A must for fans of Beatrix Potter, Hill Top in Ambleside, Cumbria, is a time capsule of the author’s life. Full of her favourite things, and including many references to her much-loved characters, this house appears as if Beatrix has just stepped out for a walk. It is an idyllic 17th-century stone cottage, which Potter bought in 1905 with the royalties from her first few books, written at her parents’ home in London but inspired by her annual holiday visits to the Lake District.
It became the place where she wrote much of her work, until she bought the farm opposite, Castle Farm, which became her main Lakeland base. But before that Hill Top saw the creation of Tom Kitten, Samuel Whiskers and Jemima Puddleduck, and her books contained many pictures based on the house and gardens.
The lovely cottage garden is a haphazard mix of flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables. It contains mainly old-fashioned flowers such as honeysuckle, foxgloves, sweet cicely, lupins, peonies, lavender and philadelphus. Roses grow round the front door and strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries and rhubarb flourish it the grounds.
This most visited literary shrine in the Lake District can get very busy, so operates a timed ticket system to avoid overcrowding and to protect the interior – as a result you may have to wait to enter the house. The garden trail, though designed for children, is hugely popular with adults too, as is the Beatrix Potter Gallery in nearby Hawkshead, where many of the author’s original watercolours and drawings are on permanent display. The National Trust, of which Potter was an early supporter, often uses the gardens for events throughout the year, including demonstrations by its team of countryside rangers on the likes of greenwood working and dry stone walling. One of the last impressions visitors to Hill Top are often left with is the awe-inspiring beauty of the surroundings – the name of the house was not bestowed on it by chance – the Lake District proving as inspirational to Potter’s visitors in her absence as it always was to her.
Hill Top, Near Sawrey, Hawkshead, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 0LF
Tel: 01539 436 269