Grasmere is the last village before the main road that goes through the heart of the Lake District, weaves northwards to Keswick and the Northern lakes. Built on the old packhorse route to Whitehaven, the village is dominated by high craggy fells and sits by the shore of its own small lake. It's a pretty, little village with a jumble of cafes, hotels, shops and houses with St Oswald's Church at its centre.
The poet William Wordsworth came to Grasmere in 1799 and took residence at Town End, renamed it Dove Cottage and stayed for eight years before moving to Rydal Mount where he eventually passed away in 1850. It is here that you will find Wordsworth’s grave which has become a place of pilgrimage for literature enthusiasts. Alongside are those of his sister Dorothy, his daughter Dora, and other members of his family. You can still visit many places of historical interest associated with the life and works of Wordsworth, in the Lake District National Park.
Out and About
Many of Grasmere’s shops are given over to souvenirs, perfumeries and outdoor clothing, however, there is still a handy chemist and a local newsagent for essentials. At the entrance to St Oswald's is the tiny Gingerbread Shop, which was once the village school before it was taken over in the mid-19th century by Sarah Nelson, famed for her spicy confection and where to this day, the recipe remains a closely guarded secret. Currently, there are about fifteen eateries in Grasmere, the best being The Wordsworth.
Art and Jigsaws
The Heaton Cooper Gallery is well worth a visit where you are able to purchase the works of this noted watercolour artist. If you like jigsaws you are in luck because the UK’s most comprehensive shop is in Grasmere – it’s called Barney’s.
Each year there are two important village events. The now rare festival of rush bearing is held on the nearest Saturday to the 5th August. Dating back to medieval times, when rushes were annually gathered and strewn over the church floor to offer warmth, the ceremony remains as important to the village as ever, with local children seen ferrying sheaves and woven shapes of rushes and flowers through the village. Six Rush Maidens carry an embroidered linen sheet dressed down with rushes, and the procession ends with a service in the rush-strewn church.
Cumberland & Westmoreland Wrestling
The second event is the Grasmere Sports and Show which includes the Guides Race where agile men run up impossible fells, hound trailing and, most popular, the unusual spectacle - Cumberland & Westmoreland wrestling.
Walks and Activities
The buildings of Grasmere were mostly built in the 19th or early 20th century. There are some buildings that pre-date these including the 13th-century church. Also, Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home, lies on the edge of the village and is open to the public. In winter, with the fire lit and lighting down low, you get a real sense of what it must have been like in Wordsworth’s time. Next door to the cottage is a museum dedicated to both Wordsworth and life in Grasmere - there is a lovely tearoom selling books and gifts.
A short walk from the village centre brings you down to the lake. Here you can hire rowing boats and walk in the wake of Wordsworth, by sculling out to the island for a delicious picnic. From the village, you will find easy access to some of the finest walks around Grasmere. From the Easedale Road, a track takes you up to Easedale Tarn, a pleasant low-level walk suitable for people of all stamina. A little more challenging is the ascent to Helm Crag, known locally as the Lion and the Lamb. It is a steep climb but has stunning views to remember for a lifetime.
Grasmere is a great place to visit with much to see. If you feel inspired to go and see it for youself, please have look at some of our holiday cottages in the area.