Situated between Skiddaw and Derwentwater, Keswick is a popular centre for tourism in the North Lakes. A pretty market town, it offers a wide range of attractions for visitors, from shops and restaurants to museums and theatre, along with boating trips around Derwentwater. You could also enjoy a diversity of walks and climbs.
Keswick Town Centre
The original settlement in Keswick was at Crosthwaite, on the western side of the town. The first Church at Crosthwaite was built in 553AD and named St Kentigern. In 1276 Edward I granted the town its market charter, and the Saturday market continues to this day in the town centre, focused on the famous Moot Hall.
Keswick’s main claim to fame came with the discovery of black lead at Seathwaite in the 16th century and sparked off the pencil making industry, which is still the major money maker in the town. The Pencil Museum tells the industry’s story in Keswick, where there is an interesting model of an early mine. It also featured in the British black comedy film, Sightseers in 2012.
Things to do
Today Keswick is now a major centre for outdoor activities, with a large selection of outdoor adventure companies, guides and instructors based in the town. Shops abound, some come and go, some are old favourites such as George Fisher outdoor apparel shop on Borrowdale Road. You will find chemists and bookshops, fashion and shoes but for everyday needs there is a Booths Supermarket, one of the best small chains in the country, offering excellent and varied produce.
There is a huge choice of venues for wining and dining; The George Hotel in the main street has a nice atmosphere, LB’s Pizza House offers a quick but relaxed lunch, and Overwater Hall is perfect for a spot of fine dining in nearby Ireby. For entertainment there is the famous Theatre by the Lake, attracting big names to its stage. For a blockbuster and popcorn evening you have the Alhambra Cinema on St Johns Street.
Museums and Exhibitions
Keswick has a vast number of museums and exhibitions in and around the town such as Mirehouse Gardens, Rheged, and the Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum.
This annual event has been running for over twenty years and is held at Davidson Park, the home of Keswick Rugby Club on the lush green grass and under the watchful gaze of Skiddaw, the 4th highest mountain in England.
Out and About
The town sits on the banks of Derwentwater, a beautiful lake with plenty of activities including boat trips, boat hire, fishing, or a simple lakeshore stroll. Surrounding the area are some magnificent fells and mountains. To the north lies the Caldbeck Fells running down to Skiddaw and Blencathra. To the south and west lies the beautiful Borrowdale and Buttermere fells, including the famous Cat Bells peak, along with Buttermere and Crummock Water.
Honister Pass slate mine
Connecting Borrowdale and Buttermere is the Honister Pass with its working slate mine. A visit is very informative where you get a guided tour of the mines, travelling deep inside the mountain. At the mine centre is the only known ‘via ferrata’ in the UK. A via ferrata allows the average person the opportunity to go higher and further than they ever imagined possible. These climbing/walking experiences
are hugely popular in the Italian Dolomites and across Europe. It's all perfectly safe and you don't have to be a trained mountaineer to do it – just brave and with a head for heights.
Newland and Whinlatter
The Newland and Whinlatter valleys are truly magnificent and both areas of preservation. At Whinlatter is England’s only true mountain forest and winner of the Cumbria Tourism award for Visitor Attraction of the Year 2012. The Forest is managed by the Forestry Commission and is a great day out for all ages. Head to the Visitor Centre and main car park to start your visit.
If you’re looking for adventure, try the Altura or Quercus mountain bike trails, which make full use of the stunning setting. The Whinlatter Wild Play trail is for children of all ages. Its nine different play areas take you on a journey through the trees and include a climbing wall, water features, giant swings and a secret path. Finally, if you’ve got a head for heights, swing through the trees on the Go-Ape treetop course.
Further afield you have Ullswater, one of the finest lakes in the region. East lies the towns of Appleby, Alston and Penrith, where the poignant ruins of Lowther Castle can be found, once described as the Windsor Castle of the north and home of the Yellow Earl.
Keswick is a town with much to do, filling your days with entertainment, exploration or simply relaxation over lunch in one of the many inns and restaurants. You could be found sitting by the waters’ edge with a picnic and a good book.
Need some shelter?
Although it would be lovely to sit by the lake all day and read, at some point you'll need a warm and cosy shelter and somewhere to lay your head after all that fresh air. We have some lovely cottages in Keswick in our collection and if you need some inspiration, have a look at our other guides on the Lake District.