HALFWAY up the hill towards Moss Eccles Tarn, the mud got the better of me.

We’d set off to visit the pretty tarn, half expecting to see Jeremy Fisher leaping across the water, but thanks to the rain and my unsuitable footwear we didn’t get further than a wide muddy puddle and a herd of inquisitive cows.

Beatrix Potter purchased Moss Eccles Tarn in 1913 and went boating there with her husband. Its floating water lilies are said to have inspired the much-loved children’s writer and illustrator’s amiable frog, Jeremy Fisher.

We followed Beatrix’s footsteps up Stoney Lane from her house, Hill Top. The view from an upstairs window looks up the lane.

Owned by the National Trust, the 17th century farmhouse remains furnished as it was when Beatrix lived there. Nestled in Near Sawrey, close to Hawkshead, it was where she wrote her stories, painted, and enjoyed simple pleasures of her beloved Lake District. Each room is filled with her mementoes, antiques, old Lakeland furniture and paintings. There’s a sense of her spirit around the house; paintings by Beatrix and her brother Bertram adorn the walls, plates displayed in the entrance hall feature her father’s animal designs, and sheep-breeding trophies and photographs of local agricultural fairs reflect her love of farming.

Some items in the house, and its rooms, appear in Beatrix’s books. In The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, Tabitha Twitchit sits by the stove, and appears on the half-landing searching for Tom Kitten. An Edward VII Coronation teapot in the parlour corner cupboard is in the Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan, and in the Treasure Room a beautifully furnished dolls’ house contains miniature items such as cutlery, griddle, bellows and coal scuttle stolen in The Tale of Two Bad Mice. Dotted around the house are Beatrix’s famous little books.

The pretty garden reflects her love of nature, containing plants such as roses, hollyhocks and lilacs, fruit trees, a beehive and a vegetable garden, (you almost catch sight of Peter Rabbit scurrying about). Next door is a working farm, which has been part of Hill Top for over a century.

Beatrix Potter owned many houses and farms in the Lake District. The Beatrix Potter Gallery, in Hawkshead, explores more of the writer, illustrator and conservationist’s legacy.

A short drive from Hill Top is Crook, near Windermere, where we stayed at The Wild Boar Inn, set within a private woodland in the ancient Gilpin Valley. The early 19th century hotel, which takes its name from the local legend of Sir Richard de Gilpin who fought and killed a ferocious wild boar, is a splendid rustic haven. We sank into leather armchairs beside log fires and dined in the Grill and Smokehouse restaurant; relaxed and characterful with thick oak beams and quirky displays of antiques and books. Our beautifully furnished room, with spacious sitting-room and lovely vintage-style bathroom, had its own wood-burning stove and bookcases.

The atmosphere at the Wild Boar is warm and friendly - perfect to cosy up on a winter night. With its own smokehouse and microbrewery on site, the inn serves fabulous home-cooked food and a selection of real ales.

The menu offers a range of smoked meats, not least wild boar, and smoked fish too. For dinner, I started with in house-cured Loch Duart smoked salmon, while my friend had hot-smoked pigs in blankets, with homemade pork crackling. We were served artisan bread with smoked butter.

My friend’s main course was the Deli Board For One which included air-dried ham, homemade pastrami and in-house hot-smoked peppered wild boar. I had tasty grilled mackerel fillet with sour onion and and rocket salad and Cumbrian White Crab meat. Other choices included pheasant breast stuffed with wild boar and damson and a selection of smoked steaks.

Next day we explored one of the woodland trails then drove into Bowness, where you can take Lake Windermere cruises and browse pretty shops. Later it was time for a treat - the Wild Boar afternoon tea. Beautifully presented on a wooden stand, this included smoked meat treats, such as wild boar scotch eggs, as well as mini fish ‘n’ chips, cream scones and macaroons, served with a pot of tea and choice of three real ales presented on a wooden bat. A hearty, contemporary twist on traditional afternoon tea, reflecting the venue’s rustic charm.

It was a wrench to leave the Wild Boar, and the stunning Gilpin Valley. It’s a special place at any time, but the relaxed ambience and crackling fires make this country retreat perfect for a winter break.

* The Wild Boar Inn, Crook Road, Windermere, Cumbria. Guests have access to the leisure club at nearby sister hotel Low Wood Bay in Windermere.

Call 015394 45225 or visit englishlakes.co.uk

* Hill Top re-opens on February 18. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/hill-top