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 between Lake Windermere and Coniston Water. Hawkshead is a truly historic and wonderfully picturesque village characterised by clusters of whitewashed houses, archways and alleyways, courtyards and squares. Here are all the wonderful things you can discover from the doorstep of our Hawkshead cottages.
Stunning Esthwaite Water
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
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, 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.
The village centre
The centre of Hawkshead is closed to cars, which enhances its character and makes wandering around its narrow 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 our 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. Some delicious local products to take home can also be bought at the Honeypot, which sells more than 50 types of honey, and the award-winning Hawkshead Relish Company.
One of the village's charming pubs
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.
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.
Walking around Hawkshead
This lovely area also offers some excellent fishing in Esthwaite Water, and Grizedale and Claife are great for keen mountain bikers with plenty of marked routes for all abilities.
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:
- 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.
- Many walks start straight from the village through the landscape that inspired Beatrix Potter and Wordsworth.
- The mountains are only a short drive away for hill climbing and some dramatic landscapes.
- 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.
- It’s a thriving village with a school, church, chemist, doctor’s surgery, post office, convenience store and many gift shops.
- Hawkshead has a great selection of tea rooms and, of course, 4 pubs – all serving food and welcoming families and dogs.