My First Visit to The Lake District, Grasmere & Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm (rainy, but wonderful)
Monday May 20, 2024

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Perhaps similar to many other people, most who don’t live in Britain, my first introduction to the Lake District was through the writer, illustrator and conservationist Beatrix Potter. However, unlike some, while I now have become fond of her artistic talent, it was her life journey and story of acquiring thousands of acres of land in the Lake District and preserving the Herdwick breed of sheep, and upon her death bequeathing all of the land to the National Trust that captured my admiration and has provided immense inspiration.

Of course, being an English major in college and teaching secondary Language Arts, I became familiar and taught various poems and letters written by William Wordsworth, the father of the Romantic movement, who called Grasmere and then nearby town Rydal Mount home for his entire life. But I must be completely honest, it is Ms. Potter, or Mrs. Heelis (as she went by her husband’s name in her personal life when living in the Lake District upon marrying William Heelis) who has cemented my fascination and caused my determination to visit and see with my own eyes this special place of Mother Nature’s creation (Here is a post written four years ago after reading Potter’s biography that shares 20 Life Lessons I Learned from Beatrix Potter).

And so, navigated by proximity to the Lake District in the county of Cumbria (NW England), I selected a vacation rental a couple of years ago (I will post about that later this week), and noted that it was approximately a 90 minute drive to the closest lake. My plans for this trip began from this point, and thinking it wise to hire a guide to take me on a hike so I didn’t get lost and could thoroughly enjoy and see more of the district, learning as I walked, I reached out to a couple of recommended guides.

I chose Gordon Lightburn who now in his late 50s/early 60s had been raised in the Lake District, leaving only for a decade or so in his young adult years, and returning to run his guide business. It will be his voice you will hear in the video I will share below (and do listen closely as you will hear him share lovely tidbits of where we are). I highly recommend him (he gives walking and cycling tours), and will link his website here. He is a certified tour guide of the Cumbria region and will ensure you eat at delicious spots to provide the sustenance you need for your hike. You will be able to tailor your hike and how long (days, 1/2 days, etc.) exactly as you would prefer, and his prices are quite fair, but also ensure he is well-paid.

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~my guide for the entire day from more to late afternoon, Gordon Lightburn~

As you can no doubt see in the photos and will witness while watching the video, the rain fell all day and in buckets without relenting, and in fact, when we began (starting at Grasmere Lake, what is shown above), we had to make it to a bridge to begin our hike, and the river/creek had overflown by more than a foot which meant, wading through it even if it went over my boots. I will confess, I should have been wearing rain pants and will never make that mistake again, but the temperatures were very moderate that I never found myself freezing, simply socked to the bone. As we were walking the entire time except when we drove from Grasmere to Hill Top, so for the most part, I felt fine. After all, you cannot control Mother Nature, and I wasn’t going to miss my chance to see the Lake District, at least part of it, for the first time.

Now when I say, it rained, I honestly have never seen so much rain in my life. I have never been so wet in my life, and at the same time, so absolutely comfortable and overjoyed. We hiked on a Friday, and whether it was due to the rain or being a weekday, we saw very few people on the trail, if any most of the time. So in that respect, this was a very unique opportunity as I know these trails and towns can be quite busy and bustling, for good reason, this region is gorgeous and hard to believe the beauty is real until you see it with your own eyes.

In this post, I will share with you all of the photos and video I captured; however, my fingers became so wet that my phone wouldn’t even recognize them to open the photo app (even my nose was too drenched to open it, which I tried to do), so there were many views I wasn’t able to capture, and when I couldn’t capture Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Cottage (where Gordon kindly had us stop after our first hike, which was around one side of Grasmere Lake) while disappointed, I was simply grateful to have something warm out of the oven to devour. (More about Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread in the next post shared in 12 hours here during British Week.)

Let’s take a look at some of the photos of our hike around and above Grasmere Lake, the lake where William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy would have walked many times (I also visited their Dove Cottage which is located in the town of Grasmere where we warmed up a bit by the fire).

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After we began the day in Grasmere, we got back in the car – I drove my rental car and Gordon guided me – we went for lunch following driving through various small towns along the winding country roads that to my eye felt surreal, and I had to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes on the road. One town we drove through that I would like to return to is Ambleside. I have heard many wonderful things about it for a variety of reasons.

Following lunch, we got back in the car and drove to Hill Top. Oh! And again, just a note about how much rain was falling: at various points throughout our drive I would point out a lake to my left or right, and he would say, nope, that’s just an overflowing pasture. He went on to comment that he had never seen or been in the Lake District when it was this rainy and this much water covered the roads and fields (there were many times we had to slow down and let one car at a time go through the middle of the road in order to make it through – it was indeed a unique driving experience. In his good humor of it all, he shared, well, you are seeing the Lake District with more lakes than usual! Indeed, that was true. 🙂

Back to our trek and to Beatrix Potter’s farm.

Before we came to Hill Top and Near Sawrey, the village where her houses are located, we stopped at the house where the film Miss Potter starring Renee Zellweger took place. You will see that below:

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Then, back in the car we hopped and finally arrived at Hill Top, and to our disappointment, the house was closed. This was a shock to both of us, but oh well. It just means I must return for another visit, and perhaps when some sun fills the sky. 🙂 No matter. The farm land and trails awaited to be trekked, and so we did.

Now, it is worth pointing out that Beatrix Potter didn’t live in Hill Top after a handful of years, but did keep the house as her studio or atelier for working on her illustrations. She moved just across the street, as you will see in the photos below as well as the video to Castle Cottage, a larger white house where she and William called home.

Through the video I will share below, you will hear me asking questions of Gordon about the farm and Beatrix, her sheep as well as where her ashes are presumed to be, so listen closely through the background music of the rainfall. 🙂

Let’s take a look at more photos of Hill Top Farm (the land and animals) as well as watch the video which will include footage from both Grasmere Lake and Hill Top.

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~Castle Cottage, Beatrix and William’s home after she moved from Hill Top, which is across the street in this small village, Near Sawrey~

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~Moss Eccles Tarn (listen in the video why this tarn is so special to Potter’s story~

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~right-side of Moss Eccles Tarn; Herdwick sheep in the fields~

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~Me, drenched near Moss Eccles Tarn at the end of a six-hour day of hiking (I kept my hood on for the hike, but removed it momentarily ☺️). A tremendous thank you to Gordon for taking the photo. ~

Moss Eccles Tarngordonlightburnphoto

~A photo of Moss Eccles Tarn captured on a different day just after our hike when rain wasn’t falling by Gordon, who forwarded it to me. ~

~UPDATED: Gordon wanted me to share with you that he has now added his own vehicle to his tours, this Volvo XC60, so he will drive you from hike to hike rather than you having to drive your rental car. Great pics, aren’t they? He has a wonderful eye.

Now to the video. I do hope you enjoy.


The day of hiking concluded, and what a memorable day it was. As someone who loves rain, Mother Nature did not hold back on her gifts for this pluviophile, and while I still love the rain, next time, I look forward to visiting the Lake District with sunscreen and hiking shoes! 🙂

Hopping in my car and pulling off my boots that were attached to my calves like suction cups, I drove back as my feet began to dry out absolutely exhausted, but with a smile on my face and nibbling on another piece of gingerbread, all the while it rained the entire way back to my vacation rental – North Farm in County Durham. Upon arrival, I promptly took a hot bath, followed by . . .

. . . another piece of gingerbread, this time paired with a hot Cuppa. As I had more gingerbread from Sarah Nelson’s that we had picked up, now dry and boots warming by the Aga, I poured myself a pot of hot tea, and nibbled on and finished one of the three bars of this delicious moreish specialty. Speaking of Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread, the second giveaway in this week’s British Week is . . . (look for it here in the next post, being shared in 12 hours).

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~You did well wellies. You did well. 😌🌧️☔️🇬🇧❤️🫖~

~While these wellies are French, not British, many a British person wears them – Monty Don, Princess of Wales, just to name a few. Shop this style of Le Chameau’s boots here.~

May 19 26 2024
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44 thoughts on “My First Visit to The Lake District, Grasmere & Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm (rainy, but wonderful)

  1. Beautiful post Shannon! Although I have been to England, I’ve never quite made it as far as Hill Top! Hopefully I will get to see it someday but in the meantime I enjoyed you sharing your adventure there, with us!

  2. Oh, I’d love to hear more of the ways her life inspired you. I, too, felt such admiration and so inspired after seeing the movie and reading more about her but have yet to find a way to put it into action, even in a small way. 🤔

    1. It really was a special day. I will never forget it and I thoroughly enjoyed Gordon. I could relax and take it all in and know I was never going to get lost. We wandered on so many winding roads which was a joy, something I would never have been able to do on my own and been relaxed about with all of the rain but also wondering where I was. Having him made me feel relaxed and able to really see it all. I highly recommend him. He and I still stay in communication and he just shared with me in an email this morning that he now has a Volvo XC60 to drive his guests from hiking spot to hiking spot instead of them having to use their car, so definitely an even better situation. 🙂

  3. Surely a memorable trip to the Lake District. I had a friend visiting there at the same time, not exactly the hiking type, she talked about the heavy rain over and over. Where she was staying, sorry I forget the specifics, they were inundated and rather stranded for a day because of a wash out on the road into the village. We actually discussed the endless rock walls there. They are often seen in our part of the world as well due to immigrant farmers resuming their brand of field definition upon arrival to our area. Fantastic scenery. While you were emptying your Wellies, I could not help but remark to myself that your yoga study is paying off!!!

    1. Lucy,

      I don’t doubt that roads got washed out. There were roads I didn’t know if we’d make it through and I know this was one of the first days of all that rain, so perhaps days later, those same roads might have been impassable. It was immense! Sorry to hear they were stranded, but what a beautiful place to be so. 🙂 And how fascinating about the dry rock walls and how the same design is in your part of the world! Loved reading this. The beauty of the natural gems and historic farming details – the walls for example – exquisite.

  4. I couldn’t help but giggle when you had to empty the wellies. Nothing was gonna rain on your parade! It was a beautiful walk and I can’t wait to see and hear even more about it.

    1. Oh, my goodness, you are so right! When Gordon saw how much rain there was for us to pass through, you could tell, he was thinking about having us turn back, even though he could have made it with his get-up. But I was not going to be the reason for changing our plans. I came to hike! So it was a no brainer for me – soaked or not. 🙂 I appreciate that once he realized I was serious, we trekked on!

  5. Shannon, it does rain a lot in the Lakes but we have had a particularly wet autumn through to Spring. I love the fact you’re still smiling despite being drenched. X

    1. Nicola,

      I remember you shared this with me back then and Gordon expressed it too. He was saying that the land was already water logged and this rain didn’t have anywhere to go, so it just flowed on top of the land. Amazing. Oh my goodness, yes, admittedly, the hot bath and getting back in my car to drive home felt amazing, but I am glad it all happened. I will never forget it and Gordon was just awesome. A trooper as well. 🙂

  6. Shannon,

    What an incredible adventure! Good for you for persevering, I can’t say whether I change done the same 😊. This is not an area I have yet experienced on my travels to the UK but now I must go!! Pictures are amazing.

  7. Gorgeous footage of the Lake District and you captured the stunning scenery so beautifully. Your travelogue is so well done, I felt as if I were with you every(soggy!) step of the way. Love when you had to dump your Wellies, well-done, and as Lucy has pointed out, yoga works! Thank you for that amazing tour. And oh my yes, that gingerbread…xx

  8. Beautiful photos and great to see you smiling through the rain! Thank you for letting us travel along on your visit to the Lake District. ☔️ I’m also a Beatrix Potter fan and look forward to watching the movie you mentioned. Thanks again for a lovely post and for British Week!

    1. The movie is wonderful. Renee Z. is fantastic as Beatrix and Ewan McGregor, perfect as always. The videography of the Lake District is stunning and I can only wish they included more, but they included so much. That film really began to open my eyes to the beauty of the place when I first watched it years ago. Enjoy!

  9. Shannon, your video was beautiful and has inspired me to add the Lake District to my bucket list. You get double gold stars for persevering in so much rain! 🙂

    1. Thank you Beth! I think you will love it. If it is half as charming as it was during the rainfall as it is in the sunshine, it will be a special and most wonderful visit. 🙂

  10. Shannon, such wonderful pictures & video, love a rainy walk especially in such beautiful places. I have been to Grasmere before, mainly as a child & in the summer months when we were visiting the UK & it holds such happy memories but never made it to Hill Top so have but that on travel list as I love the area & any new ideas are always welcome.

    1. Kiri,

      Oh my goodness, I really could have wandered on the trails underneath those large trees for hours and been completely content. It was so peaceful. So happy to hear you have such happy memories of visiting Grasmere – such a beautiful area. And enjoy your visit to Hill Top!

  11. I love this post and loved your video! That clip of you emptying your wellies does make me chuckle! Great testament to your spirit and love of the rain that our great British weather didn’t dampen (pun intended) your day.
    As a Brit living in NW England with a grandfather living in the Lakes for many years, I’ve been so lucky to visit Windermere, Ambleside and Grasmere many times, including Hill Top (many times as a child where you would hunt for Jemima Puddleduck’s egg in the garden). But seeing it through fresh eyes reminds me of how truly beautiful it is.
    I haven’t however been to Dove Cottage! So that is one for me to add to my visit list next time we go.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Sarah

    1. Sarah,

      What a wonderful area of the country to have explored so extensively as a child and now an adult. I will say, just to prepare yourself, the Dove Cottage is, while historically fascinating, sparse and simple (which one would expect). The museum nearby where you begin the tour is filled with information, but I would suspect, unless you are a devout fan of Wordsworth, Potter’s will be the special destination. Thank you for sharing your memories of visiting Hill Top. 🙂

  12. The Lake District has always been on my bucket list of places to visit. Thank you for bringing it to life on the page.
    Kim

  13. I love the sights that you presented. You make rain look completely desirable! I felt like I was right there with you.

    1. Victoria,

      Thank you very much! Believe it or not, it wasn’t cold. I was amazed and delight (and grateful), as the temperatures were, gosh, I would say in the high 50s or low 60s, so you are only going to get cold if you stop moving and are soaking wet. So long as we were walking, we were fine. Very grateful.

  14. Hi Shannon,
    Thanks for sharing! I greatly admire Beatrix Potter for her intelligence, whimsy and her commitment to the environment. Hill Top and a return trip to the Lakes region is on my list of places to visit. You a a good sport to hike six hours in the rain. You might enjoy reading Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell for more insight into her life of enchantment.

    1. Jamie,

      I am right there with you in your admiration for Potter. Thank you for the reminder of that book. I believe I have it in my library and read it back in 2020, but I will look again to make sure and if not, will definitely be picking it up! 🙂 Enjoy your return visit to this special place.

  15. Magnificent landscape! Thank you, Shannon, for all the images. 🙂
    My curiosity about the Lake District started by reading Wordsworth poetry. I am hoping to have the opportunity of such an immersive experience that a tour with a local guide provides. As I wrote on another post, I am taking notes, oh yes, quite a lot of notes actually, for future use.

    You look so happy in that photo! I remember you mentioning the adventure with the rain. I know you like rain, but still… 😉

    I am doing a “tour” of my own now through the British Week posts so far, because I have many to catch up with. I guess am going through them backwards, but that’s OK, I am so enjoying myself! And yes, I do have a pot of tea right here for the purpose. 🙂

    1. Isabel,

      Tickled you enjoyed this post and it along with other is inspiring notes! Enjoy the posts this week whichever order you journey through them. It is a delight to share and connect with you all through them. 🙂

  16. Wow, just beautiful. I have not been to England yet but this makes me want to accelerate it up the list! You are an inspiration, thank you for sharing.

  17. Such a lovely adventure. While I know you have posted some of this previously, I am enjoying reading and seeing in more detail about your last trip to Britain. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Thank you for sharing this.
    I’m a fan of Beatrix Potter too- her drawings, stories, and especially impressed by her conservation.
    Your hiking has inspired me! My husband and I are going on a hiking trip to Wales in September and we were told to expect rain, possibly daily. Any advice?

  19. Oh what a fabulous post! I am a huge fan of Beatrix Potter, I was fortunate as a child that my grandparents had a cottage on Coniston water (a place I recommend for a visit) so I spent many holidays there, normally surgically attached to my wellies! However we spent one summer there and it was gloriously hot for weeks on end, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves! I could visit the Lakes over and over and still find something new and inspiring every time, if you can get back especially to Hill Top when it is open it will be very much worth it 🙂

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