Grasmere & Rydal
Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage from 1799 to 1808 with his sister Dorothy. Her journals record their life together in Grasmere, including visits from other writers such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas de Quincey. Dove Cottage and gardens are open to the public and there is also an award-winning museum with one of the greatest collections of manuscripts, books and paintings relating to British Romanticism. In nearby Rydal you can visit Wordsworth’s later home, the beautiful Rydal Mount and gardens, where he lived for 37 years.
Grasmere lake lies to the south of the village, with many gentle walks along its shore and rowing boats for hire. There are rambles over the fells and hills that inspired so many poets and for those who prefer a challenge, Grasmere is well situated for taking on the craggy peaks of Scafell Pike, Helvellyn, Skiddaw and the Langdale Pikes.
Gingerbread is one of Grasmere’s specialities. You can buy it at the famous Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop, housed in the old school where Wordsworth, his wife and sister all taught. Have a look at our review of Great Lake District food producers.
There are lots of other shops in Grasmere, selling anything from home-made icecream to traditional Lakeland knitwear. The village has links to many artists. The Heaton Cooper Studio has a permanent display of work by W. Heaton Cooper and A. Heaton Cooper, both recognised as the foremost watercolour artists of the area. The annual Lake Artists Society Summer Exhibition, with over 300 works by local artists and sculptors, is held from the end of July to the beginning of September in Grasmere Village Hall.
There are many places to eat and drink in Grasmere, from tea-shops where you can indulge in home-made cakes, to pubs for sipping quiet pints, to AA starred restaurants.
Grasmere Sports Day is one of the oldest and most popular traditional events in the Lake District, held in late August. Events include Cumberland wrestling, fell running and hound trails.
Another popular August event is the rushbearing ceremony at St Oswald’s church, where the Wordsworth family is buried. This is an ancient custom that dates back to the days before church floors were flagged, when parishioners lay rushes on the church floor to purify the air and protect against the cold. Today children are rewarded with gingerbread if they carry one of the rushes.
Grasmere’s central location means that the popular towns of Ambleside, Keswick, Hawkshead,Coniston, Bowness and Windermere are within easy reach. You can also explore the quieter side of the Lake District, either in your own car or by taking a mini-bus tour, which will take you through some of England’s most beautiful and spectacular scenery. The Mountain Goat and Lakes Supertours are two experienced firms that offer these.
In the churchyard at St Oswald's Church are the Wordsworth's family graves. Look out for tombstones belonging to William, Mary, Dorothy and all three children.