Keswick and the North

Jonathan’s View

“Famous fells fall gracefully into exquisite valleys with Keswick holding court over all”

The Area

Until recently I have holidayed in the village of Threlkeld under the slopes of Blencathra. I think Keswick and the North offers the best walking in England. The mountains around are sculptured out of rock known as Skiddaw Slates, ancient sediments which give the scenery a relatively soft appearance compared to further south. They rise gracefully from the valley and provide excellent walking on easy paths.

The area is centred around the lake of Derwentwater, a wide and shallow lake bringing many visitors to its shores and in to the rowing and sailing boats that dot its surface. The shoreline offers great walking territory as are the hills above. Catbells, Surprise View from Ashness Bridge and Skiddaw itself are familiar to anyone with only a limited knowledge of the Lake District. 

To the north the area is quieter, a real contrast to that south of Skiddaw and Blencathra.



Keswick is the undisputed capital of the Northern Lakes and is the focus of most things that go on. My mother was actually evacuated here during the war and my gran stayed on. My love of walking stems from early holidays visiting her although I did not know it at the time! Some of the character of the town has been lost with the increasing dominance of outdoor shops and cafes. However fleeces and dogs still abound, the weather is accepted as ‘just difficult’. Skiddaw towers over the town to the north and a short walk takes you through attractive gardens to the lake. The famous launch boats are waiting to take you further.

The ‘Theatre by the Lake’ is small but puts on some excellent plays, the pencil museum is a must (but just once!) as is market day. 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!

Braithwaite & Threlkeld

Catbells on the Newlands side
Catbells on the Newlands side

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. It also has the best access to explore the fells of the Newlands Round including the dramatic Grisedale Pike and Causey Pike. There are two very good pubs in the village and 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 and is probably more attractive and less busy than Braithwaite. Since I first started coming in 1971 (scarily nearly 50 years ago) 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.

Have a read of a great days walking I had  A Day on Blencathra

Caldbeck & Bassenthwaite

Caldbeck from High Pike
Caldbeck from High Pike

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.  Carlisle is within striking difference of Caldbeck and is underrated as a visitor attraction but really Caldbeck is situated best to explore the fells known to all as ‘the Back o’ Skidda’. Chris Bonnington enjoys a walk here as much as any of his more glamorous climbs.

Bassenthwaite (the lake and village) are rarely visited except as access to the best route up Skiddaw via Ullock Pike. The lake is not easy to access and and the walking on its western shores not great. However the main road leads to better places, Cockermouth and then in to the Buttermere valley.

Best Walks in Keswick and the North

Below are my favourite walks in Keswick & the North, just click on the link for full details.


Barrow from Braithwaite. A graceful small fell above the village of Braithwaite with great views over Derwentwater.

Derwentwater Walk. A walk along the quieter shores of Derwentwater includes a trip on the steamer.

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.

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.

Back of Thirlmere. A visit to Harrop Tarn and waterfall from the quiet side of Thirlmere.

A Caldbeck Experience. Faulds Brow and Bobbin Mill are two of the highlights on this walk north from Caldbeck.


Derwentwater via Walla Crag. Deservedly one of the most popular walks in the Lake District.

Flanks of Newlands. A perfect ridge in miniature on the steep slopes near Causey Pike.

High Rigg. A rugged little fell sitting in splendid isolation with views over Skiddaw, Helvellyn and Blencathra.

Catbells. An iconic peak on the shores of Derwentwater this fell can be climbed from a more unusual starting point.

Circuit of Derwentwater. A complete round of the lake with options to keep lakeside or go high.

Great Crag from Watendlath. A short climb past two tarns leads to a rocky peak with views over Borrowdale.

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.


Climbing Blencathra. My favourite fell in the Lake District and my favourite route up and down.

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.

High Spy Ridge Walking. A fairly insignificant summit on a broad grassy ridge with excellent views.

Glaramara. This rocky peak with a lovely name sits at the head of Borrowdale with commanding views.

Newlands Round. Easy walking on these high fells offers a pleasant circuit above this lovely valley.

The Remote North. A long circuit from Caldbeck over easy ground and good paths.

Weather Forecast



Other Things to do

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.

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


Places to Stay

Individual properties to come

Cottages in the Dales

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