east on a footpath that becomes a track passing Shoulthwaite Moss on the left, and then a disused quarry on the right. Turn right onto a minor road for 22 yards (20m) and then cross to follow a footpath to Bridge End Farm. At Bridge End Farm turn right onto the road towards Thirlmere Dam. After 547 yards (500m), before the dam, look out for steep steps on your left signposted Permissive Path. Ascend steps and follow the path around the western side of Great How.

Step 12

After 850m turn right onto a wide track and walk south with Thirlmere on your right for 1.24 miles (2km), eventually turning east uphill away from Thirlmere to pass under the A591 into Swirls car park (bus stop and public toilets). Turn right back towards the A591 and look for the signpost 'Squirrel trail /Thirlmere loop' for the forest track on your left before the gates to the main road. Follow the forest track south for 3 miles (5km). At the edge of the forest where the track turns right, continue straight on over two bridges on a footpath across the open fell, keeping the wall on your right. Cross Raise Beck (take care after heavy rain) to the path on the southern side to turn left up Raise Beck valley.

Step 13

Follow the path towards a wall on your left and continue with the beck on your left. The path gets rougher as it ascends before levelling off and eventually Grisedale Tarn appears below you. Turn right and follow the path south to a gap in the wall at Hause Gap. Descend to where the path divides and bear left downhill with Tongue Gill below on your right. On reaching woodland bear right to cross the gill. Turn left to join the path descending to Mill Bridge at the A591.

Step 14

Cross over the A591 onto a minor road to cross Low Mill Bridge and then turn left to follow the road past Underhelm, bearing left again to Goody Bridge. Turn left at the T-junction onto the Easdale road and continue to Grasmere. Cross over the B5287, cutting through the village before turning left to join the B5287 past the church, heading out of Grasmere to the roundabout. Cross the A591 and bear left onto the minor road passing Dove Cottage and Town End. Continue on the road uphill taking the second left signposted Alcock Tarn and Coffin Route to Rydal. The road becomes a track and then a path continuing east with Rydal Water below on your right, eventually leading to a lane beside Rydal Mount.

End point

Dora's Field, Rydal Church, Rydal, LA22 9LX

Trail map

Ordnance Survey map of the Dorothy Wordsworth walking trail, Lake District
Map of the Dorothy Wordsworth walking trail, Lake District | © Crown copyright and database rights 2013 Ordnance Survey

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