The Southern Lakes

The Southern Lakes

The Southern Lakes

The Southern Lakes

Windermere, Coniston, Rydal Water, Grasmere and Esthwaite Water are in the south, with Windermere being the obvious best seller as well as being the biggest. Windermere is not really a mountain lake at all. It is 101/2 x 11/4 miles with some rather tame scenery to the south but, with hills as a rising background, and wooded, meadowed shores, it is in contrast to some of the higher tarns and lakes with their more wild scenery. Close to Windermere, Grasmere and Rydal are smaller by far but 1 particularly like the slightly theatrical setting of Grasmere. Windermere has all sorts of water sports available and all manner of craft for hire. There is a Steamboat Museum, a Model Railway Exhibition, Riding School, Grass ski centre, walks, trails and cycles to rent, as well as trips on the lake. Also open in the summer months is the Belle Isle, an inhabited island on the lake with a round Georgian house built in 1774 on the 38 acre island. Now there are guided tours. Coniston Water has the lovely renovated steam yacht Gondola with its elegant saloons. Above the west shore is Coniston Old Man, craggy and scarred, but graceful. And around the area:

Hill Top, Sawrey, the former home of Beatrix Potter, Mrs William Heelis, contains a collection of first editions, original drawings, furniture and china. Brantwood, on the east shore of Coniston, Ruskin’s ‘view across the lake’, with his boat Jumping Jenny, his coach, paintings and drawings. Also nearby is the Ruskin Museum, Coniston. Doll’s Museum at Ambleside has a dozen dolls’ houses and a lovely assembly of dressed dolls.

Dove Cottage and Wordsworth Museum, Grasmere, where the poet lived from 1799 to 1808 and Rydal Mount, where he lived from 1813 to 1850. Has some Wordsworth relics, personal posses-sions, first editions. There are 41/2 acres of lovely garden land-scaped by him.

Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre, Hawkshead covers almost 9,000 acres with a 230 seat timber theatre whjh attracts artists of calibre. The other compelling reason for visiting the forest is to experience the Grizedale Forest Sculpture Project set up in 1876 since when a number of sculptors have contributed to it.

Hawkshead Courthouse is a small museum of local interest. 15th century, founded in 1585, it is where Wordsworth went to school. Lake District Heritage Centre at Ambleside is a permanent ‘Lakeside Heritage’ exhibition. Stagshaw Gardens, Ambleside. A good, wide collection. Spring and summer are best. There are lake views too.