When you live so close to the Lake District, it can be easy to forget what a beautiful place it is to visit. I don’t visit it anywhere near enough, and each time I do I promise myself I’ll be back soon, which usually turns into many months later. The problem is that a lot of the time the weather isn’t fantastic, and when it is it becomes overrun with tourists making the roads busy and parking difficult to find. Luckily, I had the perfect opportunity to visit recently. The skies were blue, it was a weekday and it wasn’t yet the school holidays, so I jumped in the car and headed for Grasmere.
Grasmere is a popular and pretty little village which is best known for William Wordsworth and Grasmere Gingerbread. It can easily be combined with trips to other parts of the Lake District as it isn’t too far from popular destinations like Keswick and Ambleside. Whilst I love waking round Grasmere, as there is a great selection of independent shops and cafes, the main purpose of my visit was to go to Dove Cottage. I’m embarrassed to admit that this was my first visit, despite me being a English graduate and the fact that it isn’t too far from where I’ve been brought up. However, I’ve now been, and I’m very glad I have.
Dove Cottage was home to William Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, his wife and children, and numerous guests between 1799 and 1808. Wordsworth wrote some of his greatest poems whilst living in Dove Cottage which is why it has become a site of literary tourism. Little has changed in the house since the Wordsworths lived there so it feels a little like stepping back in time as you enter the cottage. One of my favourite rooms was a room that had been covered in newspaper by Dorothy. It was really interesting seeing old editions of The Times on the wall.
You are shown around the house by a tour guide, and then exit via the garden. Walking up to the little shelter built by the Wordsworths provided a beautiful view of the area. You can see why they wanted to live there! There is also a museum on site which provides additional information about the Wordsworths and their contemporaries. There is an exhibition programme which runs throughout the year. Entry to the museum and cottage lasts for a year, so if you are from the area or know you will be returning then you can get some additional value out of your ticket.
From Dove Cottage I walked into Grasmere, and had my lunch in the Grasmere Daffodil Garden which was created to try and emulate Wordsworth’s famous poem. Although the daffodils were unfortunately past their best when I visited, it is still a lovely calm space. People who have chosen to donate to the garden have their name inscribed on the pieces of slate which make up the path. The garden is next to the churchyard where Wordsworth and his family are buried however it is meant to be thought of less as a memorial garden and more as a celebration of Grasmere.
The next place I wanted to visit was Allan Bank, a National Trust property in Grasmere that I had never been to, and another former home of William Wordsworth. The property was unlike any other National Trust property I’ve visited but was very relaxed and friendly. Each room has a different activity, from painting and knitting to a library of mountaineering books and wildlife watching. You can make yourself a hot drink in the kitchen, and muddy boots and dogs are welcome. There’s no need to worry about your child sitting on a seat they’re not meant to here! My favourite part of the property was the Woodland Walk, a short but steep walk in the grounds which had some lovely viewpoints.
I didn’t spend particularly long at Allan Bank as I didn’t partake in any of the activities, so I had enough time for a wander around Grasmere village. If you like jigsaws, make sure you head to Barney’s News Box which has been specialising in jigsaws for over thirty years and has an astonishing collection. There really is one for everyone! The other thing that you must do in Grasmere is try some Grasmere Gingerbread. It is unlike any gingerbread you will have had before but it is delicious and is still made using the 1854 recipe. The shop in the village is the only place in the world that makes it fresh everyday. The shop is tiny and so there is likely to be a queue to go in, but don’t let that put you off.
I had a lovely day out and as usual left the Lake District vowing to myself that I would be back sooner next time… let’s see what happens!