We recently took a family holiday to the Lake District and one of the things that we really wanted to do was visit Beatrix Potter's house at Hill Top. I picked up a leaflet about the attraction and had my national trust guide book on hand so we took the bus to Hawkshead as recommended and found ourselves in a little village with no sign of Hilltop. Fortunately the tourist information was close by and we were able to ask them for advice. The woman there told us that we could walk to the cottage but that it was along a road with no pavements or we could take a bus. We decided that it was too dangerous to walk there, the road was busy and we had a child with us so we waited at the bus stop only to discover that for four adults and a child we would have to pay an additional £20 to get to Hilltop. We had already paid £30 to get to Hawkshead and it seemed ridiculous to pay £50 before we had even paid to get into the attraction. For those of you going to Hawkshead with the idea of passing through on the way to Hilltop you should keep this in mind. Having spent all of the time and money to get to Hawkshead we decided that the best thing to do would be to spend the day there.
Getting to Hawkshead was quite easy but it wasn't particularly pleasant. We had decided not to drive during the holiday so we took the bus. Buses aren't exactly pleasant at the best of times but this bus felt like a rollercoaster. The roads were windy and hilly, something that I love when I'm in a car but that seems entirely different in a bus, and the bus driver really sped down them. At times I was sure that we were going to crash or cause a car to go off of the road because the roads are really narrow. It was a very bumpy ride and by the time we got to Hawkshead (it wasn't a long journey from Ambleside) we all felt a little bit sick. It's unfortunate that the bus journey was so unpleasant because the countryside surrounding Hawkshead is beautiful and it was nice to be able to take in the views while we were on the bus. Although the bus was unpleasant I wouldn't recommend driving to Hawkshead, the roads are very narrow and seem like they would be difficult to drive on if you didn't know the area.
Hawkshead is a very small place and unlike nearby Ambleside where we were staying it wasn't that busy. It was still very obvious that it was aimed at tourists and there were more people than you would generally get in a small village but it didn't feel like there were too many people. Hawkshead is car free, something I didn't realise until after we had left! I did notice that we were able to walk around freely without almost getting knocked over but I'm so unobservant that I didn't notice the lack of cars. This does make a big difference to Hawkshead. Because the village was obviously not originally built for as many people as are currently in it the pavements are quite narrow but because walking on the road is an option here it doesn't feel that crowded and the amount of people didn't bother me as much as it did in Ambleside (where the pavements are narrow and walking in the road is not an option).
For such a small place I was surprised at how many attractions there were. We visited a gallery that displays Beatrix Potter's art, an old grammar school where Wordsworth studied and a lovely church (which I guess is not strictly an attraction but I did enjoy looking around it). I'm not sure if there is anything else to do in Hawkshead because we didn't plan our trip there and I had no idea about what to expect before we arrived. I did know that Beatrix Potter's paintings were on display before we arrived but it was by chance that we found the grammar school and the church. I'm glad that we did because I thought the grammar school was really fascinating and the church was lovely with the most amazing views. I thought the gallery was worth visiting because I have a national trust membership and it's a national trust property but I don't think I would have been very impressed if I had paid to get in. Fans of Beatrix Potter would probably be far more interested in this than I was so if you are a fan it's probably worth visiting Hawkshead just for the gallery.
Hawkshead seems to rely entirely on tourism. Most shops seems to be aimed at tourists and seem to sell the same tacky souvenirs or Beatrix Potter themed items. There were two notable exceptions to this. There was a very interesting shop that sells teddy bears called Sixpenny Bears. They sell bears of all shapes, sizes and designs and although I didn't buy anything I did enjoy looking around it. There was also a book shop that I enjoyed looking around. The selection of books was surprisingly good, the shop was much bigger than it appeared on the outside and there was even a discount book section (a definite bonus now that I'm almost a student again).
There is a tourist information centre but this is just a stand in a shop and not really particularly helpful. We went into the tourist information immediately after getting off of the bus and although we could find leaflets on attractions in other towns we didn't see a single leaflet regarding anything to do with Hawkshead.
There are plenty of places to eat and one of the things that I really liked was that they were all traditional English places. This is something I would hate in a place where I lived (I get bored if I eat the same kind of food all the time) but as the whole thing seemed like a theme park where the theme was stereotypical England it was nice. I love afternoon tea and cream tea so going to a place where it's served in almost every café or restaurant that you enter is certainly a good thing.
Hawkshead is worth visiting for a morning or an afternoon. There are a few places to visit, some shops to look around and plenty of places to have lunch. The village is very picturesque and the views from the village are lovely. However, I don't think this is the kind of place that I would want to go back to and I wouldn't have wanted to spend more than a couple of hours there. The attractions were worth seeing but they weren't worth seeing twice.