Keswick

"a place almost too beautiful to live in" John Ruskin (c1860)

Keswick, which has only about 4,000 inhabitants, is the only town in the northern Lake District National Park. It is some two miles from Braithwaite. In addition to a vast number of eating places, not to mention pubs and shops catering for tourists, it has:
  • an excellent supermarket, "Booths": take the first signed road to Keswick, turn right at the first roundabout, take the first right and it is there on the right. Free parking if you buy something. There is also a smaller Co-op supermarket, also with free parking.
  • a number of bakeries/delicatessens which specialise in sandwiches and packed lunches; try Bryson's in the Main Street.
  • scores of outdoor equipment shops; probably the best, and certainly the best known, is George Fisher. Keep right at the top end of the Main Street, and it's about 150 metres.
  • a climbing wall.
  • a cinema.
  • a leisure pool.
  • a park containing one of the loveliest cricket grounds in the country; also tennis, bowls, and miniature golf facilities
  • a street market every Saturday morning.
  • a (unique?) Pencil Museum: the pencil was invented in Borrowdale, and the local factory exports Derwent lead pencils all over the world; the museum is fascinating.
  • a golf club at Threlkeld, some 5 miles away.
  • a lake, Derwentwater, which offers sailing, fishing, wind-surfing, rowing, swimming and trips on the launch - in addition to some of the best views in the world.
  • the town's crowning glory – "The Theatre by the Lake", which is without doubt the best theatre for miles around.

The centre of the town is now a pedestrian precinct, with plenty of "pay-and-display" off-street parking . The ancient Moot Hall in the middle of Main Street in the centre of Keswick houses a very friendly Tourist Information Centre, and is worth a visit near the start of your stay in order to discover any imminent events, including the theatre and cinema programmes. There you will also find the programme for the "Keswick Rambles", which are daily walks* led by an experienced local walker. If you are unfamiliar with the terrain of the northern Lakes, this can be an excellent way to learn quickly. The walks are graded for length and difficulty, and cost 12-15 per person.

You can take a trip right round Derwentwater on one of the regular launches; since the launch stops at a number of places round the lake, many people use it to get to and/or from their walk in the hills – on a sunny day the launch is a great way to sample some of the best views in the world. One of the stops is at Brandlehow, which was the very first property acquired by the National Trust, in 1902. One of the Trust founders was Canon Rawnsley, a very distinguished local priest and environmentalist.

For the last two centuries and more, the Keswick area has been a favourite place for poets, writers and artists. Greta Hall was the home of Coleridge from 1800-1803 and of Southey from 1803-1843. The Wordsworths, who lived in Grasmere, were frequent visitors to Greta Hall. Southey is buried at Crosthwaite Church, where his memorial inside written by Wordsworth can still be seen. The Fitz Park Museum contains a remarkable collection of curios, as well as many original manuscripts by Wordsworth and Southey. Mirehouse, on the shores of nearby Bassenthwaite Lake, is the 17th century home of the Spedding family and also has paintings and manuscripts of Tennyson, Southey and Wordsworth. The Royal Oak Hotel in Keswick has been visited by many august personages, including Sir Walter Scott, Tennyson, R. L. Stevenson and Wordsworth.

For something quite different, just outside Keswick is Castlerigg, possibly one of the earliest Neolithic stone circles in Britain - and certainly in a more beautiful setting than any of the others, including Stonehenge.

One of the delights of Keswick is coming back to Braithwaite! Almost exactly where you pass the speed de-restriction sign, after the Esso garage, look up left for a marvellous view of your local fells.

Click here to return to the cottage web-site.


* Usually from April to October. The Moot Hall will give you details of other guided walks during the off-season.

P. G. R. Rigg 04/04/2005