A few miles inland from Maryport is the sedate town of Cockermouth. It’s probably best known among visitors as being the birthplace of William Wordsworth, one of England’s finest poets, but Cockermouth is worth a visit in its own right. Although the Romans built a cavalry base nearby, it was only in medieval times that a town began to form around the confluence of the rivers Derwent and Cocker. The labyrinth of narrow alleyways and courtyards that still exists today dates back to those early years. Most of the buildings though were built in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Georgian townhouses in particular bringing a touch of colour and elegance to this fine town.
One of those townhouses, at the western end of Main Street, was where – on April 7, 1770 – the Romantic poet Wordsworth was born. There had been a plan, in the 1970s, to knock the house down and build a bus station instead, but a national outcry resulted in a massive fundraising campaign and Wordsworth House, as it is now known, was saved. The National Trust has since renovated the building so that visitors can see the original staircase and fireplaces as well as some of the family’s own furniture and a small display of original manuscripts. Outside, the riverside garden has also been restored.
For an informative but leisurely stroll around Cockermouth, pick up a Town Trail leaflet from the Tourist Information Centre in the library on Main Street. This will take you past several historic sites, including the Jennings Brewery and the town’s castle, much of which dates from the end of the fourteenth century. (While visitors can enjoy tours of the former, the castle is not open to the public.) And, should you get peckish while wandering around, or just feel the need for a reviving coffee, there’s a good range of quality cafés and restaurants to choose from.