So you’ve been to Dove Cottage and Grasmere before? Here are five reasons why it’s worth another visit in 2021.
A fine soft beautiful, mild day with gleams of sunshine. I lay in bed till 12 o’clock. We walked within view of Rydale. William went to take in his Boat. I sate in John’s Grove a little while. Mary came home. Mary wrote some lines of the 3rd part of Wm’s poem which he brought to read to us when we came home. Mr Simpson came in at dinner-time & stayed tea. They fetched in the Boat. I lay down upon the Bed in the mean time. A sweet evening.
So wrote Romantic poet William Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy on Sunday 27th December 1800, a year after the siblings moved into the iconic cottage on the shores of Grasmere. 220 years later, and the recent restoration of Dove Cottage, marking the 250th anniversary of William Wordsworth’s birth, has made it even easier to picture the Wordsworth family at home.
Many visitors to the Lake District have fallen in love with Grasmere and return year after year. Others feel there’s so much more to explore, so why return to a place you’ve already visited? As a Blue Badge Tourist Guide, a normal guiding season sees me in Grasmere week after week opening the eyes of visitors to the culture and history of the area. It was only when I stood in the queue outside the old lych gate of St Oswald’s Church, waiting to buy my regular fix of Grasmere Gingerbread that I realised how much I had missed everything about this little village, which over the years has simply got under my skin.
So why should you come back?
Reason 1 – Restoration and inspiration: Grasmere provides both in abundance
You don’t have to be a writer, photographer or artist to find inspiration in the place that William Wordsworth described as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”. Simply wandering along the footpaths, through the Daffodil Garden or the picturesque churchyard is a tonic for the body, mind and spirit. As for inspiration, some draw it from the scenery that changes with the seasons, but others from the little shops that change their stock to reflect the mood of the moment.
Reason 2 – Grasmere Gingerbread: the world’s best gingerbread
During lockdown I was so excited to have Grasmere Gingerbread delivered to my door, and although I savoured every mouthful, it simply wasn’t the same as walking through the churchyard and being lured towards the lychgate by the delicious smell of gingerbread wafting through the air.
Reason 3 – Recently rejuvenated Dove Cottage: 250 years since the illustrious poet laureate’s birth
In 1891, just over 40 years after William Wordsworth’s death, the cottage opened to the public for the first time and every year welcomes tens of thousands of visitors across its threshold. The visitor experience had been the same for many, many years – until now. What a breath of fresh air has swept through, and yet with such sensitivity to the history and ambience of the cottage. As I let myself out by the backdoor and wandered into Dorothy and William’s fell-side garden, I could truly understand Dorothy’s feelings when she wrote, “I think these years have been the very happiest of my life”.
Reason 4 – A teashop for every occasion!
Coffee and cake, afternoon tea, freshly baked scones with jam and cream, lemon meringue pie, smoked salmon and poached eggs, Cumberland sausage, rarebit spiced with chilli jam, ginger icecream, bacon sandwich with avocado, warm and friendly welcome, watching the world go by… enough said.
Reason 5 – Walking and hiking: some of the best low-level walks in the Lake District
I have a list of “go to” walks in my head, for those days when I have set aside time to walk, but not time to decide what route to take. They are old favourites that I know I can rely on for wonderful views, whatever the weather. The sheer beauty of Grasmere and its surroundings still takes my breath away.
Tess Pike is qualified for Cumbria, Yorkshire and the Liverpool City Region and guides in English and German. Born and bred in London, she moved to Cumbria in 1993 and is passionate about guiding visitors around Northern England by vehicle and on foot. She lives in a small market town on the edge of the tranquil Yorkshire Dales, an easy journey away from the bustling Lake District and cosmopolitan northern cities. She can be contacted by email at Tess.Pike@btinternet.com, on Instagram tessbluebadgeguide or Facebook Tess Pike Blue Badge Tourist Guide. She also organises virtual tours – you can see her tours here!