Anglotopia Day 11 – Lake District – Grasmere & Ambleside
A pilgrimage to the one-time home of William Wordsworth was in order.
Dove Cottage near Grasmere has been kept much as it was in Wordsworth’s day. On the outside, it was a cheerful white standing out against the green vines and pink roses growing on it. On the inside, however, it was surprisingly dark, as the paneling is a dark wood, the ceilings low (much as they are in many cottages), and the beveled glass on the windows let in little light. The upstairs was a little more welcoming, with higher ceilings and lighter colors on walls.
Wordsworth and his wife stayed up there, whilst Dorothy, his sister, slept downstairs. For an account of their daily lives and Lake District lifestyle, Dorothy wrote a brilliant set of journals which chronicled the comings and goings of Dove Cottage. A perfectly good writer in her own right, Dorothy isn’t nearly as famous as her brother, and I could go all feminist theory on that, but really, considering the times, it isn’t surprising, to be honest. Her behind-the-scenes role made it easier and more possible for her brother to be famous – and to entertain all the guests who visited.
There was a nice museum attached to the cottage whilst talked about the Romantic poets in general, focusing on the height of that literary era, and then it was easy to walk around the grounds for a bit, enjoying the gardens.
Dove Cottage was not a far walk back into Grasmere, and there were many worthy restaurants, shops, and garden centers in Grasmere. I chose one restaurant just across from the church, with a massive garden out front, a big gardening and gift shop, and a large terrace where massive, intimidating ravens skulked about for treats.
The restaurant itself was tasty, with soups, salads, sandwiches, and other hot mains to ward off the day’s inevitable chill. With a cappuccino, thick soup and crusty bread, I sat on the terrace and eyeballed those voracious ravens. Some of them were so bold as to land right on the chair at the table with me, just waiting for me to turn away to steal some bread.
Or maybe my soul.
From Grasmere, the bus took me back toward Ambleside, which warranted an afternoon stroll up, down and around. Whilst it sported some lovely shops and cafes, much of the town is catered to the tourist trade, which can seem a little hokey at times, but the authentic beauty of the town rested in its old buildings, scenic streams, and steeples.
It is a highly picaresque town once you’re past all the shops selling gems, t-shirts, and sheep-related items.
But bah, the sheep in the North. We don’t have much in terms of sheep in the U.S., so there were a few times I got unduly excited by seeing the miles of green fields dotted with little pearly sheep in full fluff. I know they stink and crap everywhere in the fields, but from distance, they look as idyllic as a stroll through fall foliage.
To be fair, I did buy a few sheep-themed items, mostly because my British friend and travel companion thought me absolutely hilarious for being so damn thrilled over sheep. Secondly, sheep are adorable on magnets, coffee mugs, and postcards, so it is hard to pass up a cute sheep stuffed toy.
Also, just as a side note for all the people who think it’s okay to jump into fields to get a selfie with a sheep (I did see it happen), it is unlawful to menace farm animals. The sheep just wants to live its sheep life and doesn’t want to be in your selfie, and you don’t want a farmer with a pitchfork in your selfie either.
Travel Tip #7 – There are several buses which make the rounds of Lake District towns. Most of them take off from the Windermere bus station, but some do go into Bowness-on-Windermere. An all-day pass means you can get on and off wherever on the route all day. This was helpful as I took it from Windermere to Grasmere, from Grasmere to Ambleside, and then from Ambleside back to Windermere. It was worth it to have the ticket handy, especially when it began to pour as I waited for the return bus!