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One Day, One Place: Literary past of Lake District

One Day, One Place: Literary past of Lake District

One Day, One Place: Literary past of Lake District
July 30
20:18 2017


Of the 26 newly designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, England’s Lake District may have produced the most literature — at least in English. Renowned as an oasis of inspiration for William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Beatrix Potter, these days the popular district encompasses a national park, quaint stone villages and a network of boats, buses and steam trains that shuttle around more than a dozen hill-ringed lakes. Here’s one way to spend a day taking a literary look at the Lake District.

— Jeanne Cooper

Morning

Most likely you’ve arrived by train to the pint-size station in Windermere, about an hour and 40 minutes from Manchester via Oxenholme, also served by more distant cities. A pleasant downhill walk or short bus ride of 1.5 miles leads past small shops and cafes, as well as larger, tree-shaded homes and inns, to Bowness-on-Windermere and the World of Beatrix Potter attraction.

The author and illustrator of more than 20 children’s books, most famously “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” Potter first vacationed near Lake Windermere as a teenager. Later in life, literary success and the first-ever licensed character toys allowed her to purchase 15 local farms, where she bred the region’s distinctive Herdwick sheep.

While true devotees will want to visit Hilltop, her home in Ambleside (and a short bus ride away), the World of Beatrix Potter’s gentle three-dimensional displays and costumed characters are engaging for families with young children. Avid gardeners may want to browse the extensive heritage fruits and vegetables in the Peter Rabbit Garden.

Without Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail or Peter to nibble them, some of the produce also ends up in the tea room next door, where “high tea” (with finger sandwiches, scones and cake) costs just $11 at current exchange rates. An early lunch here, or at Bowness’ farm-to-pub Angel Inn (also a cozy hotel), is a smart choice.

Midday

Book a ticket in advance for a cruise on Lake Windermere, England’s largest at more than 10 miles long and, at its widest point, a mile across. A glacial ribbon lake that’s up to 200 feet deep, it includes two basins divided by shallows and small wooded islands known as “holms.”

Windermere Lake Cruises offers several scenic options from Bowness, including the Red Cruise, a 70-minute narrated round trip to Ambleside. Along the way, you can disembark at Brockhole, a rambling summer home built in 1897 and once frequented by Potter. It now hosts the Lake District National Park’s visitor center and 10 acres of formal gardens, with impressive views of the mountains known as Langdale Pikes.

At Waterhead Pier, a free shuttle that looks like an old-fashioned milk wagon takes you a mile inland to Ambleside’s charming jumble of stone and timbered buildings. So will one of the frequent Lake District buses, including open-air double-deckers in season; buy a day pass when you board.

In Ambleside, walk from the Salutation Hotel to Stock Ghyll Force, a 70-foot waterfall that in spring sees a profusion of daffodils worthy of Wordsworth. Follow the main road toward Grasmere to peek into the 17th century Bridge House, a tiny, two-level stone home built over Stock Beck (or creek) as both bridge and apple storehouse.

Afternoon

Take the 15-minute bus ride from Ambleside to Grasmere, the village most often associated with Wordsworth.

Along the sinuous road, you’ll catch glimpses of sheep that look like they lost a game of paintball: The flocks of hardy Herdwicks often intermingle as they graze, so the colorful markings help their owners sort them quickly.

Ask the driver to let you off at Dove Cottage, the home shared by Wordsworth with, among others, his wife, sister and good friend Coleridge, who unfortunately fell prey to the Romantic era’s favorite opioid, laudanum. The admission fee includes entrance to the neighboring Wordsworth Museum, but it’s free to wander about the well-signed garden and up a steep path above the cottage.

Leave enough time for a pastoral 10-minute walk to Grasmere proper before the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop closes; its eponymous fluffy treat has been sold here since Sarah Nelson devised the recipe in 1854. The store stands next to St. Oswald’s church and graveyard, where Wordsworth reposes.

Evening

Catch the bus from Grasmere back to Windermere, and pick up dinner fixings for the train ride home at Booth’s, next to the train station. You might not have wandered lonely as a cloud, a la Wordsworth, but you will have seen enough of this new World Heritage Site to plot a return.

If you go

World of Beatrix Potter: www.hop-skip-jump.com

Hilltop: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hill-top

The Angel Inn: www.angelbowness.com

Windermere Lake Cruises: www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk

Lake District bus services: www.golakes.co.uk

Lake District National Park: www.lakedistrict.gov.uk

Dove Cottage and Wordsworth Museum: www.wordsworth.org.uk

Grasmere Gingerbread Shop: www.grasmeregingerbread.co.uk



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