The Lakes of England and the Cottage the Singer Fell in Love With
By Rebecca Hay
“Take me to the Lakes, where all the poets went to die,’’ are the powerful lyrics of pop idol Taylor Swift.
Swift’s song The Lakes released in 2020 are a tribute to the time she and her British born actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn spent in the English jewel in the crown.
And the lyrics are certainly a nod to famous poet William Wordsworth who made his home in Grasmere in the 1800s, a place he declared as “the loveliest spot that man have ever found.’’
Lovely it is still today and 250 years since Wordsworth was born, it has become a haven for his fans who flock to the newly renovated Dove Cottage where he lived with his sister Dorothy for eight years and penned his famous daffodil poem.
The COVID pandemic suspended the grand reopening in April, but this month in 2020, things are slowly getting back to normal and the cottage which has been revamped to give it more of a feel of Wordsworth’s England home, rather than a museum, is open for business.
The Poet’s Home in Grasmere
It is lovely taking a peek around the house, where attention to detail is so great that scratches of paint were taken to allow furniture of the period to be bought or made, and pieces of Wordsworth’s work, as well as Dorothy’s journals, are scattered around for you to read.
The garden and orchard allow stunning views of Grasmere lake and the surrounding fells and it is easy to see what inspired both Wordsworth and Swift.
William and Dorothy Wordsworth may have spent their years enjoying “plain living, but high thinking, but in 2020, the “plain living’’ has been enhanced with luxury hotels and shops to entice in the visitors.
Upscale Hotel in Grasmere
We based ourselves in the upmarket Victorian House Hotel, owned by London hotelier Serena Van der Heyde and the Northern cousin of her Georgian House Hotel in Pimlico.
Hotels have been in Serena’s family since 1851 and all her experience has been put to good use, with stylish rooms and antique furniture. There are stargazing and dog-friendly rooms too and for those who want some peace, a shepherd’s hut.
Service and Swish Rooms
Much of the hotel’s appeal is due to the excellent and friendly service of the staff and the swish rooms, old in style, but modern where it is needed and with some lovely smelling toiletries.
A well-stocked breakfast menu featuring local delicacies is available during timed slots and replaces the pre-pandemic buffet and is served in the attractive Garden Room, where you can also retire to at night and indulge in one of the hotel’s famous cocktails.
There is no restaurant on site, but the hotel has teamed up with nearby The Yan Bistro and you can order dinner from them and have it brought to the Garden Room, with tasty starters including beetroot and horseradish cured salmon, ham hock scotch egg, and home-made hummus.
There are a range of mains from Sri Lankan spiced daal, to pork belly or sharing platters of meat, fish, or a vegetarian option. The puddings are to die for with a dark chocolate mousse with a salted sticky toffee crumb a firm favorite in our family.
A Rambler’s Heaven
Step outside the hotel and you are in a rambler’s heaven. Famous author and walker Alfred Wainwright loved these parts and one of his favorites was Helm Crag, known locally as The Lion and The Lamb.
It is one of 214 Wainwright fells you can “bag’’ and my two, Ruaridh (13) and Flossie (10) were proud to say it was their first.
It’s a lovely walk, but quite hard going as much of it requires scrambling up rocks and the top never seems to appear.
But once you have cracked it, you will see why it is so lauded. The views from the top are simply spectacular, all around you are luscious fells and sparkling water.
Galleries and Shops
Back down in the village, you can enjoy art galleries, traditional shops, and some lovely walks by the riverside.
As you would expect, Wordsworth is everywhere. The graveyard at the local church is where he and his family are buried and the nearby daffodil park was created in his honor and subscribed to by well-wishers from across the world.
Close by is the famous Sarah Nelson Gingerbread shop. The Victorian baker invented this culinary delight in 1854 and it is a special spicy-sweet cross between a biscuit and a bread. Run by generations of one family, it is a real tourist attraction.
Across the way is a story teller’s house and garden, all wild and wonderful and waiting to give away its secrets – Wordsworth would just love it now as much as he did then.
Visitor Information about Grasmere:
Accommodation: The Victorian House Hotel, Broadgate, Grasmere. This delightful boutique hotel has friendly staff and a lovely feel to it – www.victorianhousehotel.co.uk
Food: The Yan Restaurant at Broadrayne Farm serves modern European food with a twist – www.theyan.co.uk
Tasty gingerbread can be found at www.grasmeregingerbread.co.uk
Attractions – Delve into the life of William and Dorothy Wordsworth at Dove Cottage – www.wordsworth.org.uk
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Accompanied by husband Kenny and children, Ruaridh (12) and Flossie (10), the family love to explore new places and see countries through young and old eyes. Follow their adventures on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.