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Beatrix Potter and the Lake District holiday cottages

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District

Ruth 21 September 2023

Beatrix Potter is best known as the celebrated children's author and creator of Peter Rabbit, as well as numerous other charming animal characters. However, fewer people realise that Beatrix was also a talented botanist, an illustrator, a farm manager, a conservationist and a shrewd businesswoman. Without her visionary thinking, the Lake District might have been a very different place today.

Visit the Lake District to discover the impact Beatrix Potter had on this beautiful landscape, walk in her footsteps and explore the many destinations she held dear to see how she made her mark on the national park.


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Who was Beatrix Potter?

Born in 1866 to a wealthy family in London, Beatrix took several childhood holidays to the Lake District, where she met influential names such as Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, co-founder of the National Trust. These holidays greatly influenced her life, and she would eventually move to the county that inspired so much of her work.

Throughout her extraordinary life, Beatrix Potter broke down many gender barriers, marrying against her parent's wishes (twice!), becoming president of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders' Association, and becoming independently wealthy through sales of her incredible books. By the time she died in in 1943, she had amassed 4,000 acres of land – including 15 farms and eight cottages - which she left to the National Trust. It is in great part thanks to Beatrix Potter that many parts of the Lake District have been preserved for the public to enjoy.


Beatrix Potter attractions

Today, there are several places you can visit to see for yourself Beatrix Potter's many talents and immerse yourself in her love of the Lake District. From former homes and houses to museums and attractions celebrating her life and work, the Lake District is a must-visit destination if you’re a Beatrix Potter fan.


Hill Top, Near Sawrey

Hill Top

Hill Top, now run by the National Trust, is the house most commonly associated with Beatrix Potter. On the proceeds of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, she bought this quintessential Lake District farmhouse. Even after marrying William Heelis, she continued to use Hill Top as her studio and for receiving fans of her books (often from America), who would frequently visit. The house is almost entirely as she wished it to be left, and gives a personal insight into her life.  

Highlights

  • Many of Beatrix’s book illustrations are based on the house and its furniture - see if you can spot the resemblances as you walk around! 
  • Wander the English cottage-style garden with its informal flowerbeds, vegetable patches, and scenes from her famous children’s books.
  • Nearby, you’ll find Ees Wyke Country House - one of the Potters’ family holiday homes, and where Beatrix fell in love with the local area - and Castle Cottage, Potter and Heelis’ home after their marriage.

The World of Beatrix Potter, Bowness-on-Windermere

World-of-Beatrix-Potter-(Credit-The-World-of-Beatrix-Potter)The World of Beatrix Potter. Credit: The World of Beatrix Potter

In Bowness-on-Windermere you’ll find The World of Beatrix Potter, a gorgeous attraction that brings Beatrix Potter's tales to life with 3D scenes, sounds and smells from settings such as Jemima Puddle-Duck's woodland glade and Mr McGregor's greenhouse. Primarily made for children, we know that adult fans will love the attraction just as much!

Highlights

  • Enjoy a Beatrix Potter-themed show at the in-house Old Laundry Theatre, where puppets and characters are truly brought to life on the stage.
  • Explore Peter Rabbit’s real-life garden where fruit and veg grow and where you can spot story details, including Peter’s iconic blue jacket made into a scarecrow. Just watch out for Mr McGregor!
  • Pop into the gift shop to pick up a collector’s piece to treasure forever.

The Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead

Beatrix Potter Gallery

In the charming village of Hawkshead, you will find the Beatrix Potter Gallery. Beatrix’s husband, William Heelis, worked here as a solicitor and land agent, but nowadays the building houses many of Beatrix’s original watercolours from her children’s books.

Highlights

  • The gallery celebrates Beatrix as an artist as well as an author through her beautiful and detailed watercolours.
  • Learn all about her life from celebrated children’s author to passionate conservationist.
  • Admire the original 17th-century building, which is much the same as it was when it was built. It fits perfectly in with the wonky buildings and cobbled streets of pretty Hawkshead.

Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows is a picturesque beauty spot that was bought by Beatrix Potter in 1930. Though man-made, it fits well into the existing landscape and was purchased to preserve it from unwelcome development. It is now owned and managed by the National Trust - again, thanks to Beatrix’s generosity.

Highlights

  • Take an accessible 2-mile walk around this beautiful tarn to admire the scenery and see why the author was so keen to protect this place.
  • Look out for the rare Belted Galloway cattle and Beatrix Potter’s favourite breed of sheep, the smiling Lake District Herdwicks.
  • Explore further afield by extending your walk towards Cathedral Cave and Hodge Close Quarry.

Wray Castle

Wray Castle

Wray Castle is pivotal to the story of Beatrix Potter. It was here that the Potter family stayed on their very first trip to the Lake District when Beatrix was just 16. They became friends with the local vicar, Canon Hardwick Rawnsley, who was to have a lasting impact on the young girl and be influential in protecting much of the Lake District landscape.

Highlights

  • Admire this unusual neo-Gothic folly on the shores of Windermere, and explore the empty halls inside that give you an immense feeling of space.
  • Call on Beatrix Potter’s love of the natural world as you wander around the extensive grounds. How many flowers and animals can you spot?
  • Arrive in style via boat from Ambleside. Windermere Lake Cruises runs several boats daily.

Yew Tree Farm, Coniston

Yew Tree Farm

Perhaps one of Beatrix’s most picturesque former properties, Yew Tree Farm was tenanted when owned by her. You can spot it in the film Miss Potter with Renee Zellweger, where it represents Hill Top. It is still a working hill farm to this day and one of the most photographed farms in the North!

Highlights

  • Book a Herdwick Experience and meet this charming breed of Lakeland sheep that was such a favourite of Beatrix’s.
  • Order the farm’s award-winning heritage meats, which can be seen on many Michelin-starred menus.
  • Browse beautiful animal artwork by Jo McGrath, Yew Tree’s current resident. Both prints and commissioned pieces are available.

Esthwaite Water

Esthwaite Water

Home of Jeremy Fisher, Esthwaite Water is said to have been Beatrix Potter’s favourite lake. In fact, an original painting across the lake is held by the V&A Museum in London. Access to the land around the lake is now mostly restricted, but there are still opportunities to visit.

Highlights

  • Rare ospreys nest around the lake, and you can book a self-guided osprey safari to see if you can spot the majestic birds hunting.
  • Boat and bank fishing is available on the lake, which boasts some of the best predator, trout and coarse fishing in the UK.
  • A short, pleasant walk can be taken from the nearby village of Hawkshead to the shores of Esthwaite Water, where you could treat yourself to a delicious picnic.

The Armitt Museum, Ambleside

The Armitt MuseumThe Armitt Museum. Credit: Cumbria Tourism

Though best known for her children’s stories, Beatrix loved the study of mycology (fungi) and even wrote a research paper for the Linnean Society in London. She left her scientifically accurate and beautiful botanical illustrations and watercolours to the Armitt Museum in Ambleside, as well as architectural finds and personal first-edition copies of her books. Though most of the collection is only available for research and study, rotating exhibitions are available of the items.

Highlights

  • Step back in time through exhibitions of Ambleside as it was in Beatrix’s day and earlier.
  • As well as Beatrix’s work, discover collections by other artists, naturalists and thinkers connected with the Lake District.

The Lingholm Estate, Portinscale

Lingholm walled garden

Lingholm, on the shores of Derwentwater, was one of several holiday homes used by the Potters when Beatrix was growing up. The lakeside setting and surrounding woodlands were an inspiration for many of her earlier books

Highlights

  • Wander around the lovely walled vegetable garden, which is thought to have been the inspiration for Mr McGregor’s garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  • Beatrix - a renowned animal lover - would have no doubt delighted in the alpacas that now reside at Lingholm. Book an experience with them via Alpacaly Ever After.
  • Follow in the author’s footsteps with a walk through the woodland and down to the lake.

Where are Beatrix Potter's books set?

Beatrix Potter book locations

The Lake District inspired the locations for many of Beatrix Potter’s ‘Little Books’ (23 in total), as well as some lesser-known publications such as The Fairy Caravan.

Mr McGregor’s famous garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit is said to have been based on the kitchen garden at Lingholm.

Next to the Lingholm Estate is Fawe Park, the setting for The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.

Squirrel Island in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin was inspired by St. Herbert's Island on Derwentwater.

Jeremy Fisher enjoys fishing on the lilly-filled Esthwaite Water.

The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle is based in the Newlands Valley, with the titular hedgehog’s laundry set on the hillside of Catbells.

The woods of Graythwaite Hall in Ulverston formed the backdrop of The Fairy Caravan.

Beatrix Potter’s house, Hill Top, was used as the home of Tom Kitten and the farm that Jemima Puddle-Duck runs away from. The house is also featured in The Tale of Samuel Whiskers. 

The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck also features a real-life pub, the Tower Bank Arms in Near Sawrey.


Cottages in Beatrix Potter's Lakeland

As well as famous Lake District locations, several of our own self-catering cottages have connections with the author. Some of Miss Potter, the film starring Renee Zellweger, was shot around Loweswater and at Low Millgillhead cottage. It’s also rumoured that she spent some time at Bongate Cottage, now Beechcroft, which was built by the Heelis family. With these, and hundreds of other beautiful holiday cottages in the Lake District, we’ve got the perfect pick for your Beatrix Potter-themed stay.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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