If there's one name that springs to mind when thinking of the Lake District’s artistic greats, Beatrix Potter is likely to be it. Beatrix Potter loved life in the Lake District for the same reasons as we all do – it's not surprise that many of her books are based around some of the Lake Districts favourite spots.
The author and conservationist was born a Londoner, but lived her life surrounded by the very nature and places that inspired the stories of the likes of Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and of course, Peter Rabbit. Wray Castle in Ambleside was responsible for making Beatrix fall in love with the Lake District as it was here that her parents rented on family holidays. Her “intricate sketches of animals and plants as a child revealed an early fascination for the natural world, which continued throughout her entire life”.
She resided at Hill Top House in Sawrey, her favourite home, which is now open to the public and left completely unchanged and receives thousands of visitors every year . She later lived in Castle Cottage with her husband William Heelis until her death in 1943. She also left over 4000 acres of land and her 15 farms to the National Trust, which was so dear to her. She adopted the Lake District as her “spiritual home” and it is here where she wrote and illustrated her masterpieces. Her first book ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ has sold over 40 million copies since being published in 1902. More than two-million Beatrix Potter books are sold across the world every year - that's 4 books every minute!
Beatrix was also a key figure in saving the herdwick sheep from extinction. She bred Herdwick Sheep on her farms in the Lake District and was at her upmost happiest with her farm animals. She won a number of prizes for her Sheep at local shows and became the first female president designate of the Herdwick Sheep-breeder’s Association.
Other Beatrix Potter attractions in the Lake District include the Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness, where you can meet Peter Rabbit and all his friends, explore the Peter Rabbit garden with recreated scenes drawn by Beatrix Potter from her marvellous stories. There is also a gift shop and nursery shop, and the Peter Rabbit tea room! The Beatrix Potter Gallery no Hawkshead is a 17th-century building, which was in-fact the office of her solicitor husband, and is the place to go to admire the miniature masterpieces.
In 2006, ‘Miss Potter’ was released which is a biographical film about Beatrix Potter, with many of the scenes filmed in the Lake District. Renée Zellweger stars as Beatrix Potter.
Notable locations in the Lake District (relevant to life and books created by Beatrix Potter)
- Wray Castle in Hawkshead (owned most of surrounding land)
- Fawe Park in Keswick – features in ‘The Tale of Benjamin Bunny’
- Holehird Gardens in Windermere
- Lingholm Estate by Derwentwater in Keswick
- Armitt Museum and Library in Ambleside
- Yew Tree Farm in Coniston
- Tarn Hows near Coniston