Don’t Wear Pink At Muncaster Castle

Close to the coastal village of Ravenglass in the western Lake District, you’ll find the Pennington family’s home, an 1,800-acre estate that has witnessed battles, provided tomfoolery and graciously welcomed guests for over 800 years.

Muncaster Muncaster Castle stands on land that was granted to Alan de Penitone in 1208. Fifty years later, the castle was built on what is believed to be Roman foundations dating from 79 AD.

In 1325, a pele tower was added to protect against invasion from the Scots. Unique to the north of England, these towers are small stone buildings with thick walls, designed to withstand the sieges that characterized the time when King Edward I was determined to impose English rule on Scotland, and King Robert the Bruce led his fellow Scotsmen in fights to resist him.

In 1464, Sir John Pennington harbored the fugitive King Henry VI, who was found wandering nearby by shepherds after being defeated in the Battle of Hexham. In appreciation, the king gave Sir John his enameled green glass drinking bowl and said that as long as it remained intact, the Penningtons would prosper. Known as the “Luck of Muncaster,” it’s the family’s prized possession.

MuncasterThomas Skelton was the castle’s court jester in the 16th century. Better known as “Tom Fool,” he was the inspiration not only for the character in Shakespeare’s King Lear, but also for the word “tomfoolery.” Tom liked to sit under an ancient Spanish chestnut tree on the grounds and watch for travelers. Before a bridge was built in 1828, the only safe way to cross the River Esk was through the shallow fords below the castle. Travelers often asked Tom for directions. If they were rude, he sent them across the quicksands instead, to teach them better manners. If he liked them, he’d point out the fords. Tom’s ghostly spirit is said to still play tricks on visitors to Muncaster.

For centuries, visitors have been charmed by Muncaster.  The future King Edward VII proclaimed the view the most perfect in Europe. John Ruskin, the Victorian art critic, called it “the gateway to paradise.”

Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington, his daughter Iona, and her family still live at Muncaster, in a stately home with beautiful furniture, fine wood carvings, and paintings by Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough.  The two-story octagonal library and the dining room’s antique leather wallcovering embossed with gold leaf are something to see.

Outside, you can recharge at Creeping Kate’s Café, named for a racehorse once owned by the Penningtons.  You can relax on the terrace while watching for the herons that perch in the trees every afternoon.  And you can explore 70 acres of gardens, including a Japanese garden, hundreds of rhododendrons, a wildflower meadow and woods where bluebells and lilies flourish, and a garden where near-extinct native Himalayan trees and plants are cultivated.Muncaster
And then there’s the terrace. In the early 1780s, the first Lord Muncaster laid out this half-mile long promenade that offers beautiful views of Scafell Pike and the western Lakeland fells. Alternating yew pillars and box hedges provide protection from the winds.


Muncaster Castle is also involved in the conservation of owls and other birds of prey. In a partnership with the Hawk Conservatory Trust, it provides a home for Burrowing Owls, Harris Hawks, a Steppe Eagle, a Blue-winged Kookaburra, falcons, Hooded Vultures, a Boobook Owl, Yellow-billed Kites, a Barn Owl, a Tawny Owl, a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, a Brown Wood Owl, and a Great Grey Owl. Daily half-hour narrated programs teach visitors about owls and birds of prey as they fly overhead.

MuncasterA Hooded Vulture found our pink rain shoes so irresistible that he swooped down, landed in between us, gave them a close look, and spent a very long few minutes ensuring that we had a very warm welcome to Muncaster before flying back to his handler.

For more on Muncaster, see Gardens of the Lake District, by Tim Longville, and Houses of the Lake District, by Christopher Holliday.  Besides being a gracious host, Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington is an enthusiastic poet who has published three volumes of his work: Those Blue Remembered Hills; Last Post and Reveille; and Patrick of the Hills.

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Meg Whispered, “Don’t Forget To Visit Me And My Daughters When You Go To Castlerigg”

Stand around it, take in the view, and you’ll see why it inspired Romantic poets John Keats and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Castlerigg SCastleriggtone Circle is the “dismal cirque of Druid stones, upon a forlorn moor” that Keats described in Hyperion. It’s also one of the Lake District’s most popular attractions.

Located near Keswick, Castlerigg is a circle of 38 slate stones that was constructed around 3200 BC, making it one of the earliest stone circles in Britain. It measures 107 feet at its widest point and 97 feet at its narrowest point, and the heaviest stone is around 16 tons. Because of its irregular oval shape, it’s considered to be a very early stone circle. Most likely, it was used for ceremonies and as a place that Neolithic communities who farmed in the area used to gather and exchange items. Ceremonies continue there today around the time of the solstice, since the circle of stones is aligned with the sun.Castlerigg

Two massive stones flank the entrance to the circle. A rectangular group of stones, known as the Sanctuary, is thought to have been built later, as a way to focus attention on significant rituals or events taking place within a specific part of the circle.

Castlerigg is situated on the plateau of a hill. It offers dramatic views of the Thirlmere Valley and the mountains of Helvellyn and High Seat, some of the highest peaks in Cumbria.  As you take in the scene, you’ll likely see several sheep wandering around in between the stones.

LLong Meg and Her Daughtersong Meg and her Daughters is another large Bronze Age stone circle located near Penrith. Long Meg is a red sandstone monolith that’s 12 feet tall and is decorated with spirals and rings of concentric circles. She stands 80 feet to the southwest of the circle made by her 59 stone “daughters.” While it was probably created as a gathering place, like Castlerigg, legend has it that the stones were once a group of witches who were turned to stone by a Scottish wizard. If you count the number of stones in the circle correctly, it’s said that you can hear Meg whisper.

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Make A Beatrix Potter Pilgrimage To The Lake District

She was an imaginative storyteller, a talented illustrator, a smart entrepreneur, an enthusiastic farmer, an award-winning Herdwick sheep breeder, a committed conservationist and a generous philanthropist.

Beatrix Potter AttractionBeatrix Potter was an extraordinary person whose love for the Lake District has inspired many of her admirers to make pilgrimages to the Lakeland places that were so special to her.

As a child, Beatrix, her parents and her brother began vacationing in the Lake District, and the family tradition continued for more than 20 years. In 1882, the Potters rented Wray Castle, a showy Gothic-style house near Ambleside that was built in the 1840s by James Dawson, a retired surgeon from Liverpool.
Wray Castle

In 1911 and again in 1913, they stayed at Lindeth Howe, a summer holiday home a mile south of Bowness-on-Windermere that was built for a mill owner in 1879. While staying here, Beatrix illustrated The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes and The Tale of Pigling Bland; her amateur photographer father, Rupert, took many photographs of the house and gardens that are now displayed there.  After Rupert died in 1915, Beatrix bought Lindeth Howe for her mother, Helen, who lived there until 1933. Today, it is a wonderful hotel where I stayed for the first week of my third Potter pilgrimage.

Lindeth Howe

Guests can relax on the terrace overlooking six acres of gardens, enjoy afternoon tea and scones served on slabs of slate in the hotel’s sitting room and lounges, read books about Beatrix Potter and the Lake District in the library, and visit a flock of zebra finches in the aviary, a feature that dates back to when Mrs. Potter lived in the house. The best part of staying in room 209 of the hotel was this picture-perfect view of Lake Windermere and the fells beyond.View of Lake Windermere from Lindeth Howe

Shortly after the death of her fiancé, Norman Warne, 39-year-old Beatrix used a small inheritance, together with her royalties from The Tale of Peter Rabbit and six more of her books, to buy Hill Top Farm as a holiday retreat in 1905. In the years that followed, she bought one Lake District farm after the other, creating a significant holding of over 4,000 acres of land that she would eventually give to the National Trust. But Hill Top was always her favorite.Hill Top

Located near the village of Sawrey, Hill Top’s farmhouse is filled with Beatrix’s favorite possessions, still arranged just as she left them. At this charming place, you can recognize some of the iconic scenes from her books, like the staircase where Tabitha Twitchit stood in The Tale of Tom Kitten, the oak dresser that Anna Maria passed with her plate of dough in The Roly-Poly Pudding, the longcase clock seen in The Tailor of Gloucester, and the green-painted garden gate from The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck.

A path made from local Lakeland slate winds its way through the cottage garden, which Beatrix filled with lilies, hollyhocks, roses, phlox, saxifrage, Japanese anemones, snowdrops, daffodils and azaleas. She planted apple, pear and plum trees in the orchard. She created a walled vegetable garden and built an oak trellis to support espalier apples.

Hill Top

Beatrix was a member and benefactor of the Armitt Library and Museum in nearby Ambleside, donating over 120 books from her father’s library, her watercolors of Roman artifacts in the museum’s collection and a portfolio of her natural history drawings. Items from the Armitt’s Beatrix Potter archive are displayed in “Image & Reality: Beatrix Potter,” an exhibition that explores her life.

Beatrix Potter fungi watercolor, Armitt Museum

The three Armitt sisters – Sophia, Annie and Mary Louisa — had many intellectual interests, and were well-traveled. Sophia was an artist and botanist.  Annie was a published novelist, a poet and a writer of short stories. Mary Louisa, the youngest, studied musicology, ornithology and social history.  In 1909, they founded a library in Ambleside as a resource for local scholars, and it formally opened in 1912. The library houses one of the best collections of guidebooks to the Lake District, local history books, mountaineering volumes from the Fell and Rock Climbing Club of the English Lake District, and a number of rare items, including a 17th-century door to the Salutation Hotel in Ambleside that was removed in the 19th century and used to test brands made at a local blacksmith’s forge.

Door from the Salutation Hotel, Armitt MuseumAt The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere, you can walk through three-dimensional recreations of scenes from Beatrix’s books, virtually visit the Lake District places that inspired her, spend time in an outdoor garden that illustrates Beatrix’s work as a naturalist, shop for gifts inspired by Peter Rabbit and his friends, and take tea or lunch in a Beatrix Potter-themed tearoom. The attraction also created an award-winning Peter Rabbit Garden at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show.

Beatrix Potter Attraction

Miss Potter, the 2006 film about Beatrix Potter starring Renée Zellwegger and Ewan McGregor, includes several exterior location scenes that were filmed in the Lake District. The Lakeland slate farmhouse at Yew Tree farm, which Beatrix also owned, served as the exterior of Hill Top.

Some of my favorite books about Beatrix Potter and her connection to the Lake District are A Victorian Naturalist: Beatrix Potter’s Drawings from the Armitt Collection, by Eileen Jay, Mary Noble and Anne Stevenson Hobbs; “Beatrix Potter at Hill Top,” a chapter in The Writer’s Garden: How Gardens Inspired Our Best-Loved Authors, by Jackie Bennett, with photography by Richard Hanson; Beatrix Potter 1866-1943: The Artist and Her World, by Judy Taylor, Joyce Irene Whalley, Anne Stevenson Hobbs and Elizabeth M. Battrick; At Home with Beatrix Potter, the Creator of Peter Rabbit, by Susan Denyer; Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales, by Marta McDowell; Beatrix Potter’s Lakeland, by Hunter Davies; “The Two Lives and Two Legacies of Beatrix Potter,” an article by Deborah Robson and Donna Druchunas in the November/December 2010 issue of PieceWork; and The Making of Miss Potter: The Official Guide to the Motion Picture, by Garth Pearce.

For more on the Armitt sisters and their library, see The Armitts: Sophia and Her Sisters, by Barbara Crossley, and Rydal, by Mary Armitt.

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Nelson’s Gingerbread, Cooper’s Landscapes, Oswald’s Church and Wordsworth’s Resting Places Make Grasmere A Lovely Place

“The whole Vale of Grasmere suddenly breaks upon the view in a style of almost theatrical surprise, with its lovely valley stretching before the eye in the distance, the lake lying immediately below, with its solemn ark-like island of four and a half acres in size seemingly floating on its surface, and its exquisite outline on the opposite shore, revealing all its little bays and wild sylvan margin, feathered to the edge with wild flowers and ferns,” Thomas De Quincey eloquently remarked in his Reminiscences of the English Lake Poets.

Visit the Lake District village of Grasmere and you too might conclude that it’s a lovely place where you can sample some world-renowned gingerbread, take home a fine art print of one of this region’s many beautiful landscapes and pay tribute to a Poet Laureate.

In 1854, a 39-yeaSarah Nelson's Grasmere Gingerbread Shopr-old cook named Sarah Nelson began making a unique kind of gingerbread and selling it to villagers and travelers outside her home, Church Cottage, a tiny whitewashed cottage in the heart of Grasmere that dates to the 1630s, when it housed the village school. In 1869, she turned Church Cottage into a shop, expanding her offerings to include Helvellyn cakes, named after a Lakeland mountain. In nice weather, she sat outside and talked to her customers; during slow winter days, she sold spices and taught local children how to spell using gingerbread letters. She baked most of the gingerbread herself, even until she died at 88 in 1904. Today, people still line up outside the cottage to purchase the famous Grasmere Gingerbread, which is still made from Sarah’s recipe, wrapped in parchment, and marked “Sarah Nelson’s Sarah Nelson's Grasmere Gingerbread ShopCelebrated Grasmere Gingerbread.” The shop also sells its own version of Cumbrian rum butter (also known as hard sauce) and several ginger-themed treats and gifts, such as sticky toffee sauce, ginger beer and knitted gingerbread men.

In 2012, the Grasmere Gingerbread shop celebrated Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee by decorating and planting a wooden spoon outside the shop. More and more spoons were added, and the spoon garden has become a Grasmere attraction. Each month, the shop gives away a Grasmere Gingerbread mini-hamper to the person who submits the best-decorated wooden spoon reflecting a theme, a season or a special event. All of the best entries are planted in the spoon garden.

Sarah Nelson’s cottage is nestled besSt. Oswald's Church, Grasmereide St. Oswald Church, the parish church of Grasmere and neighboring Rydal and Langdale. The church was founded in 642 by King Oswald of Northumbria, who is said to have preached on this site as he promoted the spread of Christianity in Northumbria. Compassionate and generous to the poor and sick, Oswald was made a saint; his feast day is celebrated on August 3.St. Oswald's Church, Grasmere

In the 13th-century nave, you can see a memorial to William Wordsworth, as well as his prayer book.

Wordsworth planted eight of the yew trees in the churchyard, and he was buried underneath one of them after his death in 1850. His wife Mary, his sister Dorothy, his children and other family members are also buried here.

Heaton Cooper Studio, GrasmereThe Heaton Cooper Studio was established in 1905 by the landscape painter Alfred Heaton Cooper. His son, William Heaton Cooper, who was also an artist, built the present gallery in Grasmere in 1938. The studio also features the work of William’s wife, Ophelia Gordon Bell, a sculptor who is best known for her bust of Mount Everest climber Sir Edmund Hillary, and their son, painter Julian Cooper. Some of the most well-known paintings of Lake District landscapes were created by the Coopers.

Perched on a hillside above GrasAllan Bank, Wordsworth's home in Grasmeremere is Allan Bank, a Georgian home where William Wordsworth and his family lived from 1808 to 1811. It was sold in 1915 to Canon Rawnsley, the founder of the National Trust, who bequeathed it to the organization upon his death in 1920. Rescued from a large fire in 2011, the house was restored and opened to the public in 2012. The building was left undecorated so that visitors can help decide what it will look like in the future.

For more on Grasmere, read The Church of Grasmere: A History, by Mary L. Armitt. To discover the work of the Heaton Cooper family, see The Lakes, by W. Heaton Cooper; Wild Lakeland, painted by A. Heaton Cooper and described by MacKenzie MacBride; and The English Lakes, painted by A. Heaton Cooper and described by William T. Palmer.

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Take William Wordsworth’s Seat At The Hawkshead Grammar School

When you were a student, did you write your name on your desk?

William Wordsworth did, and you can still see it carved on one of the desks in the Old Grammar School in the English village of Hawkshead.

Hawkshead Grammar School

The school was founded in 1585 by native son Edwin Sandys during his tenure as Archbishop of York. It instructed boys in Latin grammar, Greek, arithmetic, geometry, and ancient and modern history. Tuition was free, but church attendance was mandatory.

Hawkshead Grammar School

The future poet attended the well-regarded school from 1779 until 1787. A succession of headmasters presided over the boys — including the brother of Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutiny on HMS Bounty — until the school closed in 1909.

Today, the school is preserved as a museum, where you can sit at the original desks on which the students traditionally carved their names. Inspirational sayings like “Small Service Is True Service While It Lasts” border the walls of the main classroom. Upstairs, one room recreates the headmaster’s study, while another room presents an exhibition relating to the history of the school, Sandys and Wordsworth.

Hawkshead Grammar School

While attending school in Hawkshead, Wordsworth stayed with Ann Tyson and her husband in their cottage on Vicarage Lane. It is said that his room was the one with the narrow rectangular window at the upper-right corner of the building.

Ann Tyson's cottage, Hawkshead

Founded by Vikings around 900 AD, Hawkshead became a center for the Lake District’s wool trade, where merchants conducted business in a market house that still stands on the main square. Weaving, tanning, carpentry and shoemaking were other local industries in the village, evidenced by a cobblestone street named “Leather, Rag and Putty Street.” A small stream flowed down Flag Street, named for the flagstones that covered the water as it coursed through the center of the village, providing water for residents. Many of the historic buildings have rounded corners, designed to allow horses and wagons to pass easily through the winding streets.


Other village landmarks include the parish church of St. Michael’s & All Angels, which has sat high on a hillock above the village since it was built in the 15th century. More recently, William Heelis, the husband of famed author and illustrator Beatrix Potter, practiced law in an office in Hawkshead. Today, it is the home of the Beatrix Potter Gallery, where the National Trust displays some of Potter’s original illustrations. Many of her drawings contain references to Hawkshead. Tabitha Twitchit’s shop was based on the building next door to Heelis’s office, and Johnny Town Mouse was inspired by Hawkshead’s doctor, a friend of Heelis’s who shared his love of golf.

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Visiting William Wordsworth’s Rydal Mount “Is No Small Event In The Life Of A Book Lover”

My heart beat fast as I climbed the hill. To visit the old home of one who was Poet Laureate of England is no small event in the life of a book lover. I was full of poetry and murmured lines from The Excursion as I walked. Rydal MountSoon rare old Rydal Mount came in sight among the wealth of green. I stopped and sighed.”

So wrote Elbert Hubbard, the founder of the Roycroft Arts and Crafts community in East Aurora, New York, on his visit to William Wordsworth’s home, Rydal Mount, which he described in his Little Journeys to the Homes of Good Men and Great.

Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, his wife Mary and their three children moved to Rydal Mount in 1813. The original cottage was built in 1574, one addition was made in 1750, and Wordsworth added a top floor in 1828, topped with an Italianate roof that he admired on one of his visits to Italy and one of the round chimneys that he favored.  Many of his neighbors copied his round chimney on their own homes as a tribute to him and his good taste.  Rydal Mount

The dining room features a portrait of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, given to the Wordsworths by Burns’ sons, a spice cabinet that has hung next to the fireplace since 1710, a Tibetan prayer gong, and chair seats needlepointed by Dorothy and Mary.

Rydal Mount

A portrait of Dorothy with her dog, Little Miss Belle, hangs above the fireplace of the drawing room.Rydal Mount

Wordsworth named a statuette in the drawing room for the “curious child holding a smooth-lipped shell to his ear” that he described in Book IV of The Excursion.Rydal Mount

In the neighboring room, he sat in his favorite cutlass chair, designed so that men sitting in it could draw their swords with either their left or their right hand.Rydal Mount

Books line the study, which led a Wordsworth family servant to famously quip, “This is my master’s library, but his study is out of doors.”

Rydal Mount

And what a study it is.  About 100 feet from the front door is a mound that dates back to the days of skirmishes between the English and Scottish people. When a Scottish invasion was imminent, the English lighted bonfires as a signal. Over time, the ashes from these fires formed mounds that became part of the topography of the land. The mound at this house in the Lake District village of Rydal gives Rydal Mount its name.Rydal Mount

Wordsworth built stone terraces on which he paced as he composed his poetry, chanting the words in time with his steps, just as he had done at Dove Cottage.  He also added natural water features to the garden, creating a series of waterfalls and strategically placing fern-covered rocks to divert the water and vary the sounds as it flowed from a nearby stream.Rydal Mount

The native trees that Wordsworth worked so hard to save still shade the grounds and perennial gardens, with their beautiful views of Lake Windermere and Rydal Water, the largest and smallest lakes in the Lake District, respectively.  Rare trees include a fernleaf beech that has been named to a champion tree list, a Japanese red cedar and a sycamore tree more than 230 years old. William planted a French medlar tree to remind him of the days he spent in France as a young man, and it still bears enough fruit for the home’s caretaker to make medlar jelly.

After William and Mary’s 42-year-old daughter, Dora, died of tuberculosis in 1847, her parents and her aunt Dorothy planted hundreds of daffodils in a neighboring field next to St. Mary’s Church in Rydal that they had purchased with the intent of building a home there. Every year, the ground becomes a vibrant yellow carpet when the daffodils honoring Dora bloom.Rydal Mount

For more on Rydal Mount, read Wordsworth’s Gardens, by Carol Buchanan.  It’s also mentioned in Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave, Simon Goldhill’s account of his literary pilgrimages.

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Plain Living and High Thinking Went On At William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage

I ducked inside the front door of a little white house and stepped into a dimly lit, low-ceilinged room with slate floors and diamond-paned windows. A crackling fire took the chill off and a portrait of a Border Terrier named Pepper hung on the opposite wall. “Oh, wow,” I whispered.

Dove CottageThis was Dove Cottage, the home where William Wordsworth wrote the poems that would make him famous. Talk about starting my trip to the Lake District with a bang.

In late 1799, William and his sister, Dorothy, rented a six-room cottage on the outskirts of Grasmere, England that had once been an inn called the Dove and Olive Bough. Here, the Wordsworths entertained their friends, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who penned the well-known line, “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink”; Robert Southey, who wrote The Story of the Three Bears; and Thomas de Quincey, the author of Confessions of an English Opium Eater who rented “the little white cottage gleaming from the midst of trees” after the Wordsworths moved and lived there for the next 27 years.

“Plain living and high thinking” went on at Dove Cottage, de Quincey said. The Wordsworths read aloud from the works of Spenser, Milton and Chaucer. They discussed books like Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. They carved their initials on a boulder behind the cottage, calling it the Rock of Names.

William Wordsworth's initials on the Rock of Names, Dove Cottage

They wandered the countryside, thinking nothing of walking dozens of miles a day. Dorothy collected wild thyme, foxgloves, ferns, English primroses, bluebells and columbine to plant in their garden. She sowed peas, turnips, radishes, broccoli, bistort and runner beans. Honeysuckle, sweet peas and roses climbed the cottage’s white walls to cover them, since William didn’t care for white houses.

On the hillside behind the cottage, they hewed from the granite a strategically placed resting spot known as “Dorothy’s Seat.”Dove Cottage

They also built stone terraces on that hill. William paced these level, smooth surfaces as he composed, chanting the words in time with his steps.Dove Cottage

And they wrote. While William composed the poems that would be regarded as the beginning of the Age of Romanticism, Dorothy filled four journals with accounts of how they spent their days. These now-famous Grasmere Journals provide such a vivid picture of the Wordsworths’ daily life that they were an invaluable resource during Dove Cottage’s restoration.Dorothy Wordsworth journal entry about daffodils, Wordsworth Museum

Dorothy’s most famous journal entry, dated April 15, 1802, inspired William’s famous poem, “I wandered lonely as a Cloud.”

I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing,” she wrote.

In October 1802, Dorothy and William’s childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson, married William and moved in.  Three of William and Mary’s five children were born in the cottage, sleeping in a small room once used to store wood. Dorothy pasted newspapers on the walls to make it warmer.Dove Cottage

The little house was no match for William’s growing family…and fame. They were vexed by how cramped and noisy it became and were inundated with visits by tourists. William cut a door out of the cottage’s back wall to escape the din. When he still was unable to concentrate, they built a moss hut at the top of the steep slope behind the cottage as a quiet retreat. After eight years, they moved on.

Dove Cottage

Next door, the Wordsworth Museum holds a renowned collection of Wordsworth artifacts, including clothes, personal objects, letters, journals and poems.

My favorites were the Pace Eggs that James Dixon, the Wordsworths’ gardener, decorated for their grandchildren between 1868 and 1878. If they weren’t cracked and eaten during breakfast on Easter Sunday, Pace Eggs were traditionally given to friends, used as household decorations, played with in games or shared with performers in northern English villages known as Pace Eggers.

Pace eggs, Wordsworth Museum

The collection also includes a copy of Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poetry by William and Coleridge that was first published in 1798 and is regarded as the beginning of the Romantic movement in English literature. The volume includes Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey.”

Dorothy’s journals provide a backstory to “Christabel,” a poem of Coleridge’s that was intended to be included in Lyrical Ballads until the friends had a spat. “Christabel” is first mentioned in an August 1800 entry, when Dorothy shares that Coleridge read it to them. In October, she records that William had determined not to print the poem in Lyrical Ballads.

The Wordsworths' copy of "Christabel," Wordsworth Museum

This torn page of the beginning of the preface of the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, printed in 1800, was a signal to the bookbinder to take “Christabel” out of subsequent copies of the book.Torn page, Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth Museum

Author Val McDermid researched the collection as part of his work on The Grave Tattoo, a murder mystery involving the connection between a tattooed body discovered on a Lake District hillside; Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutiny on HMS Bounty, and his schoolmate, William Wordsworth.  (To learn more, read “Val McDermid of Tattoos and Christian Fletcher,” from Shots, a crime and thriller ezine. )

For more on Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth Museum and its terrific gift shop, click here.

To delve into the Wordsworths, check out William Wordsworth and the Age of English Romanticism, by Jonathan Wordsworth, Michael C. Jaye and Robert Woof; The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Life, by Frances Wilson, and a March 22, 2009 NPR story about the bookThe Immortal Evening: A Legendary Dinner with Keats, Wordsworth and Lamb, by Dove CottageStanley Plumly; A Passionate Sisterhood: The Sisters, Wives and Daughters of the Lake Poets, by Kathleen Jones; “William Wordsworth at Cockermouth and Grasmere,” a chapter in The Writer’s Garden: How Gardens Inspired Our Best-Loved Authors, by Jackie Bennett; Cooking and Dining with the Wordsworths: From Dove Cottage to Rydal Mount, by Peter Brears; Reminiscences of the English Lake Poets, by Thomas de Quincey; The Lakeland Poets: In the Footsteps of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Others, edited by Andrew Pagett; Dove Cottage, in Little Journeys to the Homes of Good Men and Great, by Elbert Hubbard; Some Portraits of the Lake Poets and Their Homes, by Ashley P. Abraham; Wordsworth’s Gardens, by Carol Buchanan, with photographs by Richard Buchanan; and Delighted with Grasmere: An Idyll of the Vale, by Jane West.  Dove Cottage is mentioned in Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave, Simon Goldhill’s account of his literary pilgrimages. And “Ghosting Grasmere: The Musealisation of Dove Cottage” is a chapter in Literary Tourism and Nineteenth-Century Culture, edited by Nicola J. Watson.

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