“We haven’t had this much fun in months’’ shrieked Ruaridh and Flossie as they enjoyed a summer’s day munching gingerbread and quoting Wordsworth.
The old adage that the simpler things in life are the best, certainly ring true as we enjoyed our first weekend away since lockdown. And where better to head than the UNESCO World Heritage ranked Lake District and the beautiful village of Grasmere.
Children can sometimes get blasé about staying in hotels, but after some many months of looking at the same four walls, Ruaridh (13) and Flossie (10) are raring to go and if truth be told, so am I and husband Kenny.
And where better to base ourselves, than the upmarket Victorian House Hotel. This lovely traditionally built delight is owned by London hotelier Serena Van der Heyde as the Northern cousin of her Georgian House Hotel in Pimlico.
Hotels have been in Serena’s family since 1851 and all her experience has been put to good use, with stylish rooms and antique furniture and as one of the staff told me “there is no chore cleaning, because each room is so different and interesting.’’
Serena opened The Victorian House Hotel earlier this year and now things have started to get back to normal, business is booming. And much of that success is down to the excellent and friendly service of the staff and the swish rooms, old in style, but modern where it is needed.
A well-stocked breakfast menu featuring local delicacies is served during timed slots and replaces the pre pandemic buffet and is served in the attractive Garden Room, where you can also retire to at night and indulge in one of the hotel’s famous cocktails.
There is no restaurant on site, but the hotel has teamed up with nearby The Yan Bistro and you can order dinner from them and have it brought to the Garden Room, with tasty starters including beetroot and horseradish cured salmon, ham hock scotch egg and home-made hummus.
There are a range of mains from Sri Lankan spiced daal, to pork belly or sharing platters of meat, fish or a vegetarian option. The puddings are to die for, with a dark chocolate mousse with a salted sticky toffee crumb a firm favourite in our family.
Poet William Wordsworth described Grasmere as “the loveliest spot that man have ever found.’’ He and his sister Dorothy loved it so much, they lived at Dove Cottage for eight years.
And you can see why when you head for the hills. Views from the top of Helm Crag are simply spectacular, all around you are luscious fells, sparkling water and lots of cuddly Herdwick sheep.
Native to the Lake District, these hardy creatures think nothing of climbing high to seek some new grass and part of the fun of climbing Helm Crag is to spot the strange nooks and crannies, many of them find themselves in.
Helm Crag is locally known as The Lion and The Lamb and was a favourite of author and walker Arthur Wainwright. It is now one of 214 Wainwright fells you can “bag’’ and like most fells, it seems to go on and on forever before you reach the top.
Much of the climb involves scrambling up the rocks, but some kind souls have worked like Trojans to create a stone staircase all the way upwards. And once you have conquered this beauty, it’s time to see where Wordsworth penned his famous poems.
Dove Cottage is now cared for by The Wordsworth Trust and to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth in 2020, £6.5 m has been spent on upgrading the cottage and creating an interactive museum and viewing platform. Only the cottage is open at the moment, but after watching a short film on Wordsworth, it is wonderful to step back in time.
No attention to detail has been spared, with scratches of paint taken from the cottage to create furniture of the 1800s and the garden and orchard feature stunning views of nearby Grasmere Lake, with plants intersprinkled with Wordsworth words.
Wordsworth is Grasmere. Everywhere you go, there is homage to him, from the graveyard at the local church where he and his family are buried, to the daffodil park created nearby and subscribed to by well-wishers from across the world.
Close by is the famous Sarah Nelson Grasmere Gingerbread Shop. The Victorian baker invented this culinary delight in 1854 and it is a special spicy-sweet cross between a biscuit and a bread. So popular, the tiny shop has queues forming down the street to taste this old-fashioned delight.
And it is maybe this sweet treat which has encouraged a modern-day star to pen loving lyrics to the Lake District.
Pop idol Taylor Swift dedicated her latest song The Lakes to the English jewel in the crown. She is said to have spent much time exploring the area with her British actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn and in a nod to the past, she sings: “Take me to the Lakes, where all the poets went to die.’’ No doubt many of her fans will now follow.
Accommodation: The Victorian House Hotel, Broadgate, Grasmere, The Lake District, Cumbria. This delightful boutique hotel has friendly staff and a lovely feel to it: www.victorianhousehotel.co.uk
Food: The Yan Restaurant at Broadrayne Farm serves modern European food with a twist: www.theyan.co.uk
Tasty gingerbread can be found at www.grasmeregingerbread.co.uk
Attractions: Delve in to the life of William and Dorothy Wordsworth at Dove Cottage: www.wordsworth.org.uk
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.
Photo credit: Gareth Gardner