Things to do in the Lake District
The Lake District's rocky mountaintops, heather-covered slopes and native woodlands have inspired the likes of John Ruskin, JMW Turner, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Kurt Schwitters.
Set in beautiful gardens, Tullie House holds collections of fine and decorative art, human history and natural sciences. Included are 4800 paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints and sketchbooks, and a small collection of sculpture dating back as far as 1650. As well as representing artists from north Cumbria, the house contains a nationally important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. Don't miss the Roman Frontiers Gallery, which explores the western end of nearby Hadrian's Wall.
Follow in the footsteps of William Wordsworth, who came across Dove Cottage by chance during a walk with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his brother John. In this little home, at times 'crammed edge full' with people, Wordsworth wrote some of his greatest poetry. His sister Dorothy also kept her famous Grasmere Journal here, which is on display in the museum. With its stone floors, dark panelled rooms, and the family's belongings, little has changed in the house since the Wordsworths lived here. Most of William's surviving manuscripts are in the museum's collection, along with the works of over 4,000 other writers and artists.
A local gem, this museum was the brainchild of Ruskin's secretary and biographer WG Collingwood, who wanted to create a space that would serve as a memorial to the writer and artist, and celebrate the area's heritage. As well as the Ruskin collection, which reveals how the great Victorian critic developed his ideas through drawing, there are exhibits relating to the region's coppermines, slate, geology, lace and farming. The Bluebird Wing focuses on the 1940s, when Lake Coniston served as a race-track to the hydroplane Speed Aces Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son, Donald Campbell.
From Coniston pier, hop on the 19th-century steam yacht gondola and sail over to Brantwood estate. The boat was rebuilt in the 1980s and features luxury saloon-style seating and open air decks, as well as commentary on the local area. Now a museum, archive and gallery, John Ruskin's former home offers a fascinating insight into the last 28 years of his life, which he spent in the Lakes. Filled with paintings, furniture, objets d'art and Ruskin's personal treasures, it reflects the huge variety of his interests. Take the time to explore the surrounding estate, with its gardens, pastures, ancient woods, high moors and spectacular views.
One of Britain's finest Arts and Crafts houses, Blackwell survives in a truly remarkable state of preservation retaining many original decorative features. MH Baillie Scott designed the property as a holiday retreat for the wealthy Manchester brewery owner, Sir Edward Holt, who furnished it with objects by many of the leading Arts and Crafts designers, including furniture by Morris & Co., metalwork by WAS Benson and ceramics by Ruskin Pottery. See if you can spot some of the house's other interesting and unusual details, such as leaf-shaped door handles, intricate stained glass and carved wooden panelling.
Abbot Hall was built in 1759 by Colonel George Wilson. In spite of the trouble and expense, it seems Wilson was displeased with his new home and he and his wife left after just a couple of years. After passing through several other owners, the hall fell into disrepair and by the 1950s it was facing demolition. A group of local people came together to raise the money to save the Grade I-listed building, which they decided should be an art gallery. Today, Abbot Hall holds many fine examples of 18th- and 19th-century painting, as well as a substantial collection of work by Ruskin. Modern artists include German refugee Kurt Schwitters, who spent his final years in the area, while contemporary works by Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Lucian Freud are also shown.