Before 1974, Grasmere lay within the former county of Westmorland. Today it is part of the county of Cumbria.
"'The lake flanked by grass'; 'gres', 'mere'. Early spellings in 'Grys-', 'Gris(s)-' might suggest ON 'griss' 'young pig' as 1st el.[ement], but the weight of the evidence points to OE/ON 'gres' 'grass', with the modern form influenced by Standard English....The medial '-s(s)e-' may, as suggested by Ekwall in DEPN, point to ON 'gres-saer' 'grass-lake' as the original name...". Plus the element "'mere' OE, ModE 'lake, 'pool'." (OE refers to Old English, ON to Old Norse.)
The village is on the river Rothay which flows into Grasmere (the body of water), which lies about 0.5 km to the south. The village is overlooked from the north-west by the rocky hill of Helm Crag, popularly known as The Lion and the Lamb or the Old Lady at the Piano. These names are derived from the shape of rock formations on its summit, depending on the side from which you view it.
A number of frequented walks begin in the village, including the ascent of Helm Crag, a longer route up to Fairfield and a moderate 200-metre ascent to Easedale Tarn. The village is also on the route of Alfred Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk.
The A591 connects Grasmere to the Vale of Keswick over Dunmail Raise to the north, and Ambleside to the south. In other directions, Grasmere is surrounded by high ground. (At Christmas 2015, the A591 was washed away on the Keswick side of Dunmail Raise, resulting in a long detour. It was reopened in May 2016.) To the west, a long ridge comes down from High Raise and contains the lesser heights of Blea Rigg and Silver How. To the east, Grasmere is bordered by the western ridge of the Fairfield horseshoe.
Grasmere is served by the Stagecoach 555 bus service connecting towns in and near the Lake District, such as Keswick and Lancaster. In summer it is also served by an open top double-decker 599 service, operated by Stagecoach, which runs between Grasmere and Bowness-on-Windermere.
Grasmere's famous Rushbearing Ceremony, centred on St Oswald's Church, has ancient origins. The present-day ceremony is an annual event which features a procession through the village with bearings made from rushes and flowers. In this procession there are also six Maids of Honour, a brass band, the church choir, and anyone who wishes to join in by carrying their own decorated rushbearing.
The annual Grasmere Sports take place in August and were first held in 1852. This is the main event in the village's calendar and one of the most popular traditional events in the Lake District. Participants compete in a variety of sports, including Cumberland Wrestling, fell running and hound trails (similar to drag hunting).
Grasmere is now home to the winner of the 'Get Started Award 2014' awarded by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs, the Handmade Chocolate Shop.
Today's Grasmere Gingerbread is made to a "secret recipe" popularised by Sarah Nelson (1815–1904). By the early nineteenth century, Grasmere gingerbread was already being sold as fairings, as well as being a popular seller in its own right. Poet Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in 1803 that she and her brother William craved for the gingerbread.
Until September 2013, Grasmere's three main church parishes (Catholic, Church of England and Methodist) gathered three times a year to celebrate mass in the Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Wayside.
The former civil parish was for a time governed by an urban district council before becoming part of the Lakes UDC in 1934. The village is now part of Lakes Parish. Grasmere is currently represented by Liberal Democrat politicians on both the district council and county council, as well as at Westminster. Grasmere has experienced population decline since the 1960s.
In birth order: