English Lakes Tours
Breathe in the fresh air and relax in the peace and tranquillity of magnificent mountains and lakes. Walk through the landscape which inspired literary giants. Discover centuries of history, traditions, folklore and human stories. Touch what was created millennia ago and also yesterday. Taste mouth-watering food, painstakingly prepared in Michelin starred restaurants. Listen to the sounds of nature in unspoiled countryside, unwind and soak up the atmosphere. Feel the sun, wind, rain and snow again, feel alive. See what makes the Lake District so special. This is what we do every day. Join us.
Your first stop is at Wray Castle and takes you back in time to when Beatrix Potter was a teenager on holiday in 1882. The usual holiday home, rented for the summer in Scotland, was unavailable and so Beatrix persuaded her parents to take Wray Castle on the shores of Lake Windermere for the summer. It was here that Beatrix spent her 16th birthday, met Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, one of the three founding members of The National Trust, and started her lifelong love of the area. This was where it all began for her. Your guide will explain the significance of Wray Castle in Beatrix’s life and the people that she met there. After admiring the beauty of the Lakeland fells, tumbling to the lake shore across the sweeping vista of the grounds of the castle we now move on to your next destination via the steep and twisty, narrow Lakeland roads set in the charming pastoral landscape, to Beatrix Potter’s home in Near Sawrey.
On arrival, your guide will take you on a walking tour of the village pointing out all of the places that Beatrix knew and used in her illustrations for the famous books. At the end of the village you will arrive at Hill Top, a 17th century farmhouse which was the home of Beatrix Potter. Your entry to Hill Top and Gardens is included in your tour. Beatrix wrote many of her famous children’s stories in this little house. Characters such as Tom Kitten, Samuel Whiskers and Jemima Puddleduck were all created here, and the books contain many pictures based on the house and garden. You will have plenty of time to visit the house, gardens and gift shop before moving on to your next destination.
A scenic drive will take you past the beautiful Esthwaite Water, so admired by both William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. It was probably a combination of Moss Eccles Tarn with its water lillies, and Esthwaite Water that served as the inspiration for the home of her tale of a frog who lives in a “slippy-sloppy” house at the edge of a pond in The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher.
Moving on through the sublime countryside, you arrive for an early lunch in Hawkshead, “the prettiest village in the Lake District”. Your guide will take you on a short guided walk around the village and then take you into the the Beatrix Potter Gallery where you will be able to see original Beatrix Potter manuscripts and illustrations. You will then have time for lunch and to explore the village at your own pace.
After lunch, a short drive up Hawkshead Hill leads us on to the next destination of your tour, the beautiful Tarn Hows. The land and farms around were part of the considerable Monk Coniston Estate which was bought by Beatrix Potter and eventually sold or bequeathed to The National Trust so that the landscape and its unique way of life would be preserved forever. Your guide will point out features of interest and explain more about the life of Beatrix Potter as a farmer and conservationist. You will have an opportunity to take a short walk to the Tarn before we drive along a steep, spectacular and narrow road, deep into the Yewdale Valley.
Yewdale, once part of the Monk Coniston estate, and bounded by steep, craggy fells, offers the visitor some stunning scenery. Our road through the valley offers us a view down on to Yew Tree Farm which was the location for the 2006 film Miss Potter. The road falls steeply downhill, so narrow that it is one way, for no other vehicle could pass without tumbling to their doom, and takes us through enchanted, shaded woodland. Emerging on to a more major road opposite Monk Coniston Hall. On the shore of Coniston Water, we stop to take in the view. From here we follow the lake shore until we are on the edge of the village before plunging back into the Yewdale Valley.
We are now on our way to your next destination but before arrive, the road takes us right past Yew Tree Farm once owned by Beatrix Potter, with its rare spinning gallery. The farms in this area, all owned by Beatrix Potter were where she, and her tenant farmers, bred her beloved Herdwick sheep. You will have a quick stop to snap some pictures.
We continue our drive back to the town of Ambleside where your guide will take you into the Armitt Library & Museum to see another aspect of Beatrix Potter’s life, that of the scientific researcher and illustrator. Your entry to the Armitt Library & Museum is included in the tour. Here you will see fascinating insights into Beatrix’s interest in mycology as a young woman illustrated by her stunningly detailed and beautiful illustrations which she bequeathed to the library in her will. You can also see the other museum exhibitions and browse the reference library full of rare and interesting books. This concludes the tour and so your driver will then take you to your drop-off points.
We can accept bookings up to 30 minutes before the departure time from your chosen pickup point, provided that we have availability.
You will not need to print anything out. Just book, read the confirmation email and wait at the pickup point!
Wray Castle is a National Trust owned friendly mock-Gothic castle on the shores of Lake Windermere with turrets, towers and informal grounds. Beatrix Potter was born and brought up in London and her parents took her on summer holidays to Scotland. However, when the house they usually rented became unavailable, they looked further south than Scotland, renting Wray Castle on the shores of Windermere instead. Beatrix was 16 when they stayed here in 1882. Her parents entertained many eminent guests, including Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, one of the founding members of The National Trust. His views on the need to preserve the natural beauty of the English Lake District had a lasting effect on the young Beatrix, who had fallen in love with the unspoilt beauty surrounding her new-found holiday home.
Your admission to Hill Top and Gardens is included in the tour.
Step back in time and visit the home of one of the Lake District’s most famous residents – author Beatrix Potter. Hill Top is a 17th century farmhouse located in the tiny village of Near Sawrey that tells the story of her life before she married. Her love of the surrounding countryside was the inspiration for many of her famous “little books”.
Explore this fascinating house, typical of the Lakeland style with its stone walls and slate roof, appearing just as if Beatrix has just stepped out of it herself. Each room contains a reference to a picture in a tale – the house, farm and nearby villages all feature in her books including The Tale of the Pie and Patty Pan, The Tale of Tom Kitten, The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck, The Tale of Samuel Whiskers and The Roly Poly Pudding.
The lovely cottage garden is a haphazard mix of flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables. Make your way up the garden path to the front door and see for yourself why Beatrix loved this place. She bought the house in 1905 following the success of her first book, the Tale of Peter Rabbit, as a retreat away from her bustling London home and left it to the National Trust following her death. It is now a Grade II listed building and a popular place for fans of her books to visit, almost three million people have walked through the six rooms at Hill Top.
Esthwaite Water is one of the smaller and lesser known lakes in the Lake District national park, yet Beatrix Potter commented “I have often been laughed at for thinking Esthwaite Water the most beautiful of lakes. It really strikes me that some scenery is almost theatrical, or ultra-romantic”. Esthwaite Water is also the location where she created one of her most beloved characters, Jeremy Fisher.
Wordsworth was particularly fond of Esthwaite Water because he went to the Grammar school at Hawkshead and used the lake for recreation and inspiration, capturing its many moods in his prose. The lake was mentioned as the location where he conversed with a friend in his poem, “Expostulation and Reply,” part of Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads and, in the same collection, it is the location for “Lines Left Upon A Seat In A Yew-Tree.”
Today, the lake covers around 280 acres (1.1 km2) and is known for its excellent fishing, particularly trout and pike. It is also the home of ospreys, otters and red kites and has been designated as a site of special scientific interest.
Hawkshead is a picturesque old medieval village on Esthwaite Water, set midway between Ambleside and Coniston. There are whitewashed cottages around the central square of the village, and many narrow, cobbled alleys and archways running between the various properties. The lack of street signs can be rather confusing but you will have a short walking tour with your guide when you arrive to help you find your way among the labyrinth of alleyways and ginnels. Many of the buildings have decorative features, ranging from pretty window boxes to carved gargoyles in the eaves of some of the cottages. You will have some time to enjoy this delightful medieval village at your leisure. Known as the “Prettiest village in the Lake district” you can browse the shops and buy your souvenirs or just sit and relax soaking up the atmosphere in the many café’s and inns.
The church of St Michael, which overlooks the village, has an interesting 16th Century altar tomb. It also has illustrated versions of some of the psalms and other quotations painted on the walls during the 17th and 18th Centuries.
On the main street is the Beatrix Potter Gallery, displaying art work by the author in the former office of her solicitor husband, William Heelis.
The poet, William Wordsworth, lodged in the village and attended the Grammar School here between 1778 and 1783. The old school is open to visitors and there is a desk on which the young vandal carved his initials.
The Beatrix Potter Gallery
Your admission to the Beatrix Potter Gallery and the exhibitions is included in the tour. For anyone who has ever been enchanted by Beatrix’s endearing characters, the gallery is the place to go to marvel at these miniature masterpieces. This unique space occupies a 17th-century building which served as the office of Beatrix’s solicitor husband and has a yearly rotating exhibition of her artwork and manuscripts.
Tarn Hows is one of the most visited spots in the English lake District, and in high season can be literally packed with people. It is a beauty spot that must not be missed, yet is not entirely typical of the local landscape, for the tarn is partly artificial, being three tarns joined together in the 19th Century, and most of the trees surrounding it are conifers.
The attraction is its sheer beauty, surrounded by thick woodland, and views towards Wetherlam, the Helvellyn range and the Langdale Pikes.
Monk Coniston Estate
In 1929, when Beatrix Potter was 64 years old, the Monk Coniston Estate came up for sale. The estate consisted of 2500 acres of land around the head of Coniston Water. It consisted of the well-known beauty spot Tarn Hows, seven farms including Yew Tree, Boon Crag, High Arnside, High Tilberthwaite and High Yewdale, as well as cottages, quarries and open fell land. She sold the half containing Tarn Hows to the National Trust, and bequeathed the rest of the estate to the Trust in her will.
Yew Tree Farm
Yew Tree Farm has been much photographed, drawn, and filmed. Its most picturesque feature is the spinning gallery along the front of the old barn. It was used for drying rather than spinning the wool of the Herdwick sheep. Such galleries were not uncommon until the early 1900’s, but since then have become something of a rarity.
Yew Tree Farmhouse is partly of 17th Century date or earlier, with a new end added in 1743. This date, and the initials of the then owner, George Walker, are cut in the ironwork of the front door. The farm gets its name from a yew tree which was believed to be at least 700 years old before it blew down in 1896.
The farmhouse may look rather familiar to some of you as it was used as the location for Hill Top, Beatrix Potters house, in the 2006 film “Miss Potter” starring Renée Zellweger in the lead role.
Armitt Library & Museum
Your admission to the Armitt Library & Museum is included in the tour. The Armitt is a new purpose-built home for the Mary Armitt Collection; a collection of books, manuscripts, watercolours, archaeological remains, geological specimens and assorted paraphernalia associated with this lovely part of the Lake District.
The Armitt Library was founded in accordance with the will of Mary Louise Armitt and the wishes of her two sisters, ‘to create a collection of books of scientific, literary and antiquarian value’ for the ‘student and book-lover’. Eventually it was transformed into a small but culturally significant museum. It was opened in 1912, and embodied the old 1828 Ambleside Book Society, of which William Wordsworth had been a member, and the Ambleside Ruskin Library, founded by Hardwicke Rawnsley in 1882 with the active support of John Ruskin.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Armitt sisters lived at Rydal Cottage, next to Rydal Church. Here they enjoyed the company of many artists and writers, including the Victorian polymath John Ruskin, the poet Robert Browning and the poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold, who lived nearby.
There is an exhibition space containing a variety of interactive experiences, and a reference library containing the collection of rare books.
An area is devoted to Beatrix Potter, with her desk just as she would have used it to paint her watercolour pictures, and the surrounding walls displaying for the first time some of her natural history watercolours. In 1934 Beatrix gave many of her watercolours and drawings of fungi, mosses and fossils to the Armitt Library. She had become a member on her marriage to William Heelis in 1913, and he was their solicitor since it was established in 1912.