The great houses, traditional buildings, beautiful gardens and industrial landmarks that bring Lakeland’s past back to life
The Lake District’s landscape has inspired many of the world’s great artists and writers. But it’s also surprising to remember that the early industrial revolution began in Lake District’s coppices and mines, and that many parts of its towns and villages were built for rich industrialists and factory workers to holiday in.
Here are a few of our favourite Lakeland places that bring this rich heritage back to life, and which have inspired us too.
Britain's finest Arts & Crafts Movement house was designed in 1898 by Hugh Bailey Scott as a holiday retreat for the Holt Manchester brewing family. The interiors are a rich blend of beautiful carved oak panelling, plasterwork, painted tiles, stone arches, stained-glass galleries, and painted silk wall coverings. Colours, patterns and textures change from room to room, blending with each other, and with the superb views across Lake Windermere. There's a shop with a good selection of Arts and Crafts books, a small exhibition area, and a stylish tea room with a terrace overlooking the lake. Blackwell is a favourite with our own family visitors – we've been dozens of times, and we always love it.
Ruskin was an artist, writer and thinker who changed our world. His ideas influenced Tolstoy and Ghandi, and his art inspired William Morris and Frank Lloyd Wright. So it's no surprise that his home for the second half of his life should have a resonance to still affect us all. Set in newly-restored gardens looking across Coniston, Brantwood allows us to experience Ruskin's art and words in the rooms where he lived and worked. We love everything here: the house, the exhibits, the wonderful gardens, the magnificent views, and Jumping Jenny's café.
Beatrix Potter faithfully copied the interiors of many traditional Lakeland farms and cottages as the basis for her children's book illustrations, and here you can see her own original farmhouse that she lovingly restored and worked on for almost 40 years. It's now a shrine to Beatrix Potter – but one that she set up for herself, with all her treasured possessions preserved exactly as she wished. Only six rooms, but a great deal to see: carved oak furniture, china, local paintings, William Morris wallpaper, and even the dolls house that appears in The Tale of Two Bad Mice.
The simple and tiny cottage where William Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy from 1799 to 1808, and where he wrote much of his greatest poetry. A truly magical place. Can be very busy in summer – next door is the Wordsworth Museum and Jerwood Centre, a modern extension with a terrific exhibition and events program reflecting the Lake District's major significance in English poetry and literature.
A secluded delight, with breathtaking views across Windermere and the Southern Fells, quietly situated just off the Patterdale Road about a half hour walk from Fellside Studios. There's a classic walled garden, several Victorian alpine glasshouses, a pond, a cascade and a tarn, and countless (carefully labelled) varieties of shrubs, flowers and trees, including several National Collections – all maintained by volunteers. There's absolutely nowhere else like it. It's open all hours, every day of the year. It's completely free, just a donation box, and it's often blissfully quiet.
One of Britain's greatest gardens. Over 25 acres of still evolving, and beautifully maintained formal gardens, set in 200 acres of open parkland. Lovely fountains, fascinating Victorian garden layouts, breathtaking colours (especially in May), a lovely new wildflower meadow and labyrinth, and of course the magnificent Holker Great Lime tree (an awe-inspiring 7.9 metres in girth). You can also visit Holker Hall or its Motor Museum, but we'd more highly recommend the excellent tea room and restaurant.
Off the beaten track in Kendal, but well worth a visit, this little museum gives a vivid insight into Lakeland's past. Recreated Lakeland farmhouse rooms and workshops reveal how rural people lived and worked, and how different life was before machines replaced labourers and craftspeople. There are fascinating displays of Arts and Crafts cottage industries, including Langdale Linen, Ruskin Lace, the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, and (Brian's favourite) Stanley Davies furniture. Next door is Abbot Hall, one of Britain's best small art galleries, specialising in painters with Lake District connections, including Romney, Ruskin and Turner.
Also off the beaten track (about an hour's drive from Fellside Studios) this recently restored site is apparently the world's most complete surviving example of a charcoal-fired blast furnace. From 1736 to 1866 it used vast quantities of local charcoal from Furness coppice forests to produce pig iron for ship's anchors in Bristol. Now a peaceful and beautiful place, but once at the very heart of the Industrial Revolution.
Another reminder of the Lake District's industrial life just 200 years ago. Follow the progress of local coppiced wood on guided tours though this working bobbin mill, one of many in this area which supplied the Lancashire cotton industry in the 19th century.
A beautiful Arts & Crafts inglenook at Blackwell
The Wordsworth Trust runs arts events all year – everything from day courses to open-mic poetry evenings
The Magnolias at Holehird Gardens are amazing in May
Monica & Brian Liddell
Fellside House, Troutbeck, near Windermere, Cumbria LA23 1NN, England
Tel: 015394 34000