The Lake District (Cumbria): GrasmereCharlotte Smith
The Lake District (Cumbria), Grasmere
Grasmere by BC, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


Situated in the North West of England in the county of Cumbria, the Lake District is a mountainous region famous for its stunning lakes, forest, and mountains (fells). Scafell Pike is the highest ground in England, and on clear days it afford views of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland and Snowdonia in Wales. Established as a National Park in 1951 for its scenic landscape, it was later designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017 for its cultural importance. Grasmere village, a short walk from the lake of Grasmere, is one of the most popular villages in Cumbria due to its association with William Wordsworth. Within the village is St. Oswold’s Church, a Grade I listed building dedicated to Oswald of Northumbria, King of Northumbria, and it is in the church’s graveyard that Wordsworth and many members of his family are buried.

Gothic heritage

Famed for her innovation of the sonnet form, Charlotte Smith was a popular and celebrated 18th century Romantic poet and novelist. Many of Smith’s novel’s were Gothic romances, or incorporated Gothic themes and settings into the narrative such as her 1789 novel Ethelinde; or, The Recluse of the Lake. Dedicated to the Duchess of Cumberland, Ethelinde begins and ends in Grasmere, a village in the Lake District near the lake of Grasmere, and near the Gothic Grasmere Abbey: 

“At length they came within view of Grasmere Water, and passing between two enormous fells, one of which descended, cloathed with wood, almost perpendicularly to the lake, while the other hung over it, in bold masses of staring rock, they turned round a sharp point formed by the root of the latter, and entering a lawn, the abbey embosomed among the hill, and half concealed by old elms, which seemed coeval with the building, appeared with its gothic windows, and long pointed roof of a pale grey stone, bearing every where the marks of great antiquity. The great projecting butrasses were covered with old fruit trees, which from their knotted trunks, seemed to have been planted by the first inhabitants of the mansion.”

Appearing as an ancient, Gothic castle, Grasmere Abbey emerges as a part of the natural surroundings of the Lake District, appearing to have assimilated with the elms that conceal it as the Abbey hides among the mountains.

Other Literary heritage

First made popular by Thomas Gray, who included the Lake District in his 1769 journal describing his Grand Tour, the Lake District is especially associated with the Lake poets, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey. Wordsworth in particular, before moving to Dove Cottage by Grasmere Lake, is to believed to have first thought of moving to the area after reading Ethelinde. See also ‘Cumbria Fells.’ 

Further information

Along with St. Oswold’s Church, the village of Grasmere is also home to Dove cottage, the former residence of William Wordsworth, his family, and their many visitors. The Lake District, and Grasmere in particular, are popular destinations for literary tourists, and there are often various literary events and festivals taking place throughout the year.

Interesting fact

The Lake District contains the deepest natural lake – Wast Water – as well as the largest natural lake – Windermere – in England. The Lake District is also where the Sticky Toffee pudding was born.

For Visitors

You can find more information about visiting the Lake District and Grasmere Village at the following links