We have all dreamed of wandering “lonely as a cloud” at some stage in our lives. Get the timing right, and you could find yourself wandering alone from the crowds in a very special part of the Lake District, associated with one of England’s greatest Romantic poets. Dove Cottage in Grasmere was home to William Wordsworth from 1799 to 1808. It is here that he wrote much of his poetry. It is also where his sister Dorothy kept her Grasmere Journal – the source of much of what we know about the Wordsworths’ life here.
Built in the early 17th century, Dove Cottage was an inn for more than 170 years. It closed in 1793, and William and Dorothy set up home six years later. William came across the quaint cottage by chance as he and his brother John were out walking with fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
In 1802, after her marriage to William, Mary Hutchinson arrived, and it is here that their three eldest children were born. It must have all got somewhat crowded, as Mary’s sister Sara Hutchinson and William’s friend Thomas De Quincey also lived at the cottage.
Constructed in local stone with white, lime-washed walls to help keep out the damp, little has changed over the years.
In fact, step over the threshold and you get a real sense of times past as you wander through
the dark panelled downstairs rooms, with their slate floors
and glowing coal fires, complete with the family’s own belongings. You can then head upstairs to have a look around Dorothy’s bedroom, William’s study, the guest bedroom and the children’s bedroom.
The Wordsworths spent many hours lovingly tending the garden and orchard. Today you will discover a semi-wild area complete with native and cottage garden plants. Honeysuckles climb the cottage walls, while ferns and ivy grow among rocks and in the crevices of the terrace wall.
Dove Cottage played host to many notable visitors, including Charles and Mary Lamb, Walter Scott, Robert Southey and Coleridge. There is little wonder then that the cottage grew too small for the Wordsworths’ growing family and friends.
In May 1808, they uprooted to Allan Bank in Grasmere, and then to the Old Rectory, opposite St Oswald’s Church.
Next door to Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth Museum houses the greatest collection of the Wordsworths’ letters, journals and poems in the world. Treasures from the age of Romanticism, including objects, maps, pictures and interactive displays, help you to track the adventures that shaped Wordsworth’s life, thoughts and inspirations.
As you wander into the nearby village of Grasmere, look out for the couple’s simple tombstone in the churchyard of St Oswald’s Church; today one of the most visited literary shrines in the world.
HOW TO GET THERE
Leave the M6 at J36 and follow signs for Kendal, Windermere and Ambleside. From the north, take J40 and follow signs first to Keswick, then to Grasmere/Ambleside. The nearest train station is Windermere (eight miles away), and there are regular buses – the 555 or 599.
FIND OUT MORE
Admission to Dove Cottage is by timed guided tour.
The Glen Rothay Hotel and Badger Bar
Enjoy home-cooked meals, plus a range of local real ales.
Cote How Organic
Soil Association-licensed guesthouse set in four acres.