Dove Cottage is the house most often associated with the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, and yet he and his family lived there for only nine years; Rydal Mount, on the other hand, was his home for 37 years – from 1813 to 1850. This was a large, elegant home, with four acres of garden – much more befitting one of the greats of English poetry.
The house, parts of which date from the late sixteenth century, is located a little over two miles from Grasmere, which had been the Wordsworths’ home since 1799. Latterly, they’d rented the rectory opposite St Oswald’s Church in the village centre, but it was while living there that two of their children – three-year-old Catherine and six-year-old Thomas – had died. So, moving from Grasmere was as much about escaping from bad memories as it was about moving up in the world. The new house also coincided with a new role for Wordsworth; he wasn’t earning a huge amount from his poetry so he took on the role of Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, effectively becoming a local tax collector for the government.
The Wordsworths didn’t own Rydal Mount in the nineteenth century; they rented it from the le Flemings who lived next door in the much more grandiose Rydal Hall. And, although the family continued to live in the house for several years after the poet’s death, it wasn’t until 1969 that his great-great-grand-daughter Mary Henderson finally purchased the house, opening it up to the public soon after.
Today, it is filled with period furniture as well as family portraits, letters, manuscripts and an array of artefacts such as the poet’s pen and inkstand. Three of the family bedrooms are open to the public as is Wordsworth’s attic study, which has views of Rydal Water. This tiny room, reached via a narrow staircase, also contains a map of the National Park showing various places around the Lake District that feature in, or inspired, some of Wordsworth’s most famous work.
Rydal Mount’s beautiful gardens, laid out according to the poet’s own designs, are also open to the public. He built several terraces and, at the end of one of these was the summer house where he sometimes wrote. He would then pace up and down the garden, testing his latest verses by reading them out loud.
Visitors can opt for a self-guided tour of the property or book an exclusive tour with a personal guide. There is also a tearoom which occupies the old saddlery over the coach house. Rydal Mount is reached via a short but steep and narrow lane above the A591. The 555 bus stops about 300 yards from the house, which also has a small car park. St Mary’s Church, where Wordsworth was church warden, is located at the road junction here, and just behind it is Dora’s Field. Owned today by the National Trust, this small plot of land is covered in a carpet of daffodils every spring. The bulbs were originally planted by Wordsworth and his wife Mary in memory of their daughter Dora who died from tuberculosis in 1847.