Hawkshead is a small village in the beating heart of the Lake District. Retaining a great deal of its olde-worlde charm, it’s a magical place of cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings, and narrow lanes.
The village is a perfect base for a South Lakes holiday, nestled between Coniston Water and Windermere, and within easy reach of numerous attractions.
Things to do in Hawkshead
William Wordsworth and Hawkshead Grammar School
Hawkshead Grammar School is a 16th-century boys’ school whose former students include poet, William Wordsworth. Now a museum, the main school room can still be viewed much as it was back in the day, complete with names carved with pocketknives on the wooden benches - look out for Wordsworth’s signature, too!
The museum is a fascinating insight, not only into the poet’s childhood in the area, but into the education and day-to-day life of the time.
The Beatrix Potter Gallery
The beloved children’s author and celebrated conservationist has links to many parts of the Lake District, but none more so than in the area around Hawkshead. The village itself was once the location of her husband’s law office, and today the building is the Beatrix Potter Gallery. You’ll find displays of her wonderful artwork, including book illustrations and naturalist drawings.
Both in and around Hawkshead, fans of the author can find many nods to her characters and book locations, including Mr McGregor’s vegetable patch, Tabitha Twitchit’s shop and The Pie & the Patty Pan archway.
Fishing in Esthwaite Water
With further connections to Beatrix Potter – The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher is said to be based on the lake of Esthwaite Water – it is privately owned but still offers access for excellent lake fishing. It’s renowned for its trout stock, and you can hire a boat or fish from the shores.
The Chocolate Factory
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then don’t miss out on a trip to the award-winning Chocolate Factory Hawkshead. The children’s chocolate workshops allow kids to make their own delicious creations, get their faces painted (with chocolate, of course!), and take home their own gift bags. These fabulous workshops run seven days a week, on the hour from 10am until 3pm, and until 4pm during the school holidays. If the whole family wants to get involved, there's also a family workshop at 10am every day, plus an extra one at 4pm during holidays. Adults don’t miss out either, with truffle and prosecco evenings available, as well as a well-stocked gift shop!
There is also a selection of Hawkshead Chocolate Company products to be found at various shops across the Lake District so, if you can't make it to Hawkshead, you can still find something deliciously local and sweet.
Hawkshead Parish Church
St Michael & All Angels is in an elevated position offering lovely views across the village and the wider Lake District beyond. Built in the 1300s on the site of a Norse chapel, the current church boasts some fine features, including an oak organ, fascinating memorial stones, and painted texts on the walls.
Things to do near Hawkshead
Beatrix Potter and Hill Top
Hill Top is Beatrix Potter’s first purchased home, now run by the National Trust. Step inside to admire a house left just as the author would have had it. You’ll find a welcoming open fire surrounded by dark wood panelling: a cosy space that feels as though the former owner has just stepped out of the room.
Covering over 15 miles, Grizedale Forest is a super playground for adults and children alike! Ideal for family-friendly activities, you’ll find all sorts to keep you entertained. Explore the forest paths, swing from the trees on a Go Ape high ropes course, zip about on a mountain bike, and much more. An on-site café and picnic areas offer you somewhere to take a relaxing break from your day.
Most famously, Grizedale Forest is home to fascinating art and sculpture trail. See how many of these immense works you can find as you explore the woodland.
You can hardly visit the South Lakes without paying a trip to England’s longest natural lake! At over 11 miles long, Windermere is one of the Lake District’s most popular lakes thanks to its gorgeous scenery, ample walking, and varied attractions.
One of the most popular things to do is to take a boat trip either right around the lake, or to Ambleside or Bowness-on-Windermere for a day trip. Or why not brave the water with some exciting water activities?
Widely considered one of the prettiest areas of Lakeland, Tarn Hows is a man-made lake that benefits from a beautiful position. Despite its beginnings, you would hardly know that it wasn’t part of the natural landscape, so well does it fit in with its wooded shores and mountain surrounds. There is a handy car park nearby and a walk around its shores is a Miles Without Stiles route.
Quirky historic gems
The area around Hawkshead is full of quirky historic sights, most notably the grand Victorian folly that stands overlooking Windermere. Wray Castle was built in 1840 and is surrounded by lovely woodland that leads down onto the lake.
Claife Viewing Station has been restored by the National Trust to replicate its original purpose as a viewpoint, with beautiful stained-glass windows overlooking the lake. Stott Park Bobbin Mill offers excellent tours and an exhibition of its history as a mill that produced millions of bobbins for the Lancashire spinning and weaving industries.
To the west of Hawkshead is Coniston Water, the location of Donald Campbell’s infamous final water speed record attempt, as well as many of his successes. You can learn about this multi-world-record holder at the Ruskin Museum.
Elsewhere, you can enjoy your time on the lake by hiring a boat or taking a trip on a Steam Yacht Gondola, or heading up the imposing Old Man of Coniston for a good hike.
Places to eat and drink in Hawkshead
The inns and pubs of Hawkshead are part of the village’s wonderful character. With wooden beams and wonky walls, these historic buildings offer a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and are all dog- and child-friendly. Get some food or relax with a pint at the Queen’s Head, the Red Lion Inn or the Kings Arms.
You can hardly spend time in a village like Hawkshead without popping into a pretty café or tearoom to enjoy a warm drink and a slice of cake. Fortunately, there are plenty to choose from, all with their own unique look and feel!
Known as the ‘cat café’, Kittchen is a dog- and child-free eatery that also happens to be home to seven rescued cats. For a more traditional café experience, try out the Minstrels Gallery Tea Room, Ginny’s Teapot or The Old Cobblers.
Restaurants and takeaways in Hawkshead
If you fancy a quick meal to take back to your self-catering cottage or to eat in the sun, then head to the Village Chippy for some good old fish ‘n’ chips. Or, Los Lagos offers both eat in and takeaway options for its delicious pizza and tapas. To cool off on those hotter days, grab a tasty ice cream from The Little Ice Cream Shop.
Shopping in Hawkshead
Hawkshead is brimming with lovely little shops where you can buy gifts, artwork and mementoes. We particularly love The Honeypot, an artisan delicatessen with 50 varieties of honey; Tigers Eye for beautiful handcrafted jewellery; and Poppi Red for unique and interesting gifts and an attached café. You’ll also find the famous Hawkshead Relish Company and an excellent fine art gallery.
For all your essentials, there’s a handy newsagent and a Co-op, too.
Getting to Hawkshead
Hawkshead lies between the lakes of Coniston and Windermere. It’s most easily reached by car from the M6 via Ambleside, or by taking a ferry across Windermere from Bowness-on-Windermere.
The 505 Stagecoach bus runs between Ambleside and Coniston several times a day, stopping at the village on the way.
Self-catering cottages in Hawkshead
It’s a real treat to stay here and you can have the perfect Lake District holiday at one of our wonderful Hawkshead cottages. Browse the collection and plan your visit.
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