The Hidden Treasures of The Lake District
Things to do in Hawkshead to avoid the crowd
Hidden treasures in and around Hawkshead
It’s easy to see why Hawkshead has been voted one of the UK’s best places to live.
What with its higgledy-piggledy cobbled streets car-free centre, whitewashed stone houses – some dating back to the 17th century, and its illustrious literary connections.
This ancient village also boasts plenty of places to eat and drink and a plethora of independent shops and businesses – plus it has Esthwaite Water and other beauty spots on its doorstep.
But that does all mean it can get very busy with tourists at certain times of the year. Venture just outside the village though and you’ll find plenty of interest to keep you occupied.
A Quaker landmark
Once you’ve looked at the 16th century Hawkshead Grammar School (now a museum) and seen William Wordsworth’s name carved into his wooden desk, head out east of the honey pot and enjoy the short walk to the small hamlet of Colthouse – notable for being home to one of the oldest Quaker Meeting Houses in Cumbria. Grade II listed and built in 1688, the whitewashed, two-room (meeting room and schoolroom) house is set within walled grounds.
Nearby is a Quaker burial ground which is even older than the Meeting House, and one of the first to be solely reserved for Quakers. Just west of the burial ground, look out for an isolated tree, known as the Hanging Tree, by the bridge at Black Beck – it was here that the local gibbet stood in the 17th century.
A church with a view
Before you head back into the bustle of Hawkshead, take some time to look Grade I-listed St Michael and All Angels Church, which overlooks the village and boasts superb views of Claife Heights, Latterbarrow and the Langdales.
Originally built in around 1300 on the site of a Norse chapel, most of what survives today is from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Inside you’ll find 17th and 18th century scripture texts adorning the whitewashed walls.
Don’t forget to take a moment to admire the beautiful war memorial in the churchyard. Erected in 1919, it was designed by the acclaimed artist W.G Collingwood and sculpted by his daughter – it was relatively rare for a war memorial to be sculpted by a female artist, adding an extra layer of interest to this beautiful memorial.
Hit the heights – Claife Heights
A bit further afield (about four miles from Hawkshead – you can walk if you’re feeling energetic) but well worth a visit is Claife Heights and its Victorian viewing station on the western shore of Windermere.
Restored by the National Trust, it offers fabulous panoramic views of Windermere and the fells beyond on two floors. On the top floor, you’ll find colourful stained-glass panels to look at the view through – the colours are said to help you imagine the vista in different weather conditions through the seasons.
Originally built in the Gothic style in 1790 so that wealthy tourists could rock up in their carriages to admire the scenery, and hold lavish dinners and dances, it later fell into disrepair until the National Trust stepped in and spruced it up so that modern visitors could enjoy the views too.
There are no dinners and dances these days, but local legends Joey’s Café down in the courtyard below do mean brews and scrummy cakes.
One of the quieter and smaller lakes, and Beatrix Potter’s favourite, privately owned Esthwaite Water is located south of Hawkshead between two of the Lake District’s watery big hitters – Coniston Water and Windermere, but it more than holds its own as a place of interest, especially if coarse fishing is your thing, with trout and pike aplenty to be caught from boat or bank.
Prefer feathers to scales? Then book on an osprey safari (April to September) around the lake to catch a glimpse of the resident raptors as they hunt for brown trout.
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