Keswick & the North
“Famous fells fall gracefully into exquisite valleys with Keswick holding court over all”
Based in the small village of Threlkeld I have spent a good deal of my life exploring the area of the Lake District defined by Keswick and its own lake, Derwentwater. The mountains around though are sculptured out of rock known as Skiddaw Slates, ancient sediments which give the scenery a relatively soft appearance compared to further south. The mountains rise gracefully from the valley and provide some excellent areas for walking, steep sided they may be but this is due to the effects of glaciation or river erosion and has not created steep crags and rough terrain but a more peaceful landscape. Derwentwater itself is a shallow, wide lake bringing visitors to its shores in their thousands. The steamers are the only engines allowed on the lake but sailing vessels, canoes and an array of hand powered boats give the lake a colourful but at times cluttered appearance. The shoreline though is great walking territory as are the hills above – many iconic sites are there to entice the walker (or motorist); Catbells, Surprise View from Ashness Bridge and Skiddaw itself are familiar to anyone with only a limited knowledge of the Lake District. The walks I have detailed below cover both the fells and lowland walks as this is an area where both offer equal enjoyment and pleasure.
A word also about the quieter area of “Keswick & the North”. North of the mountains of Skiddaw and Blencathra is an area of fells still rarely visited, a great favourite of one of our greatest climbers Chris Bonnington. The villages are quieter too and it is ideal for anyone after a peaceful holiday but without the distances to travel that the lovely valleys to the west of the Lake District bring.
Keswick is the undisputed capital of the Northern Lakes and is certainly my favourite town across the region. My mother was actually evacuated here during the war and my gran stayed after creating the holidays which I have taken ever since. Sure Keswick has changed and some of its character has been lost but walking through the town and visiting the ever increasing number of walking shops still brings a feeling of pleasure; in particular a feeling that you are amongst an outdoor crowd of enthusiasts. Fleeces and dogs abound, the weather is accepted as ‘difficult’ and the pubs and tea shops are classed as comfortable rather than posh. Skiddaw towers over the town to the north whilst a short walk takes you through some attractive gardens and a mini golf course to the shores of Derwentwater with boats waiting to take you across the lake to quieter more enticing spots.
There is so much to do within Keswick I could spend pages writing about it but I will just name a few of those I have visited and enjoyed. The ‘Theatre by the Lake’ is small but puts on some excellent plays, the pencil museum is a must (seriously!) as is the nearby James Bond museum. There is a large park with tennis courts and a leisure pool, an array of quiet galleries for art lovers, a cinema and every choice of places to eat from Indian, Italian, Chinese and a choice of good pub grub in traditional Lakeland inns. Most serve Jennings which is an additional bonus!
Away from Keswick the villages are quieter and of great character. My two personal favourites are Braithwaite and Threlkeld. Braithwaite has a wonderful situation at the foot of both Whinlatter and Newlands valleys and the best access for the hills of the Newlands round including Grisedale Pike and Causey Pike. There are two very good pubs in the village, the Royal Oak and the Coledale Inn plus a shop making it easy to cater for the many holiday cottages in the village and the nearby campsite. Threlkeld hugs the slopes of Blencathra (or Saddleback as it is known to many) and is probably more attractive and less busy than Braithwaite with more of a community spirit. However the shop has closed but the two pubs continue to thrive – the Horse & Farrier and the Salutation Inn. Other villages pepper the Borrowdale valley and are real walkers paradises. Rosthwaite, Seatoller and Grange offer great places to stay and enjoy the surrounding hills. They are right bang ‘in the action’ and offer a classic Lakeland holiday.
To the north Caldbeck jumps out as a wonderful location for the less well known pleasures of the northern hills. It is a genuine village with a real community, a lovely village pub, a green, a duck pond, two lovely churches and access to this unspoilt area. It is also a significant stopping point on the increasingly popular Cumbria Way – a long distance footpath starting in Ulverston and finishing in Carlisle. Carlisle is within striking difference of Caldbeck and is underrated as a visitor attraction but really Caldbeck is sited as the place to explore the fells known to all as ‘the back o’ Skidda’.
Below are a list of my favourite walks in Keswick & the North, just click on the link for full details.
Blencathra. My favourite fell in the Lake District and my favourite route up and down.
Derwentwater via Walla Crag. Deservedly one of the most popular walks in the Lake District
Skiddaw via Ullock Pike. The best route up Skiddaw from the village of Bassenthwaite.
Skiddaw from Keswick . The classic climb of Skiddaw is straightforward for all
Coledale Round. A long day of 13 miles including such famous fells as Causey Pike and Grisedale Pike.
Barrow. A graceful small fell above the village of Braithwaite with great views over Derwentwater.
Under Catbells. A walk along the quieter shores of Derwentwater includes a trip on the steamer.
Glaramara. This rocky peak with a lovely name sits at the head of Borrowdale with commanding views.
Flanks of Newlands. A perfect ridge in minature on the steep slopes near Causey Pike
Newlands Round. Easy walking on these high fells offers a pleasant circuit above this lovely valley.
High Rigg. A rugged little fell sitting in splendid isolation with views over Skiddaw, Helvellyn and Blencathra
St John’s in the Vale. A quiet corner of a popular area, St John’s in the Vale has a lot of character revealed in this short walk.
Catbells. An iconic peak on the shores of Derwentwater this fell can be climbed from a more unusual starting point.
Upper Borrowdale. A popular walk which is so varied it becomes a tour of the Lake District in miniature.
Above Threlkeld. A short walk on the flanks of Blencathra takes in the village where I spent all my holidays.
Great Crag from Watendlath. A short climb past two tarns leads to a rocky peak with views over Borrowdale.
and for the less frequented ‘back o’ Skidda’
The Remote North. A long circuit from Caldbeck over easy ground and good paths.
A Caldbeck Experience . Faulds Brow and Bobbin Mill are two of the highlights on this walk north from Caldbeck.
Bassenthwaite to Threlkeld. A linear walk of 10 miles through the heart of the remote north of the Lakes
Carrock Fell. On the north eastern flank of upland Lake District Carrock Fell offers a straightforward climb.
Bowscale Tarn & Bannerdale Crags. The Victorians loved these fells on the back of Blencathra when climbed from Mungrisedale.
Other Things to do in Keswick & the North
Whinlatter Forestry. Walking, cycling and Go Ape high wires are all available from the Whinlatter forestry centre.
Pencil Museum in Keswick. Graphite was discovered nearby at Seathwaite and the pencil museum tells the full story. It is surprisingly good.
James Bond museum in Keswick. A small collection of some of the gadgets and cars featured in the Bond movies.
Theatre by the Lake. Near Derwentwater the theatre has some excellence performances from theatre to jazz and musicals.
Honister Slate Mine. 900 years of history is encapsulated at this working slate mine famous for its blue slate.
Derwent Water Marina. Sailing, canoeing and surfers are all available for hire from this progressive marina near Portinscale.
Keswick Plus. A comprehensive site of all you would want to know about Keswick and the surrounding area
Updated Weather Forecast
Click here to go to the Met Office website for a 5 day weather forecast for the Keswick area.
Places to Stay
Hedgehog Hill Guest House, Keswick
The Grange B & B, Keswick
Royal Oak, Rosthwaite in Borrowdale
Mary Mount Hotel, Derwentwater
Littletown Farm Guest House, Newlands
Swinside Country House, Braithwaite
Coledale Inn, Braithwaite
Blease Garth Cottage, Threlkeld
Troutbeck Camping Site, Nr Keswick