A Poetic Weekend in Grasmere
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breathtaking view from his window, it's not surprising that William Wordsworth
was inspired to write some of the most beautiful English poetry at Rydal Mount.
were ‘fluttering and dancing in the breeze’ on our visit to the former poet
laureate's best-loved family home for the greater part of his life from 1813 to
his death in 1850 at the age of 80. He and his wife Mary's bedroom overlooked
their four-acre garden with its commanding views of Lake Windermere and surrounding fells,
which remains close to his own design, with fell-side terraces, rock pools and
secret little sitting areas, sloping and curving its way down to Rydal Water.
The Wordsworths were all keen gardeners and William designed his own at Rydal
Mount plus the gardens of many friends and neighbours.
One can imagine
the defining English romantic bard at his desk at the bedroom window, writing
much of his best work and putting the final touches to Daffodils, his most
famous poem. Still owned by Wordsworth's descendants, Rydal Mount is cared for
by curators Peter and Marian Elkington. The oldest part of the property dates
back to Tudor times.
Our base was the
delightful, newly-renovated, historic country house, the Lancrigg Hotel, which nestles in a
tranquil beauty spot within the Easedale Valley, on the edge of Grasmere.
Dating back to the 1800s, it's unfussy but not minimalist and some might say a
bit quirky, with an eclectic blend of vintage, retro and modern furniture.
bedroom, one of 10, on the ground floor could be described as a boutique-style,
mini-suite with a small hall, sitting area and sparkling, contemporary shower
room. The tree-fringed view over the terrace, landscaped gardens, fields and
fells is wonderful. Residents passing by to the main entrance or those
following one of the many walkers' routes to Easedale Tarn, Helm Crag and
others, had a good view, too, into our room via a deep bay window. It might be
an idea to provide blinds for a bit of privacy for guests.
staff do all they can to please, creating an informal, comfortable ambience.
Wordsworth and his friends often visited the Lancrigg and the hotel's family
and dog-friendly 'muddy boots and pets welcome' Poets' Bar is named after this
renowned patronage. Light bites, snacks and desserts are on offer here and can
be taken outside on the terrace in warm weather. The Poets' Bar was at one time
the library of arctic explorer Sir John Richardson, who lived at the Lancrigg
from the 1860s, grew up with the Scottish poet Robert Burns and was a close
friend of naturalist, geologist and biologist, Charles Darwin.
Meals cooked to order using fresh, seasonal local produce are served in the beautiful restaurant where huge windows afford spectacular views.
Presented at our
candlelit table, my tasty starter of fresh king prawns in a garlic and creamy
sauce and the perfectly prepared, exotic sea bass fillet in lemon and thyme
sauce deserve a special mention. Because ever-smiling new chef, Raffaele, is
Italian, unsurprising the tiramisu was sensational. So much so, that I selected
this on both evenings. When designing his menu, this chef,
known as Ralph, researched the menus of restaurants in the area to ensure he
would be offering something different on the Lancrigg menu. After dinner,
guests relax in the sitting room and are welcomed by a crackling log fire.
We also sampled
the fare at Cuckoo Brow Inn, Far
Sawrey, located between Hawkshead and Windermere, close to Beatrix Potter's
There was a
pleasing lunchtime buzz in the residential old coaching inn, frequented by
walkers, well-behaved dogs, visitors and locals alike.
We feasted on the
warm tascas - Italian flatbread, golden and crunchy on the outside with a soft
bready interior. Mine was packed with smoked salmon, accompanied by a cucumber
and coriander yogurt plus a side salad. The meltingly decadent chocolate
fondant served with a delicious Guinness ice cream would surely have brought a
smile to the faces of BBC's Masterchef judges John Torode and Greg Wallace.
Back in Grasmere,
we visited the Wordsworth family grave which rests in St Oswald's Church
grounds. Visitors flock to Dove Cottage, the
poet's first family home for eight years, where he lived with his sister, Dorothy,
and wife, Mary. Three of William and Mary's five children were born here.
Coleridge and Sir Walter Scott were frequent visitors.
former home, rented for £8 per annum and is now warmed by cosy log fires,
rather than peat. The house is filled with many of their personal belongings, which
include the bard's ice skates and the marital bed.
Wordsworth's poetry was penned here and Dorothy's fascinating Grasmere Journals
are on display in the adjoining museum.
cottage, a former coaching in, accessed by a door halfway up the dog leg
staircase, is the half-wild, fellside garden, where Wordsworth composed much of
his poetry. It was here that he made a start on his most famous poem
Grasmere is also
home to the much-visited Sarah Nelson's renowned Gingerbread Shop, which has
been awarded a Cumbria Family Business Award, 2018. In 1854 Sarah devised the
mixture and ingredients for Grasmere Gingerbread She taught the village
children how to read using gingerbread letters covered with a protective layer
of sheep's horn.
Over the years,
the shop has welcomed many famous visitors, including Rory Bremner, Tom Cruise
and Renee Zellweger, star of the film Miss Potter.
Chefs Jamie Oliver and Phil Vickery have raved about the confection.
Third generation family member Joanne Hunter, 50, and her mixer/baker husband, Andrew, 49, are now at the helm. Joanne has family links to Wordsworth and to another Lakeland icon, Beatrix Potter.
grandfather, known as Granddad Wilson, was the Wordsworths' errand boy and her
grandma, Nanny Hunter, served tea to Miss Potter at the King's Head pub,
Thirlspot, Thirlmere, where she was a maid.
People queue all
day to buy the famed gingerbread. The recipe is closely guarded and locked in a
know it, and says she doesn't need to.
Andrew said he'd
willingly share the recipe with me but would have to kill me afterwards.
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