William Wordsworth

7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850


William Wordsworth

(William Shuter / Wikipedia.org)

“I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils.” These words, by noted poet William Wordsworth are etched into English literature history, and were inspired by his visit to Glencoyne Bay, near UIlswater. Born in Cockermouth, Wordsworth spent some years away from Cumbria both in the UK and in Europe, but was eventually drawn back to the area’s natural beauty and spent around fifty years living there before his death in 1850.

Wordsworth’s partnership with his lifelong friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and their joint publication, “Lyrical Ballards” is widely credited with providing the catalyst for the Romanticism movement in English literature and arts during the 19th century. Furthermore, Wordsworth’s exquisite musings on nature and his 1810 publication “Guide to the Lakes” provided inspiration for many to visit the Lake District, transforming the area from often ignored farmland into a popular tourist destination amongst the Victorian middle classes. This, in turn, would eventually lead to the creation of the Lake District National Park in 1951.


William Wordsworth was born on the 7th April in 1770 in Cockermouth. His father, John Wordsworth, worked for James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale. With William’s mother Ann Cookson, John Wordsworth had four additional children, including Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy, with whom Wordsworth would share a lifelong close bond. Both Wordsworth’s parents died before he reached the age of 15, undoubtedly having a significant impact on his works.

Wordsworth attended Hawkshead Grammer School, before moving onto Cambridge to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree. Wordsworth spent a brief period in France following his time at university, where he conceived a child out of wedlock and became inspired by the French Revolution movement. He met his lifelong friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1795 and along with Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy, the two poets spent some years living in Somerset where they would create the “Lyrical Ballards”. The three then spent a year living in Germany, before Wordsworth and his sister moved to the Lake District in 1799.

Wordsworth married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson in 1802, and the pair had five children. During his residency in the Lake District, Wordsworth worked on his autobiographical poem, “The Prelude”, considered to be his finest work. Wordsworth died at his home near Grasmere in 1850.


William Wordsworth is best known for his beautiful poetic works that encouraged a new appreciation of nature. His most famous poem, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” celebrated the simple, yet enthralling beauty of natural world as represented by the humble daffodil. The poem forms a part of the English literature syllabus in classes both in the UK and around the world. Wordsworth’s work inspired many of his peers to view nature in a new, more respectful way, and set against the backdrop of the industrial revolution, his works can be seen as part of the very beginnings of a conservationist movement that would eventually lead to the establishment of the Lake District National Park.

Links to the Lake District

Wordsworth spent the vast majority of his life living the Lake District, and is generally considered the area’s most famous son. Many of his poems, including “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”, were inspired by the sights he found during his many hikes through the area. The Lake District as a tourist destination is a relatively modern phenomena and in part came about thanks to William Wordsworth’s publication “Guide To The Lakes” in 1810 that encouraged large numbers of Victorian tourists to visit the area.

Sites of Interest

There are numerous sites of significance in the Lake District that have links to William Wordsworth. His childhood home in Cockermouth, Wordsworth House, is open to the public during the summer months and has been restored to reflect life in 18th century England. Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy from 1799 until 1808 is where Wordsworth wrote many of his most famous works, and where his children were born. Today, it is a museum that celebrates both siblings and their works. Rydal Mount, that was Wordsworth’s final home, is still owned by descendants of the Wordsworth family, and is open to members of the public.

Wordsworth spent a number of years working at the Old Stamp House in Ambleside as the Distributor of Stamps. Today, you can enjoy a fine dining experience in the poet’s former offices. Inspiration for Wordsworth’s most famous poem, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” is believed to have come from a walk Wordsworth took with Dorothy through Glencoyne Bay by Ullswater. Our family friendly walk, Aira Force to Glenridding, takes you through this area with a return on the Ullswater Steamer. You should note that the best time to see the Cumbrian daffodils that Wordsworth describes in his literature is usually around the end of March.