Keswick is the adventure hub of the northern Lake District, with a vast choice of outdoor activities on two feet, a bike, and on water. The town also has lots of places to eat and a wide choice of things to do in rainy weather. You couldn’t get a better base for a Lake Districtholiday!
Keswick’s lake has an easy, ten-mile path around it, and a paved, pushchair-friendly stretch along its western shore.
• Fishing licences are available from the Tourist Information Centre at Moot Hall, in the centre of Keswick
• Lake cruises take 50 minutes for a round trip, or you can hop on and off at any of the seven jetties around the lake. www.keswick-launch.co.uk
• Hire self-drive motor boats and rowing boats, or even hire the Keswick Launch for special events. www.keswick-launch.co.uk
Derwent Island House www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-derwentislandhouse
This eighteenth century house is on an island on the lake. It is owned by the National Trust but lived in by a tenant (how lovely). It is open to the public for a few days each year, subject to lake levels. Tickets must be booked in advance either by calling 017687 73780 or visiting the small National Trust shop by the lakeside.
Hope Park This park, between the town centre and the lake, has a 9-hole pitch and putt course, crazy obstacle golf, a plant centre, lots of seats, and an ice-cream stand.
Fitz Park This park has a children’s playground, a cricket pitch (see the locals play in summer), a bowling green and tennis courts
The Theatre by the Lakewww.theatrebythelake.com
Positioned between Hope Park and the lake, the Theatre has a summer season of 6 rotating plays. It is much loved for its Christmas shows and also the many festivals it hosts, including Words by the Water and the Jazz and Mountain festivals.
The Pencil Museum www.pencilmuseum.co.uk
At Southey Works, Main Street. The Cumberland Pencil Co. has been based in Keswick for 175 years, and this well-thought out museum tells the history of pencil making, with a replica of a graphite mine. It is highly suitable for kids, with a quiz and drawing zone. There is also a café and pencil shop. Open daily from 9.30-4.
The Mining Museum www.keswickminingmuseum.co.uk
It’s not well known outside the area, but Cumberland was a hive of mining activity for hundreds of years. This museum, at Otley Road, tells the story, starting with the immigration of German mining specialists in 1564. In the geology room, you can find out about mining copper, lead, graphite, slate, coal, iron and gypsum and discover how they were smelted and treated to provide familiar objects. Open 10-5 daily, closed on Mondays in winter. Threlkeld Mining Museum www.threlkeldminingmuseum.co.uk The mine at Threlkeld, 3 miles east of Keswick, produced granite for road building until 1982. Here, you can go underground to see a real mine, see the original quarry machinery and visit the geology and mining museum. Open 7 days a week from Easter to October.
Honister Slate Minewww.honister.com
The mine is on Honister pass, 9 miles west of Keswick. It is the last working slate mine in the country. There are guided tours of the mine itself, and a visitor centre, but most people go there for the Via Ferrata. This ‘iron road’ is an updated version of the climbing system used by Victorian miners to get to work; it has iron cables and hand holds up the rock face, reaching the 2126 ft-high summit of Fleetwith Pike. Open 7 days a week, 9-5.
Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
This free museum was opened in 1898 and well deserves its moniker as the ‘3rd strangest museum in the world’! It has a mixed collection of interesting objects left to the museum, including a stone xylophone, a 664-year old desiccated cat and a penny farthing bicycle. More seriously, it also has a credible collection of the manuscripts of Southey, Wordsworth and High Walpole, and examples of the Keswick School of Industrial Art’s arts and crafts items.
Cars of the Stars Museum www.carsofthestars.com
This is the best place in the world to take small boys of all ages on a wet day. It ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ in that it has famous cars from stage and screen – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Herbie, Batmobiles, the Flintstones car, the Delorean from Back to the Future, a Thunderbirds car, Knightrider, the ‘A’ Team… the list is endless and comprehensive! Located at Standish Street. Open April-December, 10-5.
The James Bond Museum
On Southey Hill Trading Estate. Opened by the owner of Cars of the Stars, this new exhibition has cars and gadgets from the James Bond films, including the octopus from Octopussy and the gun from The Man with the Golden Gun. Cars include the Mustang from Diamonds are Forever, a Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me and a Russian tank from Golden Eye.
St. Kentigern’s Church, Crosthwaite www.crosthwaitechurchkeswick.co.uk This gem lies to the west of Keswick. The first church at this site was allegedly established by St. Kentigern himself in 553AD, but the current church mostly dates from 1523 with parts from the late 12th and 14th centuries. It is unique in having all twelve consecration crosses. It has a 14th century font, a fine mosaic floor and two alabaster effigies dating from 1495. It also houses a monument to the poet, Robert Southey. Weekly services.
The Puzzling Place www.puzzlingplace.co.uk
At Museum Square. This interesting exhibition aims to entertain with confusion, with lots of optical illusions, including holograms and an ‘anti-gravity’ room. There is a puzzle shop and a puzzle room. Open 10-6, seven days a week from Easter to November. Open 11-5 from November to Easter, closed Mondays.
The Keswick Brewing Co. www.keswickbrewing.co.uk You can tell how long this has been here – it’s based on Brewery Lane. Full brewery tours available but opening times vary – call 017687 80700.
Alhambra Cinema www.keswick-alhambra.co.uk On St. John’s Street.
Derwentwater Marina, Portinscale www.derwentwatermarina.co.uk
Here you can have lessons in sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, climbing and scrambling. Also hire out boats. Platty+ www.plattyplus.co.uk
Based at the Lodore boat landing. Here you can have lessons in canoeing, kayaking, dinghy sailing, rowing, dragon boating, Viking longshipping and power boating. Also hire out boats. Open Mar- Oct, 10-6.
A number of eating places have live musicians in the evening. Try
• The Oddfellows Arms, Main Street, has live music seven nights a week in the summer months .
• The Square Orange, St. John’s Street, has live music on Thursdays. www.thesquareorange.co.uk
Treat yourself to a Pamper Day at one of Keswick’s most beautifully sited hotels. Indoor pool, sauna, gym, tennis court and full range of beauty treatments.
The Keswick Lodore Spa www.lakedistricthotels.net/spabreaks
Oxley’s Spa at Underscar www.bluefishspa.co.uk/underscar
Book a Spa Day Pass at Oxley’s Spa at Underscar Manor, Applethwaite. Forty acres of woodland, indoor pool, fitness room and sauna.
Keswick Golf Club www.keswickgolfclub.com Based at Threlkeld Hall, three miles to the east of Keswick. 18-hole parkland course with Lakeland views. Club house with bar and restaurant, golfing shop.
Castlerigg Stone Circle This is a Lake District sight not to be missed – a short 1.5mile walk or drive to the southeast of Keswick. This circle of 40 stones is believed to be 5,000 years old, and, in common with a lot of Cumbrian stone circles, is supposed to be aligned to midwinter sunrise…but we don’t know why! Sited on a flat-topped hill, overlooked by the peaks of Skiddaw and Blencathra, it’s a beautiful place to visit, whether you’re interested in ancient monuments or not.
Keswick is famed for excellent festivals. Try these:
• Film Festival (Feb) www.keswickfilmfestival.co.uk
• Words by the Water (Feb-Mar) www.wayswithwords.co.uk
• Half Marathon (May) www.keswickhalfmarathon.co.uk
• Jazz Festival (May) www.keswickjazzfestival.co.uk
• Mountain Festival (May) www.keswickmountainfestival.co.uk
• Beer Festival (June) www.keswickbeerfestival.co.uk
• Street Theatre (June and July)
• Christian Convention (July) www.keswickministries.org
• Derwentwater Trail (September) www.trailrunning.co.uk
• Christmas Faeroe (December)
Adventure Training. There are many activity providers in the area. Here are just a few:
• Keswick Rambles www.keswickrambles.co.uk Offers guided walks between April and November.
• Tim Mosedale www.timmosedale.co.uk Learn to rock climb with an Everest Summiteer .
• Pace the Peaks www.pacethepeaks.co.uk Guided walks .
• Mountain Sense www.mountainsense.co.uk
Guided rock climbing, scrambling, gorge walking and canoeing.
You can also get downloadable walking guides from www.keswick.org/walks
Places to eat:
There are lots of places to eat in Keswick, including a large number of modern bars and cafes. Places that have stood the test of time include:
• Good Taste Café and the Studio Dining Rooms have a growing reputation. The menu is modern Cumbrian, including smoked Borrowdale trout and wild boar burgers. Usually heavily booked up! They are both owned by chef Peter Sidwell, author of ‘Simply Good Taste’, published by Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-84737-476-9 www.simplygoodtaste.co.uk
• The Dog and Gun – traditional food and good beer in a low-beamed, slate-floored, atmospheric setting. Memorable.
• The Old Keswickian - for fish and chips and home-made, traditional pies to eat in or take away. Fuel for life! – www.oldkeswickian.co.uk
• The Loose Box – tasty pizzas in a wide variety of flavours. Popular with kids. • Abraham’s Tea Room is above George Fisher, outdoor-gear shop, and offers simple, popular lunches – www.georgefisheronline.co.uk/aberhams
• The Lakeland Pedlar – Keswick’s only vegetarian place with a healthy menu with a wide appeal. Gets very busy at lunchtimes, but is worth the wait. www.lakelandpedlar.co.uk
• The Lakeside Gardens café – next to the Theatre by the Lake. Straightforward menu. Lots of outdoor seating with fabulous lake views.
• Bryson’s – the café is above the bakery shop. Traditional, honest, no-argument Lake District grub. Good value. www.brysonsofkeswick.co.uk
Booth’s supermarket is one of a small regional chain, and surprisingly useful, with eclectic local foods and more cosmopolitan offerings. www.booths-supermarkets.co.uk
Bryson’s can supply a range of sandwiches, pastries and cakes. www.brysonsofkeswick.co.uk. Once you’ve sampled their bread, you won’t go back to any other!
Keswick market (Saturdays) has a number of food stalls offering fresh fruit, home-made pies, cheese, baked goods and, curiously, fabulous hot Indian food
…and finally, I know we’re not supposed to eat sweets these days but we have to mention Keswick’s old and famous sweet emporium, Ye Olde Friar’s.