The Lake District's Literary Heritage


The beautiful lakes and mountains of the Lake District National Park have provided literary inspiration for centuries. From romantic poets such as William Wordsworth, to children’s author and conservationist, Beatrix Potter, the region has been home to some of the world’s best-loved writers and offers inspiration for many of our favourite books.

Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter booksFighting William Wordsworth for the spot of the Lake District’s most famous writer, Beatrix Potter was actually born in London and moved to the Lake District in 1905. Her beautifully illustrated books, documenting the adventures of a number of different animals, are set in locations across the Lake District: Squirrel Nutkin is set on Derwentwater, Mrs Tiggy Winkle in the Newlands Valley, and Jeremy Fisher on Esthwaite Water, to name but a few!

Beatrix Potter was also a Lakeland farmer for 30 years, becoming an expert in breeding the local Herdwick sheep. She also bought large areas of land and several farms, and was active in preserving the local landscape, culture, and practices. On her death in 1943, she bequeathed her fourteen farms and 4,000 acres of land, as well as her Herdwicks, to the National Trust.

William Wordsworth

Dove Cottage in GrasmereWilliam Wordsworth was championing the Lake District and Cumbria before it became a popular holiday destination. Born in Cockermouth in 1770, Wordsworth made his debut as a published writer in 1787 with a sonnet in The European Magazine. After living in a number of places across the UK and travelling in Europe for several years, he returned to Dove Cottage in Grasmere (pictured) in 1799. It was here that he wrote his most famous poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils”

Ullswater is widely believed to be the spot where Wordsworth came across the daffodils that inspired this favourite of poems, so why not find your own inspiration with a stay in one of our Ullswater cottages?

Swallows and Amazons

Sailing on Derwentwater in the Lake DistrictThe beloved childhood book, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, follows the adventures of four siblings on a holiday to the Lake District. With a healthy dose of childhood imagination, they set sail to an island on the nearby lake to spend a few days camping. When they arrive on the island, however, they find that it has already been ‘discovered’ by a rival group of children! Childhood adventure naturally ensues, drawing the reader into a world of fun and imagination.

Ransome, who was a great lover of the Lake District, wrote Swallows and Amazons whilst holidaying at the southern end of Coniston. Although he used a number of landmarks to create fictional locations, many real Lake District locations can be identified in the story. Wild Cat Island is an amalgamation of islands on Coniston Water and Windermere, Rio is most likely Bowness-on-Windermere, and Kanchenjunga is probably the Coniston Old Man.

Set out on your own adventure from one of our cottages in Coniston.

The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District

Herdwick Sheep in EskdaleThis autobiographical book by James Rebanks, a sheep farmer from Matterdale, describes the traditional way of life of shepherds in the Cumbrian landscape. It details his resolve to continue sheep farming, as generations of his family have done before him. The book is a fascinating look at the often gruelling, yet regularly rewarding, life of a sheep farmer in the beautiful but frequently difficult terrain of the national park.

Experience Matterdale and the surrounding area for yourself with a stay in the North East Lake District.

Postman Pat

Ashness Bridge over DerwentwaterWho doesn’t start singing about Postman Pat and his black and white cat when the friendly man in his red van is mentioned? The creator and author of the books, John Cunliffe, lived in Kendal for 6 years, and much of his inspiration came from the local countryside. Longsleddale, near Kendal, inspired the village of Greendale, where Pat does his rounds.

Although the post office that inspired Greendale Post Office is now closed, it is still marked by a plaque in Kendal.

Travel Postman Pat’s roads by foot, bike, or car from one of our cottages in and around Kendal.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Mirehouse

St Bega's Church in Bassenthwaite, the Lake DistrictOn the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake is the beautiful stately home of Mirehouse, which has some exciting literary links to its name. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was a close friend of once-owner James Spedding, and visited the house on a couple of occasions. It's though that much of his poem, 'Morte d'Arthur', was written during his time here, and that lovely St Bega's Church played a part in inspiring the great poet.

Mirehouse also has a lovely library for visitors to examine, with walls full of books. You can just imagine yourself sitting in its warm confines and listening to the likes of Tennyson discuss the beauty of the local landscape!

Melvyn Bragg and The Maid of Buttermere

Buttermere in the Lake DistrictThe Maid of Buttermere, written by Melvyn Bragg, is based on the legend of Mary Robinson, the daughter of a Buttermere innkeeper who was so beautiful that people would travel across the country just to get a glimpse of her face. One day, a traveller arrived in Buttermere claiming to be the younger brother of a local Earl. Seduced by his charm and good looks, Mary Robinson married him, only to find that he was a fraudster and a bigamist, with a wife and family in Wales! The imposter was eventually arrested, trialled, and hanged.

Melvyn Bragg was born in the historic border city of Carlisle and raised in the small Cumbrian town of Wigton. He is also the author of several other books based in the region, including The Hired Man, Kingdom Come, and Cumbria in Verse.

Discover the legend of the maid with your own visit to one of our cottages around Buttermere.

Alfred Wainwright

Alfred Wainwright bookAlfred Wainwright is the go-to author for Lake District walkers. His seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lake District Fells is the definitive work detailing walks up 214 fells in the Lake District. As if that isn’t enough, he wrote over 40 other books, including the original guide to the coast to coast walk, the 192-mile distance footpath devised by the man himself.

Originally born in Lancashire, Wainwright began his love affair with the Lake District at the age of 23 when he first visited Windermere for a walking holiday with his cousin. Moving to the town of Kendal in 1941, he remained there for the rest of his life, starting on the Pictoral Guide in 1952 and working on it meticulously for the next 13 years.

Wainwright’s books covered the whole of the Lake District, but why not grab yourself a copy of the first in his Pictoral Guide series, and explore the Western Fells? Take a look at our cottages in the area.

Ready to start your very own Lake District literary adventures? Head over to our cottage search page to book your perfect holiday cottage!

You may also be interested in: