The village of Grasmere in the Lake District was described by William Wordsworth (who lived in a nearby hamlet and is buried at St.Oswald’s church in Grasmere) as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”. I think that this photograph shows that it is still very lovely. It was taken by my husband a few years ago and is very much better than any I that I took of the same area last week. The chairs that you can see on the left of the bridge belong to what used to be called The Rowan Tree Cafe. It is now known as the Grasmere Tea Gardens but we visited many times as the Rowan Tree and still refer to it as such. It’s always first on our list to visit when in the area. The small terrace is such a lovely spot to sit with a scone and a cup of coffee so, of course, we did just that! I am told that the coffee and walnut cake was not as good as mine! The scone, I have to say, was perfect: slightly warm, crumbly but not so that it falls apart, and plenty of fruit. I do prefer the jam (blackcurrant as a first choice) and cream in little dishes though.
When in Grasmere we never go home without a packet or two of Sarah Nelson’s gingerbread from the tiny cottage in the centre of the village. Although it can be bought online (and they apparently have regular customers all over the world), since it was first made in 1854, this shop is still the only one that sells it directly. It is quite unlike any other gingerbread – sweet, spicy, crisply biscuit-like to bite and yet chewy in the eating. An extra pack was purchased for my friend Jayne who always returns the favour when she visits the area. Chef Jamie Oliver is apparently a great fan too.
Rydal water is one of the smaller lakes and my favourite. It sits between Ambleside at the north end of Windermere and Grasmere lake. It is incredibly peaceful to sit beside it. It is not directly accessible by car and access is through a gap in a wall (!). If you are prepared walk around a quarter of a mile, I am happy to give detailed directions. The stunning view when you walk over the rise and come upon the lake almost as a surprise never fails to awe me.
We parked by the local church which is opposite Rydal Mount. The gardens here, both formal and wooded, are well worth a visit and the waterfall is very pretty.
Whilst most of the places we visited are villages, Ambleside is a small town. Situated at the northern end of Lake Windermere, it is hugely popular with the serious walkers (one of which I am not). It is an appealing, typical Cumbrian town with lots of local stone buildings and some interesting shops. Over the years we have eaten in many of the restaurants (Lucy’s is fab and highly recommended) and cafes.
Ambleside boasts the smallest of the National Trust properties – the 17th Century Bridge House shown below, was once home to a family of eight. It is truly tiny. I reckon they’d have had to sleep standing up, or perhaps in relays!
Do let me know if you have visited the area and which are your favourite places.