If you’re a lover of the great outdoors, the Lake District is one corner of England where you want to linger. It has a sweeping panorama of slate-capped fells, craggy hilltops, misty mountain farms and glittering lakes and popular with crowds ever since the Romantics pitched up the early 19th century, and it still remains one of the country’s most popular beauty spots.
I grew up here, and only now do I appreciate its beauty and it attracts me back like a magnet.
I am a serious 21st-century Romantic, so a stay for a special occasion at The Samling would be a treat. This secluded luxury hotel, on its own 67-acre estate, overlooks the sprawling expanse of Windermere. It was here, when the main house was called Dove’s Nest that Wordsworth trekked to pay his rent on Dove Cottage.
Here are some of the top things I like to do when I return to visit this gem of an area.
Two miles south of Bowness on the B5360, Blackwell House is one of the finest examples of the 19th-century Arts and Crafts Movement, which championed the importance of handmade goods and high-quality craftsmanship over the mass-produced mentality of the Industrial Revolution.
Designed by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott for a wealthy brewer, the house has many hallmarks of Arts and Crafts design: light, airy rooms, detailed decor and lots of bespoke craftwork (including wood panelling, stained glass and Delft tiles). Of particular note are the huge wood-panelled Great Hall and the serene White Drawing Room.
The Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway
Originally built to carry ore, timber and other industrial goods to the ports at Ulverston and Barrow, vintage steam trains now puff their way between Haverthwaite, at the southern end of Windermere, for three and a half miles to Newby Bridge and Lakeside. There are between five and seven trains a day depending on the season, handily timed to correspond with the Windermere cruise boats.
The station restaurant at Haverthwaite has an amazing warming soup on the menu and tempting giant homemade scones plus their exclusive ‘Fairburn Ale Cumberland Sausage, made by a local butcher.
In the tiny village of Near Sawrey, 2 miles south of Hawkshead, this idyllic farmhouse is a must for Beatrix Potter buffs: it was the first house she lived in after moving to the Lake District, and it’s also where she wrote and illustrated many of her famous tales.
Purchased in 1905 (largely on the proceeds of her first bestseller, The Tale of Peter Rabbit), Hill Top is crammed with decorative details that fans will recognise from the author’s illustrations. The house features directly in Samuel Whiskers, Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddleduck, and you might recognise the cast-iron kitchen range from many of Potter’s underground burrows.
Thanks to its worldwide fame (helped along by the 2006 biopic Miss Potter), Hill Top is one of the Lakes’ most popular spots. Entry is by timed ticket, and the queues can be seriously daunting during the summer holidays.