By Harriet McKinley Smith
Just two stops off the West Coast mainline is a place of notably unrivalled literary heritage. From the vast expanse of the lake to the countless countrified villages that litter the water’s edge, it is easy to see why Lake Windermere has inspired some of the greatest English authors.
One of the main villages, Bowness, is home to The World of Beatrix Potter museum in which familiar faces from childhood, Peter Rabbit and his friends, are brought to life. A place where childhood dreams are made, I’m sure. For those among you who care little for life-size replicas of your favorite bunny, a stones throw away in Hawkshead, you can find a gallery full of the original illustrations from Potter’s novels. The legacy of Beatrix Potter is an innate part of the atmosphere around Windermere. The most famous of Potter’s residences, Hill Top, where she resided for most of her life, is also nearby. Many a literary pilgrim have traced Potter’s route around the surrounding area, in the hope that it will inspire a creative epiphany of one’s own. Sadly, I’m not quite Beatrix Potter yet.
At the top of the lake in Grasmere is the former home of the father of romantic poetry, William Wordsworth. It was on the shores of Lake Windermere where he ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’, inspiring generations with his descriptions of the sublime around him. For Wordsworth, the lake was paradise, and so too is it for thousands of others who flock to the water’s edge. Dove Cottage is the epitome of Wordworth’s creativity, with its quaint English beauty and the awe-inspiring hills. Inside, it is heaven for the literary-nerd. It is as much a museum as a homage to Wordsworth and there are many events held inside, which are enough to inspire the most reticent of readers. The interiority of Wordworth’s autobiographical masterpiece ‘The Prelude’, can be thought of as a literary manifestation of his return to the Lake District after a period of wandering the country. The equilibrium and beauty of the idea of birth and rebirth stem from the nature that surrounded him and it is the setting of Windermere which allowed the fruition and development of these ideas.
Lake Windermere is quite simply a place of literary inspiration. From the towering hills to the glassy lake the awe and power of nature is enough to turn any man into a poet, not just the gifted.
Featured image courtesy Wikimedia Commons