Considering the large amount of travelling I have done over the years its perhaps surprising that I’ve not actually seen much of the United Kingdom. My trip to the Lake District in March 2008 was primarily inspired by the scenery of the movie Miss Potter, which was filmed on location here (and other parts of the UK).
This wasn’t however my first visit to the Lake District, having visited many years earlier as part of a camping trip with the Scouts. This trip gave me the opportunity to explore in more comfort and to take in the history of this beautiful part of the UK. Its easy to see why this is the most visited national park.
The hotel for my stay was the Beach Hill Hotel, located on a quiet and area of Lake Windermere, a short drive from the comparatively busy town of Bowness-on-Windermere. The hotel was very pleasant, the rooms whilst small and in need of renovation were acceptable for the price paid. The public areas of the hotel were more impressive and the view over the lake from the Lounge, Restaurant and Gardens was nice on a sunny day.
Next to the hotel was a small park with access to the lake, which made for a pleasant stroll in the early morning. Further south of the hotel is the popular Victorian lakeside park, Fell Foot Park, which was in full bloom with spring time daffodils during my visit. However, poor weather and visiting in the low season meant that the park was very peaceful and quiet. The park, like many properties in the Lake District is managed by the National Trust (buying an Annual Membership is highly recommended before visiting).
On the other side of Lake Windermere is the famous Hill Top Farm and the Beatrix Potter Gallery (set in the former solicitors offices of her husband Mr Heelis in Hawkshead. Both properties are now managed by the National Trust. A visit to Hill Top Farm is highly recommended, however, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t look exactly as you expect… nearby Yew Tree Farm was used for the filming of the movie “Miss Potter”.
Beatrix Potter is not the area’s only famous author. Wordsworth lived and wrote in this spectacular countryside. North of Windermere is Grasmere, and it is in this area that Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount house can be found. Both are interesting properties with a significant amount of history and artefacts housed within each property. The guided tour of Dove Cottage is very good and enhances the experience of visiting the property. A museum is located next to Dove Cottage, both of which are within easy walking distance of Grasmere. Wordsworth’s last home Rydal Mount is just a short drive away. Whilst in Grasmere be sure to buy some of the locally produced Sarah Nelson’s original Gingerbread.
A little further afield and highly worth a visit in good (or at least dry weather) is Castlerigg Stone Circle, one of Britain’s earliest stone circles dating from around 3000BC. Situated in a location with good views over the rolling hills. Those willing to take a short walk along a well paved hiking trail amongst the nature that abounds the area will want to pay a visit to the waterfall Aria Force. A short hike from the National Trust car park presents you with a good view of an impressive waterfall.
The drive toward Coniston is via some very scenic countryside. Previously the home of John Ruskin, Coniston is also the backdrop for Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books. Nearby is the beautiful Tarn Hows with a nice, easy walking trail around the lake and spectacular views.
Other National Trust properties visited, and recommended, are Townend in Troutbeck – a large and somewhat rambling farmhouse and the tiny Bridgehouse.
As you leave the Lake District and head back towards the Motorway to take you home it is well worth stopping at another National Trust property, Sizergh Castle. This impressive building is still lived in by the descendents of the family that has owned the property for over 750 years. Both the interior tour and gardens are worth spending a couple of hours wondering around.