England's Lake District: Bowness-on-Windermere and Beatrix Potter
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Each year visitors are fervent to explore the enchanting shops, stone architecture, majestic scenery, and pristine blue lake waters that mark this enigmatic region.
Windermere Lake is 10.5 miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep. It flows past small picturesque islets, Wray castle and grand old mansions originally built by businessmen in the late 19th century. Many of these sumptuous mansions were converted years ago into exquisite hotels with rambling grounds overlooking the lake. Windermere's idyllic setting has also been the location for numerous major motion pictures.
With the rugged surrounding fells, lush green rolling hills and woodland shores as a scenic backdrop, a lake cruise (a variety of options available) is a comfortable and distraction-free way to discover the natural and stunning beauty of the area. If you prefer to be the captain of your own expedition, Bowness offers several reputable companies that rent canoes, kayaks, sailboats and motor boats as well.
Beatrix PotterBowness-on-Windermere's town center lays a little north of the lake docks and inclines at a gentle angle with charming hotels and inns overlooking the lake. The streets are lined with storybook slate and stone buildings dating back hundreds of years. These buildings house intriguing little shops that offer gourmet British foods and teas, clothing, books, sporting goods, gifts, traditional pubs and the famous World of Beatrix Potter Attraction.
Twenty-three of Beatrix Potter's best-loved tales, replete with characters, come to life in splendid three-dimensional scenes. Special sets, lighting, sounds and scents, combined with the storybook characters, create a magical world for guests to walk through. Meander down a wooded path where silly Jemima Puddle Duck gets too close to the Fox and naughty Peter Rabbit dares enter Mr. McGregor's garden. Children and adults will fall in love with this superbly created attraction that leads guests through each story with extraordinary detail and life-like characters that Beatrix herself would have applauded. In addition, the World of Beatrix Potter offers a remarkable and comprehensive gift shop. And, the fabulous Tea Room that serves a respectable tea, scones and treats in a family atmosphere with a kid's menu that will elicit joyful smiles.
To see the sights around Bowness and Windermere requires a confident driver. Small, one-lane roads and an opposite-side steering wheel can make for a challenging if not hectic endeavor. An alternative to driving is to call Mountain Goat Tours. The company provides an excellent group trip that tours the most popular sites and attractions on a comfortable coach for great prices. Although Mountain Goat offers private tours, the group tours are especially fun and they generally consist of guests of all ages. Their four-and-half-hour tour takes visitors through several small towns where famous poets and artists lived and then continues for a wonderful boat cruise that embarks from the town of Coniston. After the lake cruise, shopping at quaint little villages such as Hawkeshead and exploring scenic tarns and beautiful countryside are just a few of the tour's highlights.
When you visit Hilltop House and its gardens, it's easy to imagine Beatrix's world of bunnies munching on cabbage leaves and kittens scampering down paths bordered by wildflowers. Yet, most important, the visit provides a glimpse into the remarkable life of a gifted author, illustrator, conservationist and extraordinary woman that has enriched lives and imaginations the world over.
Lodging in BownessBowness offers wonderful accommodations and one of the most exceptional is the Lindeth Howe Country House Hotel. Lindeth Howe is located on Longtail Hill commanding a superb view of the lake in a gorgeous, private setting of sprawling lawns and terraced gardens surrounding the lovely country house. It was originally built as a summer home in 1879 with the wealthy owner often renting the house to friends for their holidays, such as the Potter Family. In later years, Beatrix Potter would illustrate two of her stories Timmy Tiptoes and Pigling Bland, in the grand home. Eventually, Beatrix purchased the home for her mother after her father passed away. Today, photographs from original plates of Beatrix and her family grace the walls of Lindeth Howe depicting a compelling story of another era.
After many years as a B& B and a detailed expansion that kept with the original design of the house in '99, Lindeth Howe became a popular and highly praised country house. Currently, the hotel offers 32 well-appointed and handsome rooms with fantastic views, a small but enticing indoor pool with spa facility and an elegant yet comfortable top-rated restaurant. Moreover, the country house's lounges and common rooms emanate coziness with rich decor and a semblance of serenity that inspires a flawless reverie.
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Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular correspondent for travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure. Visit her website Travel-Excursion for more information.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author