To the Lakes!

Wordsworth Grasmere announces new exhibition for 2023

The Lake District attracts upwards of 25 million visitors every year. With its beautiful, dramatic scenery and rich history it is easy to understand why people are drawn to the area. The tourist industry has not always resembled what it is now, in fact William and Dorothy Wordsworth witnessed a dramatic change in tourism to the Lake District within their lifetimes.

When William Wordsworth was born in 1770, few people visited the Lakes as a tourist destination and those who did were largely middle class and travelled without a guidebook. By the time of William’s death in 1850, the tourist industry in the Lakes had transformed. The later visitors came to see the area not just as picturesque, but in all its uniqueness, through their reading of Wordsworth’s own guide and poetry. So inextricably was the poet associated with the area that one writer in 1854 named it ‘Wordsworthshire’.

Their new exhibition ‘To the Lakes!’ will invite today’s visitors to experience the Lake District through the words and images captured by tourists 200 years ago – the things they did, the places they would stay, the equipment they needed and the clothes they wore.

Remarkable treasures from the Wordsworth Trust’s collection will be on display, including:

  • A large selection of artworks from our unparalleled watercolour and print collection.
  • Words and images created by the earliest tourists to the Lake District, and those who came in search of Wordsworth.
  • Guidebooks by William Wordsworth and Thomas West, who wrote the first guidebook to the Lake District setting out an itinerary and suggested route, published in 1778. West wrote of the Lake District ‘Such as wish to unbend the mind from anxious cares, or fatiguing studies, will meet with agreeable relaxation in making the tour of the lakes … Such as spend their lives in cities, and their time in crowds, will here meet with objects that enlarge the mind … When exercise and change of air are recommended for health, the convalescent will find the latter here in the purest taste.’
  • Costumes and activities will help families imagine their own 18th/19th-century tour of the Lakes.

Jeff Cowton, Principal Curator & Head of Learning, Wordsworth Grasmere said: “Walking and mountain ascents, waterfalls after rain, nice food, visiting the sights and museums, a bit of ‘time out’, receiving a warm welcome from local people – things we enjoy on a visit to the Lakes today, and just the same things visitors enjoyed 200+ years ago. Only then, of course, no motorised transport, no book-a-bed-ahead schemes, no cameras (or phones!), no specialist clothing or equipment, no TripAdvisor recommendations… How did they manage?! We invite you to join the early tourists on their discovering of the Lake District to find out…”

Over the course of the exhibition, they will be hosting activities and events exploring tourism through history. These range from walks by moonlight in the footsteps of Coleridge, to painting the breath-taking scenery the Lake District is famous for, as many visitors have done over the years.

The display opens at Wordsworth Grasmerefrom 18 February to 30 December 2023. Please check their website for the latest information about booking a visit.