Hawkshead is a picturesque old village on Esthwaite Water, set midway between Ambleside and Coniston. William Wordsworth lodged in the village and attended the Grammar School here between 1778 and 1783. The old school is open to visitors and there is a desk on which the young vandal carved his initials. Apparently the punishment for such misdeeds was a birching whilst suspended from a pulley system in the centre of the room. We can only surmise that Wordsworth received the punishment as his crime is still evident.
There are whitewashed cottage around the central square of the village, and a number of narrow cobbled alleys and archways running between the various properties. The lack of street signs can be rather confusing and it is advisable to call at the local Tourist Information to obtain a guide. The main car park is a short distance outside the village and no traffic is allowed in the centre.
Many of the buildings have decorative features, ranging from pretty window boxes to carved gargoyles in the eaves of some of the cottages. On the main street is the Beatrix Potter Gallery, displaying art work by the author in the former office of her solicitor husband, William Heelis. The old Quaker Meeting House was built in 1688 and is one of the oldest buildings in the village. A 15th Century building on Flag Street is now a café.
There are several cafés in the village which are opened during the daytime in the tourist season. The public houses serve food and there are several shops in the village. Each August Hawkshead holds an agricultural show.
Esthwaite Water is a narrow strip of water, about two miles long and emptying into Windermere. It is a popular spot for trout fishing. The lovely beauty spot of Tarn Hows is a pleasant walk from Hawkshead, offering views of Helvellyn and the fells around Coniston.