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Hawkshead lies in the Vale of Esthwaite, surrounded by moorland where the scenery is some of the finest in the Lake District. To the south lies Grizedale Forest, with Lake Windermere to the east and Coniston to the west, putting this pretty little village right at the heart of the National Park.
It has an infectious charm that makes it one of the most popular villages in South Lakeland. Two interlinking squares lead off to a maze of little alleyways; the buildings are an eclectic mix of stone, timber and whitewash, many with eaves overhanging the pavements below.
Hawkshead has connections to two literary giants: Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth who, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature.
A mile or so from the Hawkshead are the two villages of Near and Far Sawrey. Situated by Esthwaite Water, these two conjoined little hamlets are famous for the former home of Beatrix Potter and The Tower Bank Arms, the only National Trust pub in the UK. All around are walks and treks, and iconic places such as Tarn Hows, Coniston Water and Ambleside.
Out and About
Popularity does bring a few downsides to small villages, often in the shape of gift shops at the expense of all others. Although Hawkshead has its fair share of this genre, it still retains a good chemist and post office, a village co-op, the Honeypot deli and the renowned Hawkshead Relish Company - created by Mark and Maria Whitehead, where from early beginnings in the kitchen at home, the brand has become international, winning a clutch of awards.
All the Gear
On the edge of the village is the Stewardson empire, run by Lee Stewardson. These two clothes shops have been here for years, one selling good outdoor gear, the other, quality classical fashion wear such as Burberry. Hawkshead Clothing is another large outlet selling mid-range affordable kit and last but not least, Summit Treks selling pro Gear and offering all manner of activities.
Red-y, Teddy, Go!
Sixpenny Bears is one of the largest teddy bear shops in the UK, and there is also Poppy Red who describe themselves as a pamper emporium of pottery, jewellery, clothes and cushions along with a rather nice café.
Pubs and Grub
There are four pubs of which we have sampled two; The Queens Head, a very Elizabethan looking structure serving both good food and ale and The Kings Head, in ‘The Square’, which has friendly staff, excellent beer and robust food. The starter of Yorkshire pudding, a great slab of gorgeous golden batter soaked in gravy, would set me up on its own.
If you widen your horizon you can track down the renowned Drunken Duck Inn. The Duck used to be a smoke-filled, sawdust on the floor, beer-swilling favourite of walkers and mountain climbers. Today it is a chic gastro pub, and the food is top quality. Its sister pub, the Punch Bowl Inn is in Crosthwaite.
The Towerbank Arms is a lovely traditional inn serving decent food and local ales. Its claim to fame is that it appears in the books of Potter, Beatrix, not Harry, as do many of the surrounding buildings of the villages.
After a walk what better treat is there than an ice cream on a warm day? The Little Ice Cream Shop is also in Hawkshead.
Locally there are a number of places to visit, even more activities and endless hours of glorious walks, treks and climbs.
Wordsworth and Potter
In Hawkshead, you can visit the old Grammar School where Wordsworth was educated. Look out for the desk that he carved his name into. In the square is the museum dedicated to Beatrix Potter. The building was her husband’s solicitor’s office and has remained largely untouched since that time. At nearby Sawrey is Hill Top, Beatrix's home, which is arguably the Lake District’s most popular man-made visitor attraction. Over at Coniston is the Ruskin Museum, along with Brantwood House, home of John Ruskin, where you can see an exhibition of Ruskin's life and work.
Walks and Activities
For lovers of the great outdoors consider Summit Treks or Joint Adventures with outlets both in Hawkshead and Coniston. Professionals will take you rock climbing, abseiling, aqua-sailing, canoeing and mountain biking. Coniston Paragliding is another supplier of outdoor activities with a difference. If you’re in the Lakes though, you may want to go on the water. At the Coniston Boating Centre, you may hire all manner of craft from sailing boats to canoes, windsurfers to little motorboats, all there for you to have fun mucking about in and on the water.
Esthwaite Water lies a mile south of the village, a small tarn that is the home of the Hawkshead Trout Farm. You can hire fishing tackle, boats and bait, and spend a day catching a potential fish supper of rainbow trout. Alternatively, dine in one of the pubs and tell your friends about the monster that got away.
Tarn Hows is a short drive out of the village. A picture-perfect body of water surrounded by high fells and forest. The National Trust manage the tarn – they have installed a pathway that circumnavigates the tarn that is suitable for all. You could even hire a ‘Tramper’ electric scooter on-site from the NT. Also, add the challenging walks over Latterbarrow and Claife Heights to your outdoor itinerary.
The Grizedale Forest runs down the eastern shore of Coniston Water. This huge managed woodland has well laid out tracks that lead you on a wonderful nine-mile trek, passing many sculptures along the trail. The visitor centre has maps and guides, so you can get the best out of your time in the forest. There are some challenging mountain bike trails too, why not hire one on-site? Finally, there is Go Ape, a great tree top adventure - swinging, scrambling and zip wiring through the forest canopy, fun for all the family.
Hawkshead and Sawrey is a fabulous place with much to see. If you would like to find a holiday cottage to stay in in the area please visit our gorgeous selection.