Exploring Wordsworth's Lake District

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Here at Sally's Cottages, we just can't wait for spring to come around! There's nothing better than to feel the warmth of the very first sunshine, pass by lambs skipping in the fields, and see the spectacular displays of daffodils standing tall and proud...

This magnificent golden flower was made popular in the Lake District by the celebrated writer, poet and political radical, William Wordsworth, and his famous poem 'the daffodils'. So what better time to explore Wordsworth's life and the places that inspired him, than in the lead up to the fabulous daffodil season?!

Wordsworth House and Garden, CockermouthWordsworth House in Cockermouth

William Wordsworth's love of nature and the Lake District started early in life. Born on 7th April 1770, and the second of five children, he was brought up at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth and adored spending time in the garden and countryside surrounding his home town. His father, John Wordsworth, was a lawyer and land agent to Sir James Lowther, one of the wealthiest men in the area, and the family home came with his position. Sadly Wordsworth's mother died before his eighth birthday, and his father when he was just 13.

In the 1930s, Wordsworth House was saved by quick thinking locals when word spread that it was to be sold off and demolished to make way for a bus garage. It was then gifted to the National Trust. Open from mid-March until October, the house is exactly as Wordsworth would have known it, with a roaring fire in the kitchen, a harpsichord for the musical amongst us to try out, and authentic dishes of food on the dining room table! Meet Amy, the Wordsworths' maid, who will tell you everything you want to know about Wordsworth's childhood, and what it was like working all hours in the house! There's a small and friendly tearoom in which to enjoy a sweet treat, and some great walks in the surrounding area too.

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Hawkshead Grammar School, Hawkshead

After his mother died, Wordsworth and his brother Richard were sent away to Hawkshead Grammar School. Wordsworth had always been close to his sister Dorothy, but she was sent to live in Halifax, and it would be nine years until they were reunited.

You can visit Wordsworth's school room in the popular village of Hawkshead between April and September - you'll even see the desk on which he carved his name! Tourists had only just started to visit the Lakes at this time, so although this quaint little village is very different today, its characterful buildings ooze with charm, and it's a delightful place in which to sit out and eat whilst watching the world go by.

Dove Cottage, Grasmere
Dove Cottage in Grasmere

On leaving school, Wordsworth went to Cambridge University and travelled widely, completing walking tours in England and Europe. Whilst in France, he fell in love with Annette Vallon, and they had a child. It isn't clear if they planned to marry, but on his return home, the French declared war on England and this prevented him from meeting his daughter Caroline for another 10 years.

Wordsworth, along with his sister Dorothy, set up home in the south of England and spent time in Germany, but they always longed to return to their true home in the Lakes. Eventually they did, renting Dove Cottage at Town End, a hamlet just outside Grasmere, in 1799. It is said this is where Wordsworth produced some of his best poetry and writing. He married a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson, but after eight happy years at Dove Cottage, the house become too small for their expanding family.

Dove Cottage has to be one of the most famous and best-loved places to visit in the Lake District, and is much as it would have been when the family lived there. Did you know that the house was once an inn called the 'Dove and Olive Bough'?! You can find out more about the Wordsworths and their writing (many people are surprised to learn that Dorothy was an accomplished writer too) at the Wordsworth Museum, which also has a family room with lots of activities for the kids. Why not complete your visit with a tasty treat from the tearoom next door?!

Take a look at our cottages in Grasmere and Rydal.

Glencoyne, Ullswater
Ullswater daffodils

The daffodils at Glencoyne, on the banks of Ullswater, were almost certainly the inspiration behind Wordsworth's poem 'the daffodils' ('I wandered lonely as a cloud...'). Dorothy wrote about a walk they took in this picturesque area in her journal in 1802. You too can follow in William and Dorothy's footsteps at this scenic spot, and while you're close by, why not visit Aira Force, which also features in some of Wordsworth's other poetry too.

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Allan Bank, Grasmere
Allan Bank in the snow

As Dove Cottage became too small, the family moved to Allan Bank in Grasmere where they lived for three years. The move must have made amusing local gossip, as Wordsworth had been against the house being built in the first place!

Allan Bank is now in the care of the National Trust, and had to be saved from fire in 2011. You can't see any of the original contents at the house, but it's a great place to spend some relaxed quality time with the family, whatever the weather!

Rydal Mount, Rydal
Rydal Mount

Sadness was never far away in Wordsworth's life, and he and Mary lost two of their young children in 1812, whilst living at Grasmere Rectory. They couldn't bear to be opposite the children's graves at St Oswald's Church, so made their final move to Rydal Mount in 1813.

Rydal Mount has a warm, lived-in atmosphere, and you'll see a number of the family's possessions on a visit here. Wordsworth loved gardening, and the four-acre garden is still much as he designed it. You can also stop for a cuppa in the tearoom, which was originally the saddlery, but later became a schoolroom for Dora.

Dora's Field, Rydal

Wordsworth had planned to build a house for his daughter Dora, in what is now known as Dora's Field, in Rydal. Once again however, tragedy struck when in 1847 Dora died, and so the family planted the field with daffodils in her memory. The flowers are at their best in late March and early April and the field, now owned by the National Trust, is a beautiful place to take a stroll while you're in the area.

St Oswald's Church, Grasmere
St Oswald's Church in Grasmere

William Wordsworth died of pleurisy in 1850 at the age of 80, and Dorothy and Mary both died in the years after. The family's graves can be seen at St Oswald's Church on a wander around Grasmere, and there is a monument to Wordsworth inside the church itself.

Wordsworth loved the Lake District dearly, and it's easy to understand why he and Dorothy were both drawn back here in adult life. If you'd like to find your dream cottage from which to explore the Lakes, you're bound to find just what you're looking for using our online search facility. And if you enjoyed reading about Wordsworth's life, you can read about another of the area's literary giants in our special 150th anniversary post about Beatrix Potter.