GRASMERE, ENGLAND — As the train we boarded at London’s Euston Station encroaches on England’s enchanting Lake District, we realize the scenery framed in our carriage window is what inspired local hero William Wordsworth to write his Lyrical Ballads — a book of poems which launched the Romantic Age of English literature.
Wordsworth, who was England’s Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850, is why many people — my family included — make the three-hour train journey from London to see the place he lived — Grasmere — and the places he featured in legendary poems like “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, his most famous work.
Above: Centuries after his death, Wordsworth's poetry still draws people to the place he lived and is now buried.
After the Virgin train deposits us in Oxenholme, we catch a local train to Windermere — the gateway to the Lake Country — and then take a 20-minute taxi ride before arriving in Grasmere, where the great poet lived. Along the way, I press my nose against the cab window and admire the passing meadows, streams, pastoral scenes — sheep and cows dot the landscape for as far the eye can see — and quaint English villages, which pass by in a blink of an eye.
The Lake Country is a favourite with hikers — the idyllic rolling landscape is easy to navigate on foot — and we meet a couple from Vancouver who committed to a 10-day walk; a local tour company transfers their luggage to their next destination while they “wander lonely as a cloud.”
Grasmere looks like it jumped off the pages of a Vicrtorian novel — stone cottages and narrow lane ways keep this pretty place frozen in time.
Dove Cottage is where the wordsmith lived from 1799 to 1808 and it’s where he composed some of his most memorable works. The milky white lime-washed home, where Wordsworth entertained noted friends like Walter Scott, Thomas De Quincey, Charles and Mary Lamb, Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, now serves as the Wordsworth Museum.
Left: The Wordsworth museum. Centre: His home was wallpapered with newsprint. Right: A plague remembers his work.
We walk in Wordsworth’s footsteps, admiring the newspaper covered walls — history is clearly written on the wallpaper of Dove Cottage — and wander through the living room and kitchen before a guide leads us upstairs to Wordsworth’s study and the bedrooms.
The 20-minute guided tour gives visitors great insight into the poet’s life and the Wordsworth Trust — founded in 1891 — keeps the 17th-century cottage and its fairytale garden, which inspired Wordsworth so much, in impeccable condition.
The Wordsworth Library, next door, houses one of the greatest collections of manuscripts, books and paintings relating to British Romanticism.
We spend our two days in the Lake Country wandering the flower-filled meadows and lush pastures that are guarded by unique slate fences. We especially like poking our noses into quaint shops selling freshly-made English baked goods.
The quaint Daffodil Hotel and Spa, nestled in the bosom of the rolling Lake Country terrain, is our home during our stay and its well-appointed rooms look out on Wordsworth country.
Leaving Grasmere is hard — literally. The local train we needed to get back to Windermere was cancelled without prior notice — a usual occurrence, we’re told — and the bus that was supposed to shuttle us never showed up. So we hired a local taxi for the ride to Oxenholme where we caught the Virgin train back to London. Along the way our chatty cabby, who was probably inspired by the hefty fare we gladly paid him, gave us a colourful guided tour of the local scenery so we ended up with a lot of local knowledge.
Above: Those who venture to Wordsworth country are fascinated by the surrounding small villages.
Logistics aside, the Lake District is a natural beauty and its enchanting towns, Michelin-star restaurants, world class accommodation and especially its friendly people are a treat, especially for Wordsworth fans like my family.
This tour was truly poetry in motion and wandering Wordsworth Lake Country lonely as a cloud is something you must put on your bucket list.
• Virgin offers daily train service to the Lake Country from London. The trip takes about three hours. Go to https://www.virgintrains.co.uk for details
• The charming Daffodil Hotel and Spa is the perfect place to base yourself in Grasmere. For rates, go to http://www.daffodilhotel.co.uk/