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A City Guide to Keswick and Derwent Water - The Lake District’s Northern Stars

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The unofficial capital of the northern Lake District, Keswick is a sturdy market town that sits on the shores of Derwent Water beneath a backdrop of grassy fells. A small, friendly place of whitewashed, slate-roofed buildings, and once the centre of ore and graphite mining, it still holds a weekly market. Lake cruises, quirky museums, pub lunches, a lakeside theatre, and low- or high-level walking are the main attractions.

Walks and views


In Keswick, you are never far from a good walk or a good viewpoint. Some of the Lake District’s highest fells, such as Skiddaw and Helvellyn, are within easy driving distance. And when you reach the summits you will be rewarded with horizon-wide views. There are equally good low-level walks around the lake with memorable views up the craggy valley of Borrowdale or from beauty spots like Ashness Bridge.

Cruising on the lake


It’s not the biggest of the Lake District’s famed watery delights but Derwent Water, at just 3 miles long, can claim to be one of the prettiest. The regular launch service that crisscrosses the lake from Keswick makes it easy to explore the different shores and villages without having to drive a car along narrow roads. Many people combine a boat trip with a walk and a picnic or pub lunch.


  • Keswick Launch Company, Keswick Landing Pier, Lake Road; Tel: +44 17687 72263; Website: Keswick Launch Company


Museums and theatres


Wet-weather activities are important in the Lake District, which has an unpredictable climate. Happily, Keswick and the surrounding area have a clutch of quirky museums including Cumberland Pencil Museum and Honister Slate Mine. The latter is a working mine in which you’re invited to wear a hard hat and descend into the fell side. In the evening, as an alternative to the town’s many pubs, there’s Theatre by the Lake with its varied program of classics and new writing.


  • Cumberland Pencil Museum, Southey Works, Main Street, Keswick CA12 5NG; Tel: +44 17687 73626; Website: Cumberland Pencil Museum

  • Theatre by the Lake, Lakeside, Lake Road, Keswick CA12 5DJ; Tel: +44 17687 74411; Website: Theatre by the Lake


Coffee shops and quirky boutiques


Half a day can easily be spent on a leisurely stroll around Keswick’s many coffee shops and tea rooms. These range from The Square Orange with its specialist coffees and laid-back vibe to Bryson's of Keswick with its impressive cakes. Interspersed among the cafés are small independent shops selling jewelry, gourmet chocolates, and handicrafts. The best are clustered around and behind the Market Place or down Lake Road.


  • The Square Orange, 20 St. John's Street, Keswick CA12 5AS; Tel: +44 17687 73888; Website: The Square Orange

  • Bryson’s of Keswick, 42 Main Street, Keswick CA12 5JD; Tel: +44 17687 72257; Website: Bryson’s of Keswick


Day trips from Keswick


Some say that Borrowdale, with its whitewashed farmhouses and picturesque villages, is the most attractive of the Lake District’s valleys. A 20-minute drive south of Derwent Water, it offers walks and tea rooms aplenty. Bassenthwaite Lake, 15 minutes north of Keswick, has a sweep of attractions including Whinlatter Forest, Mirehouse stately home, and the Lakes Distillery. If you fancy a day amid the shopping bustle of a larger town, Penrith and Cockermouth are both within 20 miles.


  • Mirehouse, Keswick CA12 4QE; Tel: +44 17687 72287; Website: Mirehouse

  • The Lakes Distillery, Setmurthy, near Bassenthwaite Lake, Cumbria CA13 9SJ; Tel: +44 17687 88857; Website: The Lakes Distillery