Grasmere? Buttermere? Do you have time for only one mere this autumn? Then I choose Buttermere! (In case you are wondering, mere is the archaic word for lake.)
Grasmere Naturally, first time Lake District goers gravitate to Grasmere’s Gingerbread and the Wordworth’s Dove Cottage as they amble the store laden streets filled with fellow visitors on the way to the Wordworth’s grave at St. Oswald’s Church. Grasmere is a worthy stop and perhaps especially so if you’re a big fan of the Wordworth family and friends. (Personally I find Dorothy most interesting and in the Dove Cottage complex and museum bookstore there is a wonderful book to pick up & read: A Passionate Sisterhood by Kathleen Jones.) And you see, right there in that sentence, “book to pick up & read,” is the crux of the decision, in my humble opinion. I found Dove Cottage to be a most gratifying visit, however I feel I benefited from undertaking a stroll through several books (list below*) and researching some history. In fact, once you dive into the history of this gang, Grasmere suddenly takes on a stop of more than several days. Consider this. Among the many beautiful walks, you can hike the trail of the Greens of Grasmere who met with an accident one night in 1808 while walking from Langdale to their Grasmere home. In fact, the story of the Green family, in itself, is a dramatic tale. Can you enjoy Grasmere without the backstory? Certainly, but why miss the deeper meaning to the places visited.
For even the first time visitor, especially one moved by nature more than words, Buttermere is pure delight and I would skip Grasmere if not a big Wordsworth fan and time limited.
Buttermere Is it further especially if entering the Lake District from the south near Kendall? Is it faster if you are entering the Lake District from the north near Keswick? Will you have to travel roads sometimes small, sometimes curvy, sometimes filled with sheep? Yes to all. That’s just part of what makes the Buttermere journey so delightful. It’s a big step away from the hustle and bustle and a taste closer of once was. One might even say the Butteremere Ayrshires ice cream stop alone is worth the long drive, and it’s a definite stop after a walk. There’s a variety of high fell walks in and about Buttermere, yet for me, the best is the Buttermere lake walk; and if time, a double lake walk if taking in Crummock Water. Alone, Buttermere is a beautiful 4 to 5 mile walk regardless of weather, of course a sunny autumn day is spectacular. Peaceful and not quite as visitor filled, you can linger along the path to take in the natural quiet beauty while contentment mingles with contemplation. Buttermere’s Bridge Inn Hotel with their Walkers Bar is a perfect place to rest so you can enjoy another long wander the next day and visit Scale Force Waterfall (which is signposted from the hotel so it’ll be easy to find). Or stay at the Fish Hotel, once the village inn, made famous by the owner’s daughter, Mary Robinson, who became known as the “Maid of Buttermere” for her apparent captivating beauty. In 1792, Mary was written up as a Buttermere tourist attraction by a London newsman Joseph Budworth. And yes, William Wordsworth also wrote about the Maid of Buttermere in The Prelude.
Buttermere Lake Walk Tip: keep your dogs on a lead since you may encounter sheep. Starting clockwise will get the rocks and roots part out of the way first, or counterclockwise to start on a cleared path before encountering the rocks and roots.
So there are your choices, Wordsworth or walks. Which will you take?
*Wordsworth & the Lake Poets Reading List
- A Passionate Sisterhood, the sisters, wives and daughters of the Lake Poets by Kathleen Jones
- The Gang, Coleridge, the Hutchinsons & the Wordsworths in 1802 by John Worthen
- Wordsworth: Poems, from the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series (a greatest hits selection if you’re new to Wordsworth’s works)
- Recollections of the Lake and the Lake Poets by Thomas De Quincey (in addition to knowing Wordsworth, he actually lived at Dove Cottage for 10 years after Wordsworth left for the Rydal house)
- The Greens of Grasmere, a narrative by Dorothy Wordsworth