Grasmere is the last village before the main 'A' road heads north 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 it’s own small lake.
The name is thought to come from the Norse Grisemere (Lake of The Swine) where the surrounding forest was used to herd pigs.
As these forests were hewn down, probably for charcoal, sheep were introduced as a main source of economy, and it is these woolly-mowing machines that give all our fells that carefully manicured appearance.
A pretty little village it is a jumble of cafes, hotels, shops and houses with, at its centre, St Oswald's Church. It is here you will find Wordsworth’s grave, which has become a bit of place of pilgrimage. Arriving in turbo charged tour buses, complete with in-flight stewardess and minibar, the faithful come by the thousands to pay homage to the great man, however this does make the village a bit crowded with day-trippers.
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, passing away in 1850. Alongside his grave are those of his sister Dorothy, his daughter Dora and other members of his family.
During his later life he fought hard, and won, a battle to stop the railway driving its way from Windermere to Grasmere. He strongly opposed the possibility of floods of tourists visiting such a beautiful area, one of which he thought only he and his group of fellow artists and scribblers could fully appreciate. Ironic then that this rather pompous stance should become his petard, his own fame producing the reverse effect, drawing hoards not only to his beloved lakes, but to tramp around his modest grave.
The village has a quite few shops, mainly souvenir and art, but does have some excellent dining, the best being the Jumble Room hosted by Andy and Chrissie Hill.
Walks are abundant, varied and very beautiful, where the mere is accessible from the village.
Shopping - Dining - Entertainment
Most of the shops are given over to souvenirs, jumpers and outdoor clothing, with a chemist, a newsagent and a perfumery. At the entrance to St Oswald's is the tiny Gingerbread Shop. Once the village school, it was taken over in the mid 19th century by Sarah Nelson, famed for her spicy confection where to this day the recipe remains a closely guarded secret.
The Heaton Cooper Gallery is well worth a visit, if only to look rather than buy the works of this noted watercolour artist. The Garden centre has both a good collection of plants and a huge gift shop well worth rummaging around, this along with decent cafe.
There are plenty of restaurants, pubs and cafes, most notable the Jumble Room. Hosted by Andy and Chrissy Hill, the atmosphere, cuisine and their great personalities have taken food buffs by storm. The cafe is an eclectic mix of tables, chairs and settles strewn with cushions. The food is excellent, mixing good English with French and Italian, washed down with fine wines or local bottled beer. Rave reviews, backed up by an AA Rosette, mean you are wise to book in advance.
All in all there are about fifteen eateries along with the hotels, the best being the Wordsworth. See the speed guide for more places but do go on line for reviews.
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 imprtant to the village as ever, with local children bearing sheaves and woven shapes of rushes and flowers through the village. Six Rush Maidens carry an embroidered linen sheet dressed with rushes, and the procession ends with a service in the rush-strewn church.
The second event is the Grasmere Sports. These include the Guides Race where agile men run up impossible fells, hound trailing and, most popular, Cumberland & Westmoreland wrestling. Attired in the traditional dress of long johns and velvet pants, large men do battle. Various intricate moves are made such as hypes and cross buttocks in order to throw your man to the floor.
Out And About - Local Walks - Activities
The buildings of Grasmere are mostly 19th or early 20th century but blend well with older structures and many are worth exploring.
The Church, dating from the 13th century, is a good solid building with thick stone walls and sits by the river. Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home, lies on the edge of the village and is open to the public where in winter, with the fire lit, 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 nice 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 in the footsteps, or more correctly, the wake of Wordsworth, by sculling out to the island for a picnic.
From the village you will find easy access to some of the finest walks. From the Easedale Road a track takes you up to Easedale Tarn, a pleasant low-level walk suitable for most people.
A little more challenging is to attempt Helm Crag, known locally as the Lion and the Lamb. It is a steep climb but has stunning views.
South of the village, along Red Bank, you come to Loughrigg Terrace, where you can continue with a walk around Rydal Water. A perfect lake and one of my favourites, do take a picnic, take your time and take a camera.
Lake District Cottages In And Around The Grasmere Area
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