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Keswick itself is superbly located between the foothills of Skiddaw (931m high) and the shores of the three mile (5km) long lake Derwentwater, which leads south into the craggy and dramatic Borrowdale valley.
You can reach Keswick and the Northern Lakes by car, by public transport or by a mixture of both. If travelling from outside the UK, hire cars can be picked up at airports and there are rail connections at airports and ferry terminals. Within the UK, number of long distance buses call a Keswick and there are rail stations at Carlisle and Penrith with bus and taxi connections to Keswick.
The 4000-year-old Stone Circle on the nearby airy hilltop of Castlerigg overlooks Keswick in its lovely valley setting. The founding of St. Kentigern's Church (AD533), the Market Charter (13th Century), early lead mining, quarrying and the growth of pencil manufacture have all played their part in a long and often dramatic history. Keswick has also been fortunate in its benefactors of a century ago. Two large public parks, very close to the town centre, offer games facilities in open, wooded and garden settings. They are an important part of Keswick's well-tended appearance which has won it several national awards, European commendation and, very important, the appreciation of its many visitors. Certainly, too, the appetite, sharpened by the country air, will be ready for the local delicacies of Cumberland Sausage, Tatie Pot, and Rum Butter in one of the many pubs and eating-places. And what better way to round off the day than a stroll down to the shores of Derwentwater past the new Theatre by the Lake. Rest awhile with that glorious panorama and plan the exciting days ahead.
Derwentwater itself, three miles long and a mile wide, is very accessible to the public, ringed by road and footpaths along the shores and at higher levels. Despite its popularity among water sports lovers, the lake stays peaceful because of the controls on motor driven craft; however, the regular launch service around the lake is an excellent way to explore the lower valley. One of the gems of this area is the little side valley of Watendlath, perched above the lake. Still unspoiled, from famously scenic Ashness Bridge to the little tarn and hamlet, visitors in the summer can enjoy a free minibus service run by the National Trust, easing the traffic problems on a narrow twisting walled road. Regular bus services from and to Keswick and linking into round trips to Buttemere also can give walkers freedom from the car. Beyond Grange and its double arched bridge over the River Derwent the wooded valley narrows into the "Jaws of Borrowdale" with its beautiful riverside walks, before opening onto the rich valley pastures, patterned by drystone walls, at the head of the valley.
It's only a short journey from Borrowdale over dramatic Honister Pass with its slate quarries into the lovely valley containing the lakes of Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater. Once a single lake, Buttermere and Cummock Water are now separated by a green and fertile plain which shows up in contrast to the steep fellsides and tumbling waterfalls. This is mainly sheep farming country, as are most of the local valley and hill areas. The native bred Herdwick sheep, Swaledales and other cross breeds spend most of the year on the open fells and are brought into the valley bottoms at lambing time and in severe weather, It is a very marginal type of farming and could not survive without subsidy; nonetheless its continuation is vital in maintaining a living, working landscape.
Conservation of the countryside as we know it demands a great effort in time and money. The National Trust, which owns large areas of the Northern Lakes, including many farms, plays and important part by managing its properties and land to a high standard. The Lake District National Park Authority also has a significant role in supporting the farming and local communities. Even in this quiet valley, the heavily eroded footpaths, crumbling drystone walls and provision of wardening and information services all make heavy demands on its resources.
The visitor to Keswick on Derwentwater and the Northern Lakes is greeted with spectacular views on all approaches; from the south alongside Lake Thirlmere, from the east the tremendous panorama of Blencathra, while from the north and west the view is filled by the broad and smooth outlines of Skiddaw with Bassenthwaite Lake at is foot. Thirlmere is different in origin and appearance to the other northern lakes. At the turn of the century its two small lakes were dammed to create the present large reservoir which supplies Manchester through nearly 100 miles of tunnels, channels and pipelines.
Originally walled against the public and heavily planted with conifers, the lakeshores are now being progressively opened up for recreational use. Thirlmere is linked through to Blencathra by St.John's in the Vale with its impressively steep sides and the remains of the old quarrying industry. The mountain mass of the northern fells rises dramatically from a string of attractive foothill villages, large and small. The landscape changes from tree lined fields and roads to open heather and bracken covered moorland on the smooth slate rock. Impressive in its scale, it is worthy of exploration along the tracks to the isolated Skiddaw House, originally a shepherd's shelter and now a very remote YHA hostel. You're not likely to meet many people inside this exposed hill area, much of which is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Bassenthwaite Lake, at the western foot of Skiddaw is open for much of its length along the main road so its access points to the lakeshore are deservedly popular. An added bonus for the visitor can be the frequent regattas, whose splash of colour and action look very dramatic against the mountain background.
The growth of outdoor pursuits has been the big success story of recent years, and the North Lakes area offers unparalleled opportunities to sample or improve your skills and enjoyment. With Skiddaw (931m), Helvellyn (949m) and Scafell Pike (977m) all within easy reach of Keswick there's no shortage of challenges for the serious fellwalker or climber. The inexperienced need not be deterred; many of the smaller hills such as Latrigg (367m) and Catbells (445m) afford splendid views at modest effort while there are many guided walks and trails, as well as advice and a multitude of books to help you explore this glorious area.
Open water is always tempting and with five major lakes within ten miles or so the urge to go canoeing, sailing or just pottering about in a rowing boat is very strong. Tuition in all the water skills is available at several centres and boat hire is widespread. However, the emphasis throughout the northern lakes is for quiet enjoyment rather than engine power!
Cycling along approved trails on mountain bikes is now very popular. The hire of machines and guidance on routes can be easily arranged locally. The horse rider, too, has room to travel without contact with vehicles or pedestrians. Of course, to find real space you could always try paragliding! The keen golfer will be welcomed at Threlkeld on the testing 18-hole course set in spectacular surroundings. Bowling facilities are excellent in Keswick and Braithwaite while there are opportunities to play tennis at several venues. There's plenty of scope too, for those who would rather sit and just enjoy the fresh air and atmosphere of the great outdoors.
Castlerigg Stone Circle - 4000 years on hilltop setting. Crosthwaite Church - Founded AD553 Poet Southey's tomb. Moot Hall - Ancient market hall in town centre. Now the tourist information centre. Mirehouse - Manor house and grounds near Bassenthwaite Lake.
Keswick Museum and Art Gallery - Victorian style, Local collections, Exhibitions. Pencil Museum - The history of Cumberland Pencils. Factory adjacent. Cars of the Stars Museum - Collection of vehicles from film and television.
Whinlatter Forest Centre - Visitor displays, trails, playground. Trotters and Friends - Farm animals, birds of prey, reptiles, displays. Hope and Fitz Parks - Recreational space and gardens in Keswick. Keswick Launch Co. - Regular service round Derwentwater.
Century Theatre - A repertoire of plays from June to October. Cinema - Regular program of current films. Slide Shows - Popular, at a number of venues.
Keswick Climbing Wall - Instruction and opportunity for all grades. Leisure Pool - Modern facility with slide and wave machine.
Thornthwaite Galleries - Wide range of arts and crafts, Demonstrations. Grove House Galleries - Specialising in Lake District Scenes. The Teapottery - Unusual designs crafted on the premises.
The Jazz Festival - Established and popular 3 day event (May). Keswick Show - Traditional country show (August Bank Holiday). Victorian Fayre - Town centre event in early December.