A Host of Golden Daffodils
There are a few people who are inextricably linked by history to the Lake District: Beatrix Potter, Alfred Wainwright and, of course, William Wordsworth. Despite writing dozens of beautiful poems it is his best known piece “I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud” which has most captured people’s imagination over the generations. Perhaps one of the reasons we love it so much is because we can all identify with the joy he feels at seeing “...a host, of golden daffodils” on a warm spring day in the sunshine; after the monochrome drama of winter, the bright yellow trumpets bring a welcome splash of colour to the countryside.
There are several places in Cumbria to visit and see spectacular displays of daffodils, and the beauty of all of them is that they are in easily accessible places and usually have a nice café nearby.
The Wordsworth Daffodils – Ullswater
Although there are no absolute certainties, the most likely spot for the original daffodils which inspired the poem is Glencoyne Bay on Ullswater. The story goes that William and his sister Dorothy had been our walking “...in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park” and were making their way home to Grasmere on a rather blustery day when they discovered the daffodils along the shoreline.
There are no easy circular walks along the shores of the lake but there is a very nice National Trust car park and café at the foot of Aira Force, and from there you can wander down to the foreshore to visit the daffodils. For a more active afternoon take the steamer from Glenridding to the pier at Aira Force and, after admiring the daffodils, follow the Ullswater Way back to the village for a well earned coffee and cake.
Dora’s Field – Rydal
Sticking with the Wordsworth theme, the poet originally bought this field next to St Mary’s Church after a minor spat with his neighbour when he’d threatened to build a house on the land for his daughter Dora. In the end, the house was never built but when Dora tragically died of TB, he planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs in the field in her memory.
There are a number of local footpaths in the area but for a popular circular route follow the old Coffin Route towards Grasmere (recently featured as one of Britain’s Favourite Walks), then cross the footbridge at the far end of Rydal Water and return along the track beneath Loughrigg; just remember to take your camera with you as the views on a sunny day are magnificent.
Stock Ghyll – Ambleside
Although a little hillier than the other two walks, you get plenty of stunning views in exchange for a little effort and shoe leather. The route is well marked out of Ambleside: leaving the village from near the Salutation Hotel, it initially follows the road before the track drops away into the woodland on the left. In March these woods are chock full of beautiful daffodils and numerous different routes criss-cross the area so you can pick the one which best suits you.
As well as the daffodils there are stunning waterfalls to enjoy too; at the lower end of the woods a beautiful arced curtain of water falls from a still pool and offers the perfect excuse to pause and catch your breath. If you push up further into the woods you’ll find Stockghyll Force where the water thunders down to dramatic effect. There are a number of excellent viewing spots on both sides of the falls but just be sure to watch your footing and don’t be tempted to lean too far over trying to get that perfect shot.