Where the National Trust began: Allan Bank, Grasmere

Overlooking Grasmere lake from the lawn at Allan Bank

Relaxing on the front lawn with a nice cup of tea and a deck chair overlooking Grasmere

I always love hearing which are your favourite Lake District Gems, and it was thanks to the recommendations of two blog readers that I recently visited somewhere new to me: Allan Bank in Grasmere.

Allan Bank is a relatively recent addition to the National Trust’s visitor offerings in the Lake District, and was opened to the public in 2012. Previously they had let the house to private tenants, but after a devastating fire caused by faulty electrics, the building needed to undergo significant restoration. Georgian in design, its importance lies in the fact that it was once the home of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the National Trust’s founders.

The front of Allan Bank. Grasmere

The front of Allan Bank

Interestingly, it was the private sale of Grasmere Island (which can be seen from the house), along with the sale of other national landmarks, that encouraged Rawnsley to act on his belief that there should be a trust to preserve such places for the nation. This lead to him co-founding the National Trust, and as the organisation points out, ‘ultimately [to] the birth of the international conservation movement‘. This year the island made headlines when, amazingly after all this time, it was gifted to the National Trust.

Craft activities at Allan Bank, Grasmere

A room dedicated to children’s craft activities

Allan Bank was also once home to the poet William Wordsworth and his family, although only for a short time. In William Wordsworth by Stephen Hebron (2000), it is said that when Allan Bank was first built, Wordsworth wasn’t at all in favour of it. He described the Liverpool laywer building the house as ‘a wretched creature… of the name of Crump’. But as Dove Cottage became too small for the growing Wordsworth family, William presumably had to swallow his pride to move into it!

The book also says that the house was exposed to the wind on all sides, so that, during stormy weather, the rooms would fill with smoke from the fireplaces. In fact, one night the smoke was so thick that the family had to gather in the downstairs study, and even then they couldn’t see one another! Shortly after, the Wordsworths moved into a house in the centre of Grasmere and then made their final move to Rydal Mount.

Intriguingly, Allan Bank has not been completely finished off after its recent restoration. According to a National Trust video you see as part of your visit, its first visitors were asked what they would like to see the house used for, and the overwhelming opinion was that it should remain just as it is. That might sound a bit strange, but once you’ve visited for yourself, you’ll understand!

The Billiards Room in the grounds of Allan Bank

The Billiards Room, where you can watch videos about the house and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley

Inside the Billiards Room

Inside the Billiards Room

The door to the Billiards Room at Allan Bank

Love the ornate door on the way out!

Although it’s not painted properly inside, the property is lovely and clean throughout, and has the most peaceful atmosphere. It’s an informal collection of rooms containing things to do for everyone, with places to craft, read, play games, or simply contemplate the view. Well-behaved dogs are welcome inside the house too.

Reading room at Allan Bank

A space to read

A downstairs room at Allan Bank, Grasmere

A downstairs room

The staircase at Allan Bank, GrasmereRoof light at Allan Bank, GrasmereAn upstairs room at Allan BankAn upstairs room at Allan BankKnitting and needlecraft at Allan Bank

Chess at Allan Bank

Chess anyone?

This year, the house also tells the tale of Canon Rawnsley. As well as the video in the outside Billiards Room, there are some very ornate interpretation panels placed in the rooms, which are designed to look like enormous open books and are very effective!

Interpretation panel in the shape of a book

One of the ornate interpretation panels telling the story of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and how he came to co-found the National Trust

Although there’s no café or tearoom at Allan Bank, there is instead a small informal kitchen from which you can buy tea, coffee, cake and biscuits. You can take your refreshments out to the garden, or bring a proper picnic lunch of your own. I had no idea that the view from the house and lawn would be so magnificent – right across Grasmere lake, and very tranquil with deck chairs and benches from which to enjoy it.

The lawn at Allan Bank overlooking Grasmere lake

The lawn overlooking Grasmere

Somewhere to sit in the dry on a wet day

And I think I may have found a nice sheltered spot for when it’s raining. Shh, don’t tell anyone our secret!

There’s also quite a lot to see in the grounds at Allan Bank. There are a couple of circuits of the garden and woodland you can explore, with wild play areas for children and a wild trail available too (you receive a map of the grounds on your entry to the house).

We actually ran out of time to look round all the grounds, so the rest is yours to explore when you visit! The longest trail is estimated to take around 45 minutes, and initially leads you up a steep hill and set of steps, and then through a fascinating stone tunnel, which children (and adults too!) will just love. There’s also a special feeding station for red squirrels, so if you’re very lucky you might just come across a Squirrel Nutkin!

The walk at Allan Bank

The beginning of the walk

Overlooking Allan Bank from the walk in the grounds

In the grounds at Allan Bank

The view from the other side of the tunnel

Exploring the grounds at Allan Bank, GrasmereThe only thing to bear in mind when visiting Allan Bank is that there’s no parking (unless you have a Blue Badge, but check the website), which means you’ll need to use one of the pay-and-display car parks in town if you’re arriving by car. The driveway to Allan Bank can be accessed from the minor road next to the Miller Howe Café in the village, and the walk up the driveway takes you around 10 minutes.

It’s hardly a chore though, as the drive looks out over stunning scenery, and we saw a few Herdwicks on the way up too, sheltering from the intense heat of the afternoon. Just make sure you buy a long enough car parking ticket (unless you’re using the Lake District National Park Authority’s pay-on-leave car park), as once you arrive at Allan Bank, you won’t want to leave!

From Allan Bank in Grasmere

From the top of the driveway

The view from the driveway leading to Allan Bank

The view from the driveway leading to Allan Bank

You can find out more about Allan Bank and visitor information on the National Trust website.

Have you visited Allan Bank in Grasmere? What did you think, and what else did you discover in the grounds?! Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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7 Responses to Where the National Trust began: Allan Bank, Grasmere

  1. Janine John 01/06/2017 at 2:57 pm #

    The overwhelming memory I’ve taken away from Allan Bank is of the wonderful atmosphere there – it’s just like being in another world!

  2. Angela Cowell 02/06/2017 at 10:56 pm #

    Hi Janine, what a joy to read your blog and I’m so delighted you loved it, somehow I knew you would. Your photographs, as always, are beautiful and they brought back many happy memories.

    I absolutely love your blogs and am always thrilled when I find a new one appearing in my inbox.

    Many thanks.

    • Janine John 05/06/2017 at 10:33 pm #

      Hello Angela, I’m so sorry I’ve been slow to respond to your comment – there was a technical glitch at my end which I’m afraid meant I didn’t see it until tonight.

      Thank you again for suggesting I visit Allan Bank. I’m so glad you inspired me to go there, as you definitely have to experience the house for yourself to appreciate the wonderful atmosphere there. I’m really pleased to hear you enjoy the blog posts – that’s very kind of you! Writing them has become something of an addiction!

  3. Anne Farmer 04/06/2017 at 4:55 pm #

    Nearly visited a couple of weeks ago but ran out of time. Your articlw will make me find the time on my next visit!

    • Janine John 05/06/2017 at 2:48 pm #

      That’s lovely to hear Anne – it’s well worth fitting in next time you’re in the area!

  4. Heather Macphail 05/06/2017 at 9:10 pm #

    Love it there, we have visited it three times now. I love to sit upstairs in the craft room and knit a square to leave in the basket while my husband is downstairs reading the books. We will be back again later this year.

    • Janine John 05/06/2017 at 9:47 pm #

      Thank you very much for commenting Heather – it’s great to hear you enjoy Allan Bank so much! I could happily sit at the desk overlooking the lake for hours I think, and the selection of local books is very good!

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