Hawkshead is only a tiny village, and yet it’s easy to get lost as you wander its complex maze of narrow lanes and cobbled alleyways. The centre of this historic settlement is free of cars – there’s a large pay-and-display car park on the edge of the village – which means visitors get to enjoy it in peace and quiet, and without having to dodge the traffic. It’s easy to spend several hours here and, when you’re tired of sightseeing, relax in one of its many tea shops and pubs.
The village has close links with two of Lakeland’s most famous literary figures: William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. The young Wordsworth attended the grammar school here, which was established in the late sixteenth century. Now open to the public from April to October, the Old Grammar School contains artefacts relating to its long history and the desk into which the budding poet once carved his initials.
Beatrix Potter lived down the road in Near Sawrey, but was a regular visitor to Hawkshead, not least because her solicitor and the man she would eventually marry, William Heelis, was based here. Today, the unusual seventeenth-century building in which he had his offices houses the Beatrix Pottery Gallery. Here you’ll find some of the original illustrations for her famous children’s books, including The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, and the first privately printed edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
Having explored the village, walk up to the top of Latterbarrow, a little hill even by Lakeland standards, but one with big views. Various routes are possible but a round walk, taking in nearby forest as well, would be about four miles.