While we were in the Lake District, I couldn't resist making a trip over to see Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's House. I remember growing up and reading about Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, and Mr. MacGregor's garden so seeing the house and gardens that inspired her writing and sketches was just amazing.
A bit about the house... Hill Top is owned by the National Trust who took over Miss Potter's estate upon her death. She actually was a savvy businesswoman who owned most of the village of Little Sawrey (she sought to preserve the beauty of the Lake District). When the National Trust took over Hill Top, the Trust kept the house up to Potter's standards. Sadly, pictures aren't allowed within the house due to age and very careful monitoring of light within. The house is dark inside, especially on a gloomy February day, but once your eyes adjust, it's not bad. In nearly every room are Potter's books with a bookmark or two. Each bookmarked page displays a picture that was drawn from something within the room or right outside.
Although best known for her children's books, Beatrix Potter was an accomplished artist with a strong leaning towards naturalist and botanical drawings. She created over 300 detailed drawings of fungi, some of which are still used in textbooks today because of their accuracy and attention to detail. She would dissect animals to discover exactly how their bodies worked, a process that gave her unique accuracy in her humanized animal drawings. Potter wasn't drawing from just an temporary interest in the natural world; she was completely fascinated with it and sought to learn more.
Within the house, it is evident that Beatrix Potter appreciated the finer things and had a strong eye for the artistic and unique. She collected Lakeland furniture, seen in the entry and upstairs bedroom, had a large collection of books, various original oil paintings by artists such as Giovanni Castiglioni and Thomas Gainsborough, a dollhouse seen in The Tale of Two Bad Mice (complete with fake foods), various desks and a mahogany piano, and four large paintings by her brother hanging in her library. Simple, but practical seemed to be her decorating theme and that is evident throughout.
Outside, the gardens were sadly mostly empty of flowers, but visiting in the off season meant fewer other visitors to deal with and with such a tiny house, fewer visitors are worth it! In the spring and summer though, the gardens are overflowing the plants that Miss Potter loved (and may have stolen from around the village). Today, they estimate a 90% accuracy rating for the flowers in the gardens because the gardeners have searched for locally sourced and historically accurate plants. The resident gardener also has to deal with rabbits that still come and eat the plants though, so some things have not changed at all.
The village of Little Sawrey is charming, albeit full of visitors. It's fun to meander around and spot various parts of town that were in the books.
Mr. McGregor's house is nearly next door, although it is now a B&B, and the Tower Bank Arms, seen in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck is a cozy pub.
There are various other Beatrix Potter locales in connection with Hill Top as well, and they are on my list for my next visit. The Beatrix Potter Gallery (National Trust) in Hawkshead displays her works and the Armitt Museum (Not National Trust) in Ambleside displays her collection of natural history watercolors and her personal copies of her books.
Cost of admission to Hill Top is £11 for adults and £5.50 for children.