Derwent Water and the Tale of Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter at Keswick show

Celebrate Beatrix Potter's special 150th anniversary with us in the landscape she loved around Derwent Water, the home of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Benjamin Bunny and Squirrel Nutkin.

Beatrix Potter’s exquisite illustrations are close observations of the world that surrounded her and so it’s no surprise that the many long summers spent on the shores of Derwent Water would inspire three of her most delightful little books.

A countryside retreat

The Potter family rented two different holiday homes, Lingholm and Fawe Park, on the western shores of Derwent Water for ten years between 1885 and 1907. Beatrix’s journal suggests that Mrs Potter was hard to please when it came to choosing where to stay for their long summer breaks but, just as for many today, the most northerly lake obviously suited them rather well. This was certainly the case for Beatrix who was drawn to country life and the natural world from an early age.

Squirrel Nutkin features the landscapes around Derwent Water
Beatrix Potter's original artwork of Squirrel Nutkin rafting on Derwent Water

Some serious sketching

Beatrix’s Derwent Water sketchbook dates from 1903 and is filled with drawings and water colour sketches which she developed as backgrounds for the tales of Mrs Tiggy Winkle, Benjamin Bunny and Squirrel Nutkin.

" I think I have done every imaginable rabbit background, and miscellaneous sketches as well - about seventy!"
- Beatrix Potter in a letter to Norman Warne, during a holiday at Fawe Park, 1903.

Seeking out those special places

From the foreshore outside our Keswick Lakeside shop you can hop (shameless bunny pun) on a launch and head across the lake to Nichol End where you can walk amongst the same scenery as Beatrix. From here you can climb Cat Bells as Lucie did when she was looking for her ‘three pocket handkins and a pinny’, or you can explore the Newlands Valley, keeping an eye open for the old Yewthwaite lead mine workings which inspired the little door into prickly Mrs Tiggy Winkle’s hillside home.

Re-live the magic

Lingholm and Fawe Park are now private homes but the same views across Derwent Water can still be appreciated. The woodlands here are abundant with red squirrels and it’s not hard to guess where Beatrix found her inspiration for The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. You take in the vista across the lake to St Herbert’s Island and beyond to Walla and Falcon Crags on the eastern shores, a scene Beatrix sketched and painted many times. You could even re-live the adventures of the impish squirrel and join a Guided canoe trip to Owl Island

Buttermere need hold no fear

Beatrix loved to get out among the fells and despite unsuitable Victorian garb was happy to scramble up hillsides and along rough sheep tracks. Occasionally she turned tourist and headed further afield which was rewarding, and still is, but we can be glad that vehicles and roads have moved on a bit:

" Went to Buttermere by Grange, Honister and back by Newlands. Extraordinary and striking drive…an awful road. Never knew what jolting was before…recommend said excursion as a cure for colic."
- Beatrix Potter 1885

Undoubtedly extraordinary and striking, but thankfully these days exploring both Borrowdale and Buttermere Valley by car is also easier. Park up, explore and help us to continue Beatrix’s legacy of caring for this beautiful landscape: Best car parks for Borrowdale

There are so many places in the Lake District where you can discover more about Beatrix Potter. We've joined together with our friends to create this handy PDF map that you can download for free