Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Beatrix Potter's Lake District

© National Trust

Don't worry, I don't intend to recap my whole vacation on my blog, but since so many of you are artists and book lovers (especially children's books), I'm sharing some things related to those passions. 

Here we go! After Oxford (the previous post), we hit the road to head up to the Lake District. (Actually, we toured Blenheim Palace and Warwick Castle, but I can only bore you with share so much here.) I was still a bit nervous about being a passenger on the left side of the car, but sights like this lightened things up...

click to enlarge all photos...

...as did a stop at a service center—so much fun to peruse a British candy aisle.

Arriving in lovely Windermere, we drove right onto the ferry to get to Near and Far Sawrey, Beatrix Potter's stomping grounds. She was actually quite instrumental in preserving much of the land that is now part of the Lake District National Park—just another reason to love her! We stayed in a beautiful inn called Ees Wyke Country House, and the scenery was breathtaking. Miss Potter actually stayed here on holiday:
"It was taken for granted that the two young Potters would continue to accompany their parents on holiday even when they were grown up, and Beatrix was nearly thirty when they all went to Sawrey for the first time in 1896. The property that Rupert Potter took that year on the edge of the village was a large country house, Lakefield, which by their return in 1900 had been renamed Eeswyke or 'house on the shore'. From the pretty garden there was the magnificent view over Esthwaite Water to the hills of Coniston beyond, and behind the attractive whitewashed house was a bustling farm with sheep and cows and pigs. Beatrix took her pet rabbit, Peter, with her, the coachman took his cat, and during their stay Beatrix and Bertram drew and painted, went for long walks on the fells or drove round the district in the pony and trap."
—from the National Trust book, Beatrix Potter and Hill Top

The owners of the inn have two friendly Old English sheepdogs, Harry and Teddy, which made the place even more charming. Sitting outside, you could hear the sheep on the hillside...it was idyllic, to be sure.

A little weary of braving the driving on very narrow country roads, the next day we decided to skip the trip to the Pencil Museum in Keswick, and relax and enjoy this area. Sawrey and Hawkshead are full of Potter lore, and none of it is overly tourist-y, amazingly enough.

It was just a short walk up the road from the inn to visit Hill Top House, Beatrix Potter's home. There's hardly a wooden or metal fence to be found anywhere in this area. Just miles and miles of these gorgeous stone walls:

We passed this little inn, the Tower Bank Arms...

which can be seen in this illustration from The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck:

©Frederick Warne & Co.
We arrived at Hill Top House, knowing that the house was closed on Fridays (as I mentioned in this previous post), but the grounds and gardens were open. It turned out to be a great time to visit, since there were fewer people.  It was a beautiful day, and so many of her stories and illustrations went through my head as we wandered through this charming place. You can see glimpses of the house and garden in many of her illustrations:

both illustrations from The Tale of Tom Kitten 
©Frederick Warne & Co.

from The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck
©Frederick Warne & Co.

We then drove into nearby Hawkshead, where her husband's former office has been converted to a museum and gallery by the National Trust. Seeing her original artwork was nothing short of amazing. I didn't take pictures in there, but I did manage to take a few of our lunch that followed!

Sigh...we could have stayed for weeks in the magnificent Lake District. But, we had a train to catch...

The last "travel post" will follow soon: a quick recap of Paris and London. I know, no one needs to see another photo of someone standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. I'll keep it blogging/art/book related, I promise!

Note: Just after I published this post, I saw a great piece on today's Buzzfeed: 11 Reasons Beatrix Potter was the Most Charming Pen Pal Ever. It's wonderful...check it out here.


  1. Oh Sarah! I'm just a teeny bit jealous, as you might imagine. I adore Beatrix Potter. Your photos and commentary are all quite wonderful and it is pretty spectacular to see the same elements in her artwork as in the photos! Thank you for the recap! By the way, I think I would love to see a photo of you in front of the Eiffel Tower and, if you don't want to put it on your blog, feel free to post it on my FB page);)

  2. I like the way you put the illustrations with the photos. What a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us :)

  3. If I hadn't gone on an epic trip of my own this year to Kiwi Land, I'd say I'd be *terribly* jealous, indeed! Beatrix is one of my top ten fave illustrators, and I often dream of visiting her farm one day.

    So glad you got to go. :)

    P.S. I just realized that my subscription to your lovely blog had somehow been dropped, so I re-subscribed via e-mail; hopefully I won't miss any more posts from now on!