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The Lake District has long been associated with Beatrix Potter and much of the area’s charm and distinct country-cottage feel has been immortalised in her many well-beloved animal stories for children. While Beatrix was originally from London, family holiday visits to the Lake District inspired her earliest stories of Peter Rabbit.
Hill Top, a 17th century farm house was Beatrix Potter’s first house purchase in the Lake District with proceeds from her earliest books. There is still much evidence within the house of the original building and layout, although she had the house extended, incorporating a separate residence for her farm manager, John Cannon. Between the two houses there are doorways on both floors that link both houses, supposedly to allow Mrs Cannon to come through to cook and clean.
While Beatrix did not actually live at Hill Top, it was a much loved holiday home, with an extension incorporating a writing room from which views over the country lane. The house remains much as it did, when Beatrix was alive. It was her desire to have the house open to the public exactly as she loved it, including all the china and furniture as they were.
Much of the house, furniture – dressers, tables and chairs, staircase, doorways feature heavily in her stories and these are well displayed and compared to with copies of books open to the pages with the relevant illustration. It is certainly fascinating to see how she very cleverly portrays parts of the house and furniture from the perspective of her small animal characters.
Hill Top was left to the National Trust upon her death and while Beatrix’s side of the house continues to be a very popular destination, next door continues to be tenanted to a local farmer. The recent Hollywood film Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger, significantly increased the popularity of Hill Top, which now has timed entry, allowing 8 visitors in every 5 minutes during it’s opening times.
The garden itself, was a great source of joy and pride and often featured in many of the tales she wrote, the vegetable patch, the stone wall and the bee hive are all still there and are easily recognisable from some of her most popular illustrations.
If you’re ever in the area, whether you’re a Beatrix Potter fan or not, Hill Top is definitely worth a visit, if only to admire her ability to draw inspiration from the simplest things around her.
- Parking is limited, but free for National Trust members. We were directed to the Hotel carpark.
- You have to walk along the road to get to the house itself, even though it is actually only behind the ticketing office. Take care, as the area is busy with traffic.
- Enjoy the gardens.
- Ask the guides about the different rooms or the closed doors – there are some fascinating stories and the guides are very knowledgable.