Grasmere is located in the central Lake District and is closely associated with poet, William Wordsworth. Named after the picturesque nearby Lake, it is one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations. Read on as we now take a look at top Grasmere visitor attractions and historical places of interest.
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‘The Loveliest Spot that Man Hath Ever Found’
Set on the River Rothay, Grasmere is overlooked by the rocky fell, Helm Crag and is about a kilometre from its adjacent lake. The village has strong connections with Lake Poets such as William Wordsworth. In fact, many top Grasmere visitor attractions relate to this famed literary figure.
William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth in 1770. After attending Cambridge University the famed poet spent time in Revolutionary France as well as Germany before returning to the UK.
Following a walking tour of the Lake District with his illustrious friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wordsworth decided to return to the region of his birth. He eventually took up residence at Grasmere’s Dove Cottage with his sister Dorothy.
Dove Cottage, at the southern end of Grasmere, was originally an Inn called the Dove and Olive Branch. But by the time Wordsworth had moved in it was known as Town End.
During his time at the cottage, Wordsworth penned most of the works for which he has become famous including, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, ‘My Heart Leaps Up’, ‘Ode to Duty’ and ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’.
His sister Dorothy Wordsworth also wrote the Grasmere Journal which was published in 1897. In it she described her day-to-day existence in the Lake District as well as the long walks she took with her brother around the local countryside.
Leaving Dove Cottage
In 1802, William Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson who, along with her sister, joined the Wordsworths at Dove Cottage. By 1808, the family had expanded to include three children, compelling the Wordsworths to leave Dove Cottage for the more spacious confines of Allan Bank House.
English essayist, Thomas de Quincey then occupied the cottage for around ten years before the property was let out to a variety of tenants. In 1890, it was acquired by the Wordsworth Trust and opened as a museum. Today the cottage is a Grade I listed building and remains largely unaltered from Wordsworth’s times. Around 70,000 people visit the house and gardens each year.
New Wordsworth Museum
Dove Cottage is currently closed to the public as is the Jerwood Centre which is undergoing major renovations. Both are set to reopen in the summer of 2020 which means that visitors will have access once again to a remarkable collection of personal letters, journals and manuscripts.
In addition, there will be new outdoor spaces for visitors to explore as well as a sensory garden called ‘Wildwood’. Plans are also afoot for a redesigned cafe and a terrace which will overlook Dove Cottage and afford some inspiring views of the beautiful Lakeland surroundings. The gardens behind Dove Cottage, which William Wordsworth described as a ‘little nook of mountain-ground’, will be accessible too.
Allan Bank House
Allan Bank House was home to the Wordsworths from 1808 to 1811 as well as a host of famous figures at various times including Thomas De Quincey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Arnold and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley.
Although Wordsworth derided the Georgian villa as a ‘temple of abomination’, it was the only building in the area big enough to accommodate his large family. Today Allan Bank is Grade II-listed and owned by the National Trust.
Situated just outside Grasmere, both the house and grounds are open to the public during the spring and summer months. The grounds, which include a mysterious Victorian viewing tunnel, offer fantastic views of Helm Crag and Dunmail Raise.
St Oswald’s Church and Wordsworth Grave
St Oswald’s Church is located in the centre of Grasmere and is a Grade I listed building. Wordsworth and his sister were laid to rest in the churchyard – the graves are marked by simple tombstones which belie their status as literary shrines of international repute.
The church itself was built in the 14th century and features a double nave with south porch and a southeast tower. The interior features a magnificent open-timber roof and houses a 17th century poor box.
Also of historical significance is the balustered alter rail that dates from 1725. As well as its literary connections, St Oslwald’s Church plays a central role in Grasmere’s annual rush-bearing ceremony.
Rydal Mount and Gardens
Rydal Mount and Gardens is another Wordsworth residence that nestles between Ambleside and Grasmere. He and his family lived there from 1813 until his death in 1850. The attractive 16th century house remains under the ownership of the Wordsworth family and houses a variety of portraits and personal possessions.
Despite being a museum, the house retains an evocative ‘lived-in’ ambience and commands some inspiring views of Windermere, Rydal Water and the surrounding fells.
The five-acre garden is well worth seeing too and comprises a series of fell-sided terraces and rock pools. Guided tours are available for both the house and gardens in the summer – a tea room is also located on-site serving homemade cakes and fair-trade drinks.
Taffy Thomas Story-Teller’s Garden
The Story-Teller’s garden is well worth a visit should you be staying in the area. Inspired by local children’s author Taffy Thomas, the National Trust-owned garden plays host to a wide array of events in the spring and summer including story-telling, concerts, juggling and egg-hunts.
There’s also a resource centre providing information about similar events in the North of England – an ideal attraction for families.
At one mile in length and half a mile in breadth, Grasmere Lake is one of the smallest in the English Lake District. But it is surely one of the most beautiful, leading Wordsworth to declare the lake and surrounding fells, ‘the most loveliest spot that man hath found’. A little island sits in the middle and was a favourite picnic spot for William and his sister Dorothy.
Faeryland Tearoom and Boat Hire
Set on the shores of Grasmere Lake is the Faeryland Tearoom and Boat Hire. Renowned locally for its superb variety of loose leaf teas, its tearoom also serves a delicious range of snacks including scones, ice cream, organic carrot cake, tea bread and chocolate muffins.
During the warmer months, these are best enjoyed in a tea garden which looks out over the water. Rowing boats are also available for hire throughout the year.
Grasmere Gingerbread Shop
Grasmere is also well-known for gingerbread which was invented by Victorian cook, Sarah Nelson.
Her tasty concoction, a kind of cross between bread and biscuit can be purchased at the family-run shop next to St Oswold’s Churchyard. The shop also sells award-winning rum butter as well as an assortment of ginger-flavoured delicacies.
Grasmere Lakeland Sports and Show
Grasmere Sports is England’s equivalent of the Highland Games and is 170 years old. Held annually during late August, the games attract tens of thousands of visitors every year. Events include Cumbrian wrestling, track and field races, fell-racing to the top of Butter Crags as well as hound trailing in which hounds follow an artificially laid trail across country at speeds of up to 20mph.
For more information about Grasmere Visitor Attractions and places of interest, visit: https://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/places-to-go/explore-grasmere-and-rydal
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