This year marks 125 years since Dove Cottage, the former home of one of our most famous poets, William Wordsworth, first opened its front door to the public. To celebrate the occasion, Dove Cottage hosted two special event days, and invited me along to take a tour of the house and Wordsworth Museum so that I could share it with you here on the blog.
Dove Cottage is probably one of the Lake District’s most celebrated gems, so if you’re like me, it might be somewhere you are normally tempted to shy away from – show me a crowd and I’ll usually head in the opposite direction! But it can be so easy to overlook something great by doing this. If you haven’t yet visited Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum for yourself, I hope this post will inspire you to do so.
William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy apparently arrived at Dove Cottage one dark December evening in 1799 – just imagine how cold it probably was! William was born in Cockermouth, in the north of the county, in 1770, and went to school in Hawkshead, so the siblings already had many ties to the local area (Dorothy was born in Cockermouth too). Separated from Dorothy for some years at quite an early age, William then spent periods of time abroad and in the south of England before they both decided to return to their Lake District roots by moving to Grasmere.
From previous reading I’ve done on Wordsworth, the eight years he spent at Dove Cottage were some of his happiest, and also his most productive as a poet. It was here that he married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson, and eventually the Wordsworths moved out in 1808 as the house became too small for their growing family.
On a visit to Dove Cottage, you get to experience the house almost exactly as it would have been when the Wordsworths lived here, and you can take one of several tours throughout the day. I like house tours like this, as you get to hear the interesting and sometimes amusing details of the occupants’ day-to-day life. Some of the downstairs rooms are incredibly dark – so dark that they were beyond being photographed (without a tripod and plenty of time that is)!
I think it’s also important to point out that you don’t have to be the biggest fan of poetry to get a lot out of a visit to Dove Cottage. Although I studied for an A level in English Literature, I enjoyed the work of some poets and not others, and I think this was because I engaged the best with the work of those poets I learned most about. And what better way to learn about a person than to visit their home?
Following a tour of the cottage, it’s quite nice to enter the pretty little back garden which slopes up the hillside behind the house. It’s worth making your way to the top of the garden as you’ll come across a gorgeous little arbour, and when the sun’s shining you’re greeted with what Wordsworth probably found a very inspirational view! The Wordsworths believed in gardening with nature rather than against it, and grew fruit and vegetables in their garden too.
Dove Cottage wasn’t always a house – in fact it was once an inn called the ‘Dove and Olive Bough’, and the tiny hamlet of Town End in which it is situated would have been on the main road between Grasmere and Ambleside.
After exploring the garden and outside, I then moved on to the Wordsworth Museum, which is situated in one of the beautiful slate buildings next door. Here there are lots of interpretation boards, video and audio displays, and original items such as books, letters and personal objects, as well as a series of paintings, all of which help you to learn more about Wordsworth and how he came to create his work.
There are plenty of other literary displays relating to the area too, including one about Lake District dialect.
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll know that I don’t go anywhere without having planned where my next cup of tea is coming from (!), and there’s good news on that front, as there is a tearoom belonging to Dove Cottage, which is just a short distance away. There’s also a pay-and-display car park next door to this, so you can park on site.
For more information on visiting Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum, take a look at the Wordsworth Trust’s website.
- If you enjoyed this post, you may also like another of my recent blog posts, 10 things you might not know about William Wordsworth, in which I share some fascinating, little-known facts about the poet’s life.
There are several places in the Lake District with links to Wordsworth, including Dove Cottage, Rydal Mount and Wordsworth House. Which have you visited, and do you have any recommendations on things to look out for? Let us know by leaving a comment below.