I love travelling and seeing different parts of the world, but my recent trip to the Lake District over Easter reminded me of the beautiful countryside and scenery much closer to home that I often take for granted. After a lot of research into which areas of the Lakes provided the most opportunities to visit places we’ve always wanted to see (and which had the most links to William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter!) we decided on the beautiful village of Hawkshead. The journey from London was broken up by a few days in Abersoch, North Wales earlier in the week, but the onwards route was fairly simple. After a couple of hours on the M6 we came off at Kendal and made our way through the beautiful Lake District countryside until we arrived at Hawkshead.
Hawkshead is a beautiful village in the South West Lake District in the vale of Esthwaite. With all the stunning views associated with the Lake District, Hawkshead has its own little community and is full of stunning churches, arches, small whitewashed cottages and squares with connections to literary greats such as William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Hawkshead is a short drive (or a long walk!) from some of the more well known Lake District towns such as Coniston, Ambleside and close to Lake Windermere and Grizedale Forest. It is accessible by bus from all of these places.
Cars are banned in Hawkshead centre itself which adds to the feel of a tiny countryside village and visitors must leave their cars behind at the huge pay and display car park at the bottom of the village. The village is so tiny that the car park is less than five minutes walk from anywhere in Hawkshead.
The village centre consists of four pubs, two bookshops, a few delicatessen/café/ sweet shops types, a Post Office, a Beatrix Potter shop, a teddy bear shop and a Coop! My time in Hawkshead was mainly spent sitting outside one of said pubs in the sunshine with books I had bought from the bookshops! One was more traditional village bookshop where the other was a discount bookshop where a wide selection of books were priced at two for £5 which I thought was a bargain! The local food shops sold a variety of local treats including Kendal Mint Cake, Fudge, biscuits and Hawkshead’s own ‘Relish’ range.
The pubs were all quite similar: cosy and comfortable with a mix of locals and holiday makers keeping them busy over the bank holiday weekend. The Kings Arms, my particular favourite, offers a great menu and a wide selection of drinks including local ales such as Windermere Pale Ale and Hawkshead Bitter. Food is served from 12.00-2.30 p.m. and then 6.00-9.30 p.m. which is standard of all four pubs in the village. Steak and ale pie with vegetable mash, leg of duck, sirloin steak – just some of the delicious food we tried at the King’s Arms. Meals were priced between £8 and £14 which was quite reasonable, especially for someone who lives in London. The Queen’s Head was another pub we visited a few times during our stay in Hawkshead. Unlike the quiet, relaxed King’s Arms, the Queen’s Head has televisions showing sport, and showed the Royal Wedding while we were there so was always full. Both served a similar selection of food to The Sun and The Red Lion, the other pubs in the village, all at similar prices.
What to do
One of the prominent buildings in Hawkshead is the Old Grammar School, whose former students included William Wordsworth. The school still has many of the original desks with markings from former students including Wordsworth himself. It costs £2 entry which I think is worth it as it includes a brief tour where you can find out about how the school worked and its former students. There is also an exhibition relating to the school’s history and Wordsworth. There is an information booklet which can be purchased for £2.50. The school can be hired out and would make a wonderful venue.
For fans of Beatrix Potter’s works it is worth visiting the Beatrix Potter Gallery in the centre of Hawkshead village. This tiny 17th century building was the office of Potter’s solicitor husband William Heelis and now contains many of her paintings and sketches with exhibitions which change regularly. Entry is £4.30 per adult and £2.30 for children. It’s a small amount of money but probably not worth paying unless you’re a real fan of her work as there isn’t a huge amount to see. It’s one of the things that I knew I wanted to do before visiting Hawkshead but I wouldn’t return. Many of the nearby shops in the village sell Beatrix Potter merchandise including the books and stuffed animals.
Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s house is close by in Near Sawrey, just one village on from Hawkshead. I didn’t manage to visit, mainly because I didn’t know it was so close and I would have had a real job on my hands trying to convince Alex to go to yet another house belonging to a historical figure. Apparently the house still looks like it is lived in and each rooms contains references to one of her famous tales.
There are some stunning walks in the Hawkshead, the most popular being the stunning circular walk to Tarn Hows. The woodland, tarns, trees and views make it one of the busiest sites in the Lake District, especially in the summer. The area around the tarn is one of the most accessible to wheelchair users of any of the walks we took during our holiday. Another walk we took, pretty much by accident, was to the Old Man of Coniston which is the twelfth most prominent mountain in England. Just a word of warning, if you decide to take on this walk wear hiking boots and shorts or trousers. Wearing a summer dress and flipflops is not just suitable hiking gear and can cause accidents and attracts lots of annoying attention from other walkers.
Where to stay
We stayed at The Croft campsite which we thought was excellent. We paid £18.75 for a pitch for our tent and car during the peak season, with the price dropping to £15.75 in the off season. Over a bank holiday weekend, tent pitches must be booked for at least three consecutive night which was the case for us. It was my first camping trip and I was relieved to find that the toilets and showers were of a decent standard and that there were plenty of them! Electric points had to be paid for at 20p but I didn’t notice them until the last day so never bothered drying my hair. Tents are supposed to be pitched 6 metres apart which was fine until the bank holiday when more people arrived and started pitching so close that we could hear them snoring all night! The people who worked in the office are really friendly and had lots of information about the area. The campsite has a laundry, utility room for washing up and a disabled access toilet and shower room. The maximum tent size they can accommodate is 6x4 metres but I noticed that some tents were certainly bigger than this – they made our ‘three man’ tent look absolutely tiny.
The site is less than 5 minutes walk from Hawkshead village so everything was in easy reach. The Croft also rent out static caravans from £296 to £539 a week depending on the time of year. They also have 9 beautiful holiday flats which can be rented from £218 to £594.
Hawkshead is a great little village in the Lakes which is well worth visiting but I’d also recommend it for somewhere to stay. It is quieter than Coniston, Windermere and Ambleside which means it is cheaper and easier to find somewhere to stay, yet it is close enough for visiting these more well known places. Its unspoiled community, friendly staff in shops and pubs who will talk to everyone, the views and the beautiful village itself made Hawkshead an absolute pleasure to visit and I would go back time and time again.