The Stagecoach 555 bus is one of our local treasures. It runs from Kendal to Keswick and is a great way to get right into the heart of The Lake District. For our guests at Waterhead it is literally a hop, skip and jump onto the bus from our front door. So, leave the car behind and get yourself an Explorer ticket which will allow you unlimited access to the bus route for the day. Here are our top five suggestions of places to enjoy along the way.
Just beyond Ambleside, get off the bus at the Church in the tiny hamlet of Rydal. Despite its size, the little community has two significant attractions that are worth taking some time over.
Rydal Mount, William Wordsworth family home
Rydal Mount was William Wordsworth’s best-loved family home for thirty seven years. Still owned by his family, the house retains the lived-in character and warm atmosphere that was such an important part of William’s life. The romantic five acre garden was, in large part, designed and planted by Wordsworth himself and is kept very much to the original plan. Taking a walk around his favourite outdoor places, it is easy to imagine how they inspired his prose and verse.
Just a stone’s throw from Wordsworth’s former abode are the grand 19th Century Rydal Hall Gardens. The building itself is now a commercially run enterprise, but visitors are invited to stroll around the grounds. There are thirty-four acres including the elegant Thomas Mawson-designed formal Italianate gardens to the front of the Hall. The informal woodland has a sculpture path, ponds, a waterfall and a restored grade II listed ‘Grot’ – Britain’s first bespoke viewing point dating from 1689.
Rydal Hall Gardens / CC 2.0 alh1
Rydal Hall Gardens / CC 2.0 Gareth James
Join the bus from where you dismounted, or walk the Coffin Trail which you can pick up just above Rydal Mount. It is a pleasant two mile walk into Grasmere with splendid views from above Rydal Water.
Dove Cottage, Grasmere
Dove Cottage, the previous home of William Wordsworth and his family is top of the list of attractions. Next door is The Wordsworth Museum which houses the world’s largest collection of Wordsworth’s letters, journals, poems as well as maps, pictures and interactive displays. It is also worth visiting the ancient Church of St Oswald in the heart of the village. Here in the church yard you will find the simple graves of William and his wife Mary. Nearby are the graves of his sister Dorothy and his children Dora, William, Thomas and Catherine.
Grasmere Gingerbread® is part of our cultural landscape. Follow the delightful aroma of freshly baked gingerbread to the tiny Grasmere Gingerbread Shop in the centre of the village. Sarah Nelson invented this spicy-sweet cross between a biscuit and a cake in 1854. Today the business is run by third-generation owners and the gingerbread is sent to fans all around the globe.
Leaving Grasmere, the 555 climbs over Dunmail Raise and drops down along the wooded slops of Thirlmere.
You would be forgiven for thinking Thirlmere a natural lake. It was, once. However, in 1889, in an amazing feat of Victorian engineering, Thirlmere was dammed at one end and flooded to create a vast reservoir to supply the growing needs of the industrial city of Manchester almost 100 miles away.
The scheme was not without its opponents. Amongst them John Ruskin, the renowned art critic, social theorist and environmentalist, who lambasted the concept and its creators…
“As to these Manchester robbers… there is ‘no profit’ in the continuance of their lives”.
Today the reservoir is owned by United Utilities. They maintain that one glass of water in every nine drunk in the North West comes from Thirlmere.
Despite the stormy and controversial history of Thirlmere, it is now a tranquil and beautiful place to explore. Nestled between Lake District fells, there are a number of trails to explore through varied woodland and along the water edge. It is one of the less-visited bodies of water which lends a peace and calm to the stunning surroundings.
4. Castlerigg Stone Circles
You will need to get off the bus at the Castle Lane stop, just before Keswick, and walk for one mile along the lane. Well worth the walk!
Potentially one of the earliest stone circles in the UK, Castlerigg is thought to date back to 3,000 BC. Surrounded by the mighty mountains of High Seat and Helvellyn, it is placed in an awe inspiring and dramatic setting. Unlike later stone circles, this Neolithic site does not contain formal burial monuments.
Thirty metres in diameter, the site is made up of thirty-eight stones varying in height from 1 m to 2.3 m. The entrance at Castlerigg, on the north side of the circle, is flanked by two massive upright stones. Castlerigg has not been extensively excavated, and it is therefore not known exactly what might be preserved beneath the surface. The precise function of such sites is not known, but the importance was possibly as an important meeting place for the scattered Neolithic communities.
Shortly before arriving in Keswick you have awesome views of the majestic fells above Derwent Water.
The town of Keswick is another Lake District ‘must visit’. It has a bustling lively atmosphere and many independent shops from antiques and art to speciality foods. The range of outdoor clothing and equipment to be found in the town has earned Keswick the title Outdoor Retailer of the UK. Located in the heart of the town is the ever-popular Keswick Market which runs Thursdays and Saturdays. There’s a wide selection of artisan and locally-produced goods and a carnival atmosphere that makes for a great day out. There are also a two well maintained parks in the town – Hope Park and Fitz Park – delightful for a stroll and as a place to eat your market-bought local fayre.
Come Home to Waterhead
After a day’s adventure on the 555 there is no better place to come home to than Waterhead. The bus stop is less than a minute’s walk from our front door and a warm welcome awaits. Why not pull up a comfy chair in the bar overlooking the bay, order one of our speciality gins and unpack together all the sights and sounds of your day in the Lake District.