Get Lost in the Lake District, Rejoice in Richmond
For those who adore the picturesque, who are in tune with nature and value absolute serenity, staying in the UK may not be at the top of your list of priorities when planning your holiday. However, there is no reason not to do so.
A holiday can still be as fulfilling and complete without the need to travel abroad, particularly if you’re seeking to be immersed in replenishing tranquillity and natural beauty. The UK is just as rich in its rural gems as its industrial ones and for every man-made architectural monolith, Mother Nature does one better. For such a small island nation, Britain has a hugely diverse ecosystem and to miss out on experiencing it for yourself is a true shame. Turn off any nature documentaries and think about actually ‘getting lost’ in the UK yourself.
The Lake District National Park.
The Lake District may seem like an obvious choice for this list, but as with all clichés, it exists for a reason; the Lake District is a destination that has captured the hearts of holidaymakers, poets and artists alike. Yes, when Wordsworth was wandering ‘lonely as a cloud,’ he was doing so with the penetrating beauty of the Lake District in mind. Historically shared by the counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire, the Lake District is now wholly within the new county of Cumbria and comprised of forests, mountainous fells and of course, lakes.
As an environmental setting that was at the heart of the British Romanticism movement within art and literature, the Lake District fittingly makes a perfect setting for a romantic couple’s retreat; wherein the beauty of the scenery is sure to make you appreciate the beauty within your relationship, or so I hope.
To maximise the theme of a ‘literary retreat’, you can visit Wordsworth’s very own Dove Cottage, and if undertaken during the month of March, it will be surrounded by a bountiful bloom of daffodils. Dove Cottage is a quaint, alabaster-white, and ivy-covered building. Here, William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, spent over eight years in what they called a time of ‘plain living, but high thinking’.
To appeal to the children (and let’s face it, adults alike), the Lake District also houses the charming ‘World of Beatrix Potter’. This attraction includes a Peter Rabbit garden, a tea room that is well worth a visit on its own merits and a charming nursery gift shop that I am sure will make broody the couples which have followed my advice and just visited Dove Cottage.
Stories from the Beatrix Potter universe are brought to life as vignettes that feature the characters interacting with each other in and around the interactive walking space. Expect to see Mrs Tiggy-winkle’s kitchen and Mr Jeremy Fisher on his lily-pad boat brought to life as animated pockets of nostalgia.
Of course, the Lake District is a justifiable holiday destination without the inclusion of these literary attractions. Windermere for instance, is a resort town named after the great Lake Windermere, the largest lake in Europe and has an expansive ecosystem to match. Lake Windermere is a ten and a half mile long ribbon lake that threads through the verdant foliage of the district and is a prime location for those looking to absorb all the reserve’s illustriousness on offer. To facilitate this, Windermere offers horseback riding, golf, hiking tours and boating as interactive ways to take in the scenery.
There are sometimes even tours in which an attempt to locate Windermere’s elusive but legendary sea creature is undertaken. It seems that ‘Nessie’ does indeed have a Cumbrian cousin.
As the theme of this article is rural paradises of the UK, you may be surprised to see an entry that is in fact a borough of London. Located on a meander of the River Thames, a third of the borough is actually comprised of parks and meadows; five times more than any other district of Greater London. It is with its abundant verdancy and wealth of Georgian architecture Richmond seems more like a royal back garden to the capital than a frenetic borough of the big smoke.
The borough of Richmond, not only voted as one of the happiest places to live in Britain, is home to the famous, Richmond Park. As the largest of London’s Royal Parks and established as a deer park by Charles I in 1634, Richmond Park is still home to over 600 red and fallow deer, herds of which can be seen roaming amidst the parkland trees.
Although graceful and poised creatures, the deer are indeed wild, so it is not recommended to feed or approach the animals; granted to be able to admire the majestic creatures from a distance more than suffices.
The deer of Richmond Park share their home with many a manor house, one of which being Pembroke Lodge. The Georgian mansion boasts stunning views across the Thames valley to Windsor and Surrey and has 11 acres of landscaped grounds, including King Henry’s Mound. Within the Royal Richmond Park, Pembroke Lodge has a royal history.
The Lodge was given to Lord John Russell, the then incumbent Prime Minister by Queen Victoria. In turn, Lord Russell used the lodge for both business and pleasure. Russell used Pembroke to conduct affairs of the state and to host lavish parties with those such as foreign royalty, writers, the aristocracy and Queen Victoria herself gracing the guest lists.
However, you needn’t be royal to be invited to Pembroke Lodge today; the mansion is open to the public and provides refreshments or can even be hired out for conferences and weddings. Perhaps the aforementioned couple visiting Dove Cottage and The World of Beatrix Potter have deepened their relationship and are looking to be betrothed here in Richmond.
To ease her ailing health, the great British writer, Virginia Woolf moved to the aptly named Paradise Road in Richmond in 1915. The residence was Hogarth House, and as a setting that gave inspiration to a number of her works, such as The Voyage Out. Although the life of Virginia Woolf was tumultuous to say the least, the legacy she has left to the British cultural repertoire is one that is intertwined with the magnificent borough of Richmond.
It is no surprise that such an idyll has captured the hearts of as many artistic minds as the equally breathtaking Lake District. It is also with no surprise that some of the nation’s greatest artists and writers are drunk on our most potent inspiration, the glory of British Countryside.