That the Lake District plays itself in the new Beatrix Potter biopic makes the film something of a rarity.
Hollywood has had Romania stand in for North Carolina (Cold Mountain) and London’s Docklands for Vietnam (Full Metal Jacket), but in Miss Potter the scenery is 100% Cumbria – and naturally, it steals the show.
Lake District tourism chiefs have been quick to respond. A number of Beatrix Potter-themed tours are now available in and around Cumbria, some concentrating on the author, others on the movie itself.
Keen to experience the sights and sounds so beautifully captured in the film, I started off by spending a day with Ben Barden of Lake District Film Tours. Ben, a local photographer, worked on Miss Potter as a location finder, so he knows his stuff.
Our first port of call was Loweswater, where the opening and closing sequences of the film were shot. In one scene, we see Renee Zellweger as Potter sketching under the shade of a tree. Down below is the shimmering lake, framed by some towering mountains. Taking a seat under the same tree, I indulged my inner squirrel for a peaceful moment or two.
We then moved on to Yew Tree Farm, which stood in for Hill Top Farm, Potter’s home in the Lake District. Hill Top has changed since 1905, when the film is set, so film-makers had to recreate the farm elsewhere. They chose Yee Tree Farm, another National Trust property a bunny-hop away between Coniston and Ambleside.
By coincidence, Potter also owned this farm and opened the first of her tea rooms there, so I was able to take afternoon tea in a room designed by the author. Although it is still a working farm, Hill Top doubles up as a charming bed and breakfast.
Our day-long tour took us up to Derwentwater in the north of the Lakes, which features in the movie and is also the setting for a number of Beatrix Potter books. Driving along the A591 between Thirlspot and Keswick, scene-spotters are spoilt for choice as they pass some of the finest views in the Lakes.
Day two on the Potter trail was spent with Graham Wilkinson of Mountain Goat Tours. Having seen the movie sets, I was keen to get a measure of Potter herself.
Even if your clients are on a coach tour of the Lake District, the chances are they will be transferred to a Mountain Goat mini-coach. Conventional coaches are far too big for many of the Lake District’s tiny roads and with tough new EU regulations on coach drivers’ working hours coming into force in April, most coaching companies now subcontract their business to specialist local operators.
This is great news for visitors as Graham and his team of local guides certainly know their Flopsies from their Mopsies.
We started off at the real Potter homestead Hill Top Farm, in the picturesque village of Near Sawrey. Potter bought Hill Top Farm with proceeds from The Tale of Peter Rabbit and moved up there from London.
It is now owned by the National Trust and operates as a museum from April until the end of October. Round the corner from the farm is the Tower Bank Arms which appears in one of Potter’s sketches for The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.
We moved on to Wray Castle overlooking Lake Windermere, where Beatrix spent her first Lake District holiday as a child. From here we moved on to Tarn Hows, said to be England’s most beautiful spot. I’d be inclined to agree – if anyone knows of a more scenic view in our the UK, I’ll eat my Squirrel Nutkins.
The great thing about a Potter tour is that even if clients fail to be inspired by her whimsical creations, they will still experience some of the most beautiful scenery that our country has to offer.
Mountain Goat offers a two-night Beatrix Potter Experience at Lindeth House Country House Hotel on a bed-and-breakfast basis for £240 per person. The price includes transfers from Windermere station, full-day Beatrix Potter tour, Lake Coniston cruise and admission to the World of Beatrix Potter attraction.
Lake District Film Tours offers two nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation in a lake view room, at the Holbeck Ghyll Hotel from £500 per person. Prices include a Michelin-starred dinner and a full-day Miss Potter tour, including lunch.
WA Shearings have a selection of Lake District escorted tours, including the five-day Best of the Lake District from £212.
Superbreak offers the Lindeth House Country Hotel on a bed-and-breakfast basis from £85 per person twin-share between.
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