The pretty village of Hawkshead is an ideal base for exploring the Lake District National Park, set in the magnificent Vale of Esthwaite in the heart of the English Lake District.
Hawkshead is a truly historic and wonderfully picturesque village characterised by clusters of whitewashed houses, archways and alleyways, courtyards and squares. The higgledy-piggledy cobbled streets lead you to village shops, bakeries, cafes and boutiques. Cars are banned from the village which makes this a particularity nice place to wander about and soak up the Cumbrian culture.
Reasons to visit Hawkshead
Our village has been described as the 'prettiest village in the Lake District' and there are plenty of reasons to love it, but here are just six.
1. With Coniston, Grizedale, Langdale, Grasmere and Ambleside all within easy reach, and with the busy centres of Windermere and Bowness just a short ferry ride away, Hawkshead is an ideal location from which to visit the entire south Lake District area.
2. Many walks start straight from the village through the landscape that inspired Beatrix Potter and Wordsworth.
3. The mountains are only a short drive away for hill climbing and some dramatic landscapes.
4. You’ll find Grizedale Forest to the south, Lake Windermere to the east and Lake Coniston to the west – plenty of places for active family holidays within easy access.
5. It’s a thriving village with a school, church, chemist, doctor’s surgery, post office, convenience store and many gift shops.
6. Hawkshead has a great selection of tea rooms and, of course, four pubs – all serving food and welcoming families and dogs.
This is the kind of village that stays in the heart. Here are all the wonderful things you can discover from the doorstep of our Hawkshead cottages.
The history of Hawkshead
Hawkshead is an ancient township that has flourished since Norse times. The monks of Furness Abbey owned Hawkshead Hall, just outside the village, until the 12th century. After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, Hawkshead grew as a market town, with many buildings dating from the 17th century and of notable historical and architectural interest. Today the Hawkshead Courthouse, owned by the National Trust, is all that remains of the medieval farmstead owned by the monks. The St Michael’s and All Angels parish church dates back to the 15th century, and has some striking features including biblical texts painted on the walls.
The historic parish church
William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter's connections to Hawkshead
Although the village has become a popular place to visit, Hawkshead still retains its character and charm in the form of its higgledy-piggledy houses, archways, and squares, once beloved by William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Several of their former homes throughout the Lake District are now open to the public, and museums dedicated to their work and legacies can also be visited within the village.
Wordsworth attended the village grammar school, which today houses old desks covered by his carvings, as well as the headmaster’s study and a classroom in their original form. In the heart of Hawkshead, you’ll also find the Beatrix Potter Gallery, a museum and gallery showcasing a selection of her original drawings and illustrations – you can find out more about Beatrix Potter’s life in the Lake District in our guide.
Explore the village centre of Hawkshead
The centre of Hawkshead is closed to cars, which enhances its character and makes wandering around its narrow village streets especially enjoyable in summer when they are ablaze with colour and blooming flowers. It offers a good selection of cafes, pubs and shops including a village pharmacy, post office and Co-op store.
Among the places you can stop for refreshments and take in the peaceful village atmosphere are the Sun Tea Rooms and Poppi Red, while the Sun Inn, Queen’s Head, Outgate Inn and the Kings Arms are all welcoming pubs offering hearty meals and a selection of ales.
Make sure you visit
- The Honeypot – a specialist store selling more than 50 types of honey.
- Hawkshead Relish Company – a family-run business producing quality homemade chutney in the Lake District.
- Hawkshead Brewery – based in the heart of the Lake District, Hawkshead Brewery are brewers of bold, innovative beers since 2002.
Our office is right in the centre of the village, where you are welcome to call in and ask for recommendations for walks or days out, or even borrow a map to help you make the most of your stay. We also have a guide book with seven walks that start straight from our doorstep - a wonderful way to explore this beautiful landscape.
Outdoor activities to undertake in the Lake District
The surrounding countryside promises many delightful walks – from gentle strolls to rugged hill climbing – the high fells of Coniston, Langdale and Rydal are only a short drive away. Popular walks include the sculpture trail through nearby Grizedale Forest, as well as the walk to Tarn Hows, one of the most-loved beauty spots in the whole of the Lake District. For more walking inspiration, check out our online guide to walks in the Lake District.
Walking around Hawkshead
Here are some other activities you can do in and around Hawkshead
- Go Ape Grizedale – this all-action centre is home to a whopping five different adventures with something for all ages. Zip wires and treetop adventures makes this a great day out for all. Location: Hawkshead, LA22 0QJ
- Lake Windermere kayak and bike hire – If you're a water-lover, take a canoe or kayak out to one of Windermere's many islands and enjoy a picnic. You can even hire them for a guided tour if you really want to get to know the area. Location: Bowness-on-Windermere, LA23 3JH
- Wray Castle – Wray Castle is a veritable king of castles: turrets, towers, period dressing-up, castle building room, hidden treasure to find, the new Peter Rabbit Adventure - and you can also arrive by boat! Location: Ambleside, LA22 0JA
- Bowness on Windermere Treasure Trail – The whole family will need to get involved in this treasure hunt. Some clues are easy, some are a bit trickier but each one will get you closer to locating the fictional treasure as you complete the Trail. Location: Bowness-on-Windermere, LA23 3HJ
- Treetop Nets – Let your kids enjoy this unique experience that will leave them feeling like they’re playing in the clouds. They can play on trampolines, slides, walkways and tunnels whilst enjoying great views and a invigorating atmosphere. Location: Brockhole, LA23 1LJ
- Predator Experience - Set within the stunning Lake District National Park in Cumbria, you can join a wolf pack wandering through the countryside or step inside a fox enclosure to watch how they interact with the wolves. You can even meet snakes and tarantulas…! Location: Cumbria, LA23 1LJ
Where is Hawkshead?
Hawkshead lies in the Lake District, one of the best-loved National Parks in the UK, close to Esthwaite Water, Coniston Water and Lake Windermere. Check out its exact location using the map below:
Stay in a self-catering cottage in Hawkshead
You can come and experience all of this and more from our wonderful self-catering cottages in and around Hawkshead. This is a beautiful region to holiday in and, with the villages of Coniston, Far Sawrey and Grizedale close by, you can be assured that there is plenty to do and see in the area. Consiton Water and Lake Windermere both offer great adventures and the Lake District National Park is a giant playground for all ages.
With everything from family holiday homes for school holidays and big houses for group short breaks to cosy cottages for two for those romantic getaways, we are bound to have what you need in our amazing collection. Our luxury cottages can provide you with that extra touch of special that we all love, and our dog-friendly range welcome in you fluffy friend too!
Take a look at our full collection of Hawkshead holiday cottages to start planning your break.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.