GUIDE TO THE RIVER ROTHAY

NAME OF RIVER: Rothay.

WHERE IS IT?: It flows from Grasmere down to Ambleside in the central Lake District.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: I have not paddled the narrow section upstream of Grasmere Lake. Put in on the lake (various laybys offer parking possibilities).

Robin Allison (Feb 2003)...'If you want a good put in stop go into Grasmere and turn left next to the garden center; follow this road for about half a mile and you can park up in Fairy Glen which is a boat hire place on Grasmere Lake. Before you go off paddling just check with Rick the owner if it's OK to use his boat launch (usally no problem, I've been using it for the last three years with big groups of people).'

Take-out either near the final weir described below; visible from the road OR near the pier on Lake Windermere about a mile south of Ambleside.

Bob from 9thormskirk.org.uk (Dec 06)...'The guy at the boat hire place charged us a pound per boat to launch and then we were off. The beach at Ambleside is free and the car park is just next to it. Anohter free access point is just at the top of Rydal water in the National trust car park.'

APPROX LENGTH: 4 miles.

TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hours.

ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown. I have heard that the National Trust aren't always welcoming of paddlers on their Lake District properties...such as Grasmere Lake.

Tony Davis, Ribble Canoe Club (Dec '01)...'There is an access problem on the River Rothay passing through Rydal. According to River Advisor who we met on last weekends trip (Dec 2 2001) a woman who lives along the Rothay has been drumming support from Rydal residents to stop access to this stretch of water - advised not to paddle. She believes there may be Otters present (?) that are being disturbed by paddlers?! N.B. At the put in at Grasmere a "white van man" tried to illegally clamp one of our vehicles as well!! (top trip!)'

Rob Byrne paddled the same day...'Incidentally, the River Advisor warned us of potential problems. Apparently, otters have been seen on the banks of the river around Pelter Bridge, which is where the "rock-infested rapid" below Rydal Water is. The residents of Rydal (and the NT?) have pretty much decided that paddlers going around the banks of the river aren't good for the otters and hence paddling shouldn't be allowed. The River Advisor advised us not to paddle the section since the group had a large number of beginners; the advice was that unless you were going to do the section in question fast (i.e. no stopping or playing) and do it in a group of two or less, then don't. In short, you can't paddle the Rothay below Rydal Water, until the conflict is resolved. The River Advisor lives nearby on the banks of the river so it may be worth checking on the situation before paddling.'

Nigel Blandford adds...'It might be a good idea to check with the Cumbria Wildlife Trust as to whether there are actually Otters on the Rothay. As to disturbance by Kayaks, from what I understand there are no scientific papers on boating disturbing otters, but anicdotal evidence suggests that motorised boats do have some effect. The problem time is when "the bitch has cubs" and there is no set time for this. For further info try contacting the nearest Otter Project Officer, who is Kevin O Hara on 01912 846884. He is apparently very knowledgable if you can understand a thick geordie accent!'

Martin Kenyon on December 28, 2001...'At the moment there is a potential problem with access at the Pelter Bridge rapid. Both banks are owned by the Rydal Estates which is not the problem, they have been very good to canoeists. The problem is us the canoeists. The local residents are unhappy (and rightly so) at very large groups of paddlers causing a bit of a disturbance whilst paddling at ten o'clock at night. Can all insomniacs please go to the pub or on Windermere and leave this little gem alone. Us local paddlers would like to paddle it during the day (which does actually make sense for all rivers).'

Bob from 9thormskirk.org.uk (Dec 06)...'Access was OK the guy at the boat house was happy for the trade and there were plenty of others on the river.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: You can view a fast section of the river from Rydal Village on the A591. It should be fairly obvious whether the river is paddleable or not. Friends have paddled the river when it is flowing through people's gardens(!), and report that the difficulty does not massively increase but the danger does, particularly from trees..

Bob from 9thormskirk.org.uk (Dec 06)...'We went down after heavy rain. The water was over the top of the stepping stones.

GRADING: Grade 2+.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees. Carol Haynes notes (11/3/00)...'Tree cover on this section is getting very close to water level in places with no easy way through other than to duck! A helmet or machete are advised especially in higher water levels.'

Bob from 9thormskirk.org.uk (Dec 06)...'A couple of nice grade 1/ 2 rapids. A good intro to white water for the scout troop I was with.'

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: After launching in Grasmere, figure out which end of the lake is downstream and find a small ledge weir where the river leaves.

The kilometre stretch down to Rydal Water is mostly Grade 2 rapids, with numerous tree branches lurking overhead...part of the National Trust 'White Moss' park, and very pretty it is too.

After you pass the park's footbridge, the river slows into Rydal Water, another beautiful lake (or 'tarn', if you come from thereabouts). A slog along this will bring you to the river's outflow (obviously) where more trees need dodging as the river accelerates in pace towards the fastest and rockiest stretch of the river. This rock- infested rapid which can reach grade 3 in high water may need inspecting if you are unsure of the route.

The river slackens off after you pass a set of stepping stones (which you have to lean your boat through in low water). The river is quick but tame until the road joins on river right and you meet Stock Ghyll flowing in from river left. You can see the last fall of this from the river and might consider carrying up to it. Just after this point is a small weir which provides a nice play wave. This is a possible point to finish the trip.

Jake Brodie-Stedman This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. offers comments on the play potential of the weirs, summer 2003...'If the water is flowing across the whole of the 2nd weir then it is high. The first weir can give excellent flat surf moves in high water but definately not in low water. The 2nd weir in high water is excellent and the stopper behind the wave gives excellent vertical moves. The first weir always has a unbouncy hole while the second weir can either have a good sized hole or a good green wave. It always has a small hole behind it.'

Otherwise, enjoy the final stretch down to where the River Brathay is joined from river right and drift into Windermere.

Bob from 9thormskirk.org.uk (Dec 06)...'Great river, good intro to white water, good access. Perfect for takin beginners down.'

OTHER NOTES: A great beginners WW trip if you are aware of the tree risk. Pop into Rydal Village afterwards and see Wordsworth's grave and Dove Cottage. Keeps the shuttle driver happy...

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Carol Haynes, Tony Davis, Rob Byrne, Robin Allison, Jake B-S, Martin Kenyon, Nigel Blandford and Bob from 9thormskirk.co.uk.


Community Forum Comments on this Article
Re: RIVER ROTHAY -- Graham E
2018 Nov 11 07:23:41 PM
Did the Rothay today and the two tress have now been removed but the net bridge above Pelter Bridge still in place
Re: RIVER ROTHAY -- jamiemagee
2018 Sep 26 06:56:05 PM
It's a bit tight in places. I've seen canoes do it before. I'd be tempted to give it a go.



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Re: RIVER ROTHAY -- SiDorey
2018 Sep 26 06:29:52 PM
"Philip Jones" wrote:

Did this river for the first time this weekend with Sheffield Hallam,

Two Trees currently down on the river,

First is easily portaged right at the start, just as you come to the end of Rydal Water, jump out to the right and walk down until you're past it.

You can just about get around it on the water if you really want to hard left but it's not ideal for beginners.



The second one is at 54°26'13.3"N 2°58'41.8"W (Couldn't think how to explain how far down it is).

There is a tree down mixed with barbed wire across the river.

Can portgage through the field to the right and involves crossing a fallen barbed wire fence to get back on.
STEVEHITCHEN wrote:

Hi folks, Wigan Canoe Group paddled this on Sunday 11th June 2017 at 0.85 aprox.

We launched in Grasmere, and paddled down to Waterhead on Windermere. Its a

few years since I did this river and it is very scenic. It is also very overgrown in a few

places which could be a problem at higher levels, in fact the exit from Rydal water

onto the river is just a Kayak wide gap through bushes, and is not easy to see.

The main point of interest for us, was discovering a net stretched across

the river just before the Grade 3 rapid at Pelter Bridge.We managed to pass this

on the right hand side. Again this could be tricky at higher levels. After Pelter Bridge

things were clear until bushes encroach in a couple of places, care needed!! 0.95 would have been a better level, but all in all a good paddle, with several good playspots Steve H. WCG.




Hi. Is this route suitable for an open canoe?
Re: RIVER ROTHAY -- Philip Jones
2017 Oct 16 03:03:25 PM
Did this river for the first time this weekend with Sheffield Hallam,

Two Trees currently down on the river,

First is easily portaged right at the start, just as you come to the end of Rydal Water, jump out to the right and walk down until you're past it.

You can just about get around it on the water if you really want to hard left but it's not ideal for beginners.



The second one is at 54°26'13.3"N 2°58'41.8"W (Couldn't think how to explain how far down it is).

There is a tree down mixed with barbed wire across the river.

Can portgage through the field to the right and involves crossing a fallen barbed wire fence to get back on.
Re: RIVER ROTHAY -- STEVEHITCHEN
2017 Jun 12 11:02:22 AM
Hi folks, Wigan Canoe Group paddled this on Sunday 11th June 2017 at 0.85 aprox.

We launched in Grasmere, and paddled down to Waterhead on Windermere. Its a

few years since I did this river and it is very scenic. It is also very overgrown in a few

places which could be a problem at higher levels, in fact the exit from Rydal water

onto the river is just a Kayak wide gap through bushes, and is not easy to see.

The main point of interest for us, was discovering a net stretched across

the river just before the Grade 3 rapid at Pelter Bridge.We managed to pass this

on the right hand side. Again this could be tricky at higher levels. After Pelter Bridge

things were clear until bushes encroach in a couple of places, care needed!! 0.95 would have been a better level, but all in all a good paddle, with several good playspots Steve H. WCG.
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