The Lake District, in Northern England, is the most enchanting place. It is easy to see why writers, such as Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth, were attracted to the region. My visit coincided with the end of winter, which might sound freezing and uninspiring. However, there are some magical reasons to travel at this time of year. Firstly, there are hardly any tourists, which means uninterrupted views of the pristine lakes and countryside. Inside every pub and hotel, you will meet friendly country folk, feast on hearty meals and warm up in front of crackling wood fires. Plus, if you stay long enough, you get to see the first daffodils peeking their heads above the soil.
Buckle Yeat Guest House
Having grown up with the Tale of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and other Beatrix Potter stories, I simply had to stay in the village of Near Sawrey, which is where Beatrix owned her cottage. Whilst the cottage itself is not rented out to guests, I was able to stay right next door, in a cosy bed and breakfast, named Buckle Yeat Guest House. The owners were so kind – they picked me up by car from the ferry, set me up in a comfortable room (which included my own bathroom complete with bathtub) and made sure the fire was lit every morning. This 17th century guest house was full of Beatrix Potter paraphernalia, so I felt right at home!
Usually, when I travel, I stay in youth hostels. But for the Lake District, I was happy to treat myself to a private room. Not only this, I feasted on a full English breakfast every morning, complete with black pudding, eggs, tomato, bacon, sausages, toast, endless cups of tea and orange juice. As you can imagine, this set me up for a good day of exploring.
Beatrix Potter’s Cottage
Whilst the garden was a little bare (though there were a few bulbs starting to sprout above the soil), the house was just as I had imagined. It was set up exactly as Beatrix left it, complete with furniture and paintings. It was a thrill to see her illustrations, handwritten pieces and writing desk, which sat in front of a window with a spectacular view over the countryside. It is quite amazing to walk into her house and see where her characters came to life.
I was lucky enough, later in the day, to walk down the lane and see none other than Peter Rabbit (or at least one of his long-lost cousins) staring right at me. He paused for a moment, before bounding away in a hurry!
Tower Bank Arms
This seventeenth century inn is located right next door to Buckle Yeat Guesthouse and so, of course, I ended up eating here nearly every night. They served hearty Winter meals, like roast beef, stews and meat pies, perfect to warm you up after a long day of walking. They also had a large wood fire, which was much appreciated after my long explorations in the countryside.
From Near Sawrey, I took many walks in the countryside, in fact there was no public transport in the immediate area, so I had to walk everywhere anyway! It was good exercise and I was able to soak in some splendid views. However, it might be a good idea to take a rental car, if you prefer to keep warm and dry. There were some days, where I would return to the bed and breakfast as cold as ice, jump in a warm bathtub, and later, go downstairs to the lounge and dry my hair in front of the wood fire.
The great thing about walking around the Lake District are the many public footpaths running through people’s properties. You just need to follow these signs to get to the next town. In Winter, it was quite muddy and wet, so it was essential to bring a rain jacket. There are so many beautiful views to be had, plus you might even come across some cute animals, like this long-tailed pony!
Beatrix Potter Gallery
It takes a good 40 minutes to walk from Near Sawrey to Hawkshead, but the views are worth it. Once in Hawkshead, you can check out the Beatrix Potter Gallery and learn more about this famous writer. There are also some cosy cafes and pubs, where you can warm up with a hot chocolate and dry off in front of the fire.
The township of Lake Windermere has plenty to offer, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, cafes and public transport. From here, you can catch the ferry across to Near Sawrey, or use their public buses to explore the other towns in the region. The lake itself is the largest in England and very popular for sailing and other boating activities. Be sure to take a scarf and beanie – the wind can be quite chilly!
This tiny whitewashed cottage was inhabited by William Wordsworth from 1799 – 1808. It is still set up exactly as the poet had it. You can take a guided tour of the building and then explore the small garden at your leisure. Up the hill at the back, the lawn is flooded with daffodils. After reading some of his poetry, you will see just where he got his inspiration.
Derwent Cumberland Pencil Company and Museum
I was thrilled to visit this museum to see where my favourite pencils came from! Aside from learning about the history of the factory, I was able to take a drawing course here and later, purchased a pencil roll and a collection of inktense pencils (much to the company’s delight, I’m sure), which I still use to this day!
As you can see, there is a lot to do in this area, especially if you love nature, arts, writing and history. Winter was certainly a beautiful time of year to see this stunning part of England, though next time, I would love to see the Lake District with its leafy trees and colourful gardens.
Where have you been in the Lake District? Are there any writer’s haunts I have missed?