Wandering with wonder in Grasmere

Grasmere
Grasmere
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Poet William Wordsworth famously wrote that he “wandered lonely as a cloud.”

Well, there were no lonely clouds in the Lake District the weekend we visited Grasmere.

The skies were full of them – pelting down torrential rain for two days solid.

It could have ruined our trip – but in the end Grasmere has so many charms that it was impossible not to enjoy ourselves.

Our base was the lovely Oak Bank Hotel in Grasmere village. A medium-sized 
hotel with friendly 
owners and staff and a two AA rosette-winning restaurant that enjoys a great reputation.

Amid flood warnings, torrential rain and howling winds we arrived expecting a fairly soggy weekend. And so it turned out to be.

An hour’s stroll around the winding narrow lanes of the village and up to Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage was enough to work up an appetite for our evening meal at Oak Bank.

A three-course meal from a seasonal choice menu is £40, which includes canapes, a selection of homemade breads and a complimentary amuse bouche.

With a welcoming lounge with real fire and a very high standard of food, the Oak Bank’s restaurant is a foodies’ delight. Here’s an example:

Rabbit Saddle Ballontine, leg, with carrot, morcilla, langoustine and a chorizo foam; Cumbrian Pork Fillet, slow cooked cheek, apple puree, kale, kohlrabi, hazelnuts and a truffle jus; Dark Chocolate Torte with a peanut butter soil, mandarin and a yuzu sorbet.

You get the picture – this is not two meals for a tenner.

My missus is still raving about the dessert weeks later!

Grasmere itself is a charming, quaint village full of independent shops which attracts an upmarket clientele. It sits in a wonderful location surrounded by rolling hills and fells .

The Oak Bank’s superior rooms with a view look out right over the spectacular scenery – which was what we discovered when the rain finally stopped on Monday morning!

Grasmere’s most famous resident’s former home – Dove Cottage – is a major attraction and draws visitors from all over the world. The cottage is atmospheric and filled with original features, and the knowledgeable guides fill in all the blanks.

You can even go up to Wordsworth’s “den” looking out over the valley which no doubt inspired him to write some of the best work.

An adjoining museum based on Wordsworth, his friends and family and Lake District life completes the experience, which is pretty much an essential visit if you are in the area.

Walking back through the village, there is much to see and visit. Pause by Wordsworth’s grave next to the ancient St Oswald’s Church. Visit Sarah Nelson’s famous Grasmere Gingerbread shop, which has been delighting visitors for decades.

The recipe is a closely guarded secret and reputedly lives in a bank vault. Treat yourself and bring some home – you won’t be disappointed!

A short stroll away is Allan Bank, once home to Wordsworth after Dove Cottage.

Opened to the public for the first time ever in March 2012, Once home to William Wordsworth and National Trust founder Canon Rawnsley, Allan Bank was rescued from the ravages of fire in 2011.

The surrounding hills and fells are a magnet for ramblers and walkers and on a better weekend we would have spent more time exploring them. But the inclement weather meant it was not a good idea to head to the high ground.

Grasmere’s convenient position makes it a great place to leave the car and set off on public transport. Keswick is only 12 miles away and Ambleside is less than five miles – and Stagecoach run a regular service that goes right through the village. You can add on a superb lakes cruise to complete the day – and hop on a bus to come back without the hassle of finding somewhere to park (which can be troublesome in high season).

Or even hire a bike from Thorney How hostel, just outside Grasmere village.

The choice is yours – and there is plenty of it in Grasmere without having to jump in your car.

(DAVID NOWELL)

*Our visit was aranged as part of a sustainable travel initiative called See More: Cumbria and the Lake District.

The programme has been supported by £1million from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Visit www.seemorecumbria.co.uk.

Visit www.lakedistricthotel.co.uk for Oak Bank Hotel