6 Weeks in the English Lakes #5: At Opposite Ends of the Coffin Route

Sign marking the Coffin Route in the English Lake District

Wordsworth and his brother were walking in the English Lakes in late 1799 with fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge when they came upon the modest Dove Cottage in Grasmere. He and his sister Dorothy moved in just weeks later. Although he lived in the cottage for less than a decade, many of the poems he is remembered for were written during those years, as were his sister's writings chronicling their lives.

Wordsworth's Dove Cottage

When Wordsworth became more prosperous, he moved to Rydal Mount, above Rydal Water and a bit closer to Ambleside and Windermere. The two homes are at opposite ends of the Coffin Route, a footpath over which coffins were carried from the church in Ambleside to the graveyard in Grasmere in the days before Grasmere had a church.

A nice walk through Wordsworth's world here begins at the place where he came to rest, in the little graveyard at St. Oswald's Church. Just a few minutes walk from there will take you to Dove Cottage, now a museum open to all for the price of the entrance fee.

Just above the hill from Dove Cottage, you'll find the Coffin Route. It's a shaded path, easy to follow, and not a particularly long way across to Rydal Mount. Still it's worth a stop at Coffin Stone, or Resting Stone. The flat stone is marked, as are so many places in the Lake District, with a small plaque describing it. And don't worry that you might be trespassing. The Coffin Route, like so many footpaths throughout the Lake District, is a public right of way. You'll be rewarded with spectacular views.

View from the Coffin Route

Not far from the other end of the Coffin Route, a visit to Rydal Mount will assure you that Wordsworth didn't have to wait until he settled in that graveyard for his success. This larger home has its own schoolroom, where visitors can now have tea. The offering here is much better than your average tourist fare, and in good weather you can take your tea at a table in the corner of the garden.

Wordsworth found inspiration for his poetry throughout the Lake District. The flowers of his iconic poem were first seen while walking with his sister, Dorothy, who describes in her journal daffodils which 'tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, that blew upon them over the lake.' But it is William's poem that deliver them forward in time to us:


I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:-
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of four novels, including The Wednesday Sisters and The Wednesday Daughters, which is set in the Lake District.


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