Keswick is the northern tourist hub of the Lake District National Park and is a favourite base for serious walkers and climbers, artists and photographers, and anyone who enjoys mountain and lake scenery. A thriving town of individual shops, including many selling outdoor equipment, art galleries, delis, cafes, restaurants and pubs, Keswick is a great place to collapse at the end of a long walk and eat a hearty meal. It also has many attractions to occupy visitors on a rainy day when heading up into the hills is not the thing to do.
Keswick sits under the shadow of England's fourth-highest mountain, Skiddaw, and it lies at the head of the Borrowdale valley with Derwentwater lake reaching the edge of town.
Trains to Keswick were axed back in the 1970s so you either have to drive, cycle, walk or get a bus. You could walk part of the way along the former railway line from Penrith.
There is a regular bus service from Penrith train station to Keswick.
Driving is fast: Keswick is 17 miles (25 km) along the partially dualled A66 trunk road from the M6 motorway at Penrith.
Parking space is at a premium on busy days. There are a couple of pay-and-display car parks in the town centre, and another close to the lakeside, with plenty of free on-street parking further from the centre. A free but time-limited disc-parking scheme is in operation on some roads, often allowing two hours' free parking.
Within town, distances are short so walking is easy.
Buses run all over the Lake District from Keswick and these can make a good way to get out to or back from a day's walking destination.
The Keswick Launch water taxis run on Derwentwater with both clockwise and anticlockwise routes serving seven jetties around the lake.
- 1 Derwent Pencil Museum, Southey Works, ☏ +44 17687 73626. 9:30AM-5PM, closed on 25th & 26th December and 1st of January. A museum documenting 350 years of pencil making, situated next to the factory. Graphite was first discovered in nearby Borrowdale, hence the factory is here. Also includes the world's largest coloured pencil. Adult £4.95.
- 2 Keswick Museum & Art Gallery, Station Road, CA12 4NF (In Fitz Park, just North of the river.), ☏ +44 17687 73263. Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. A Victorian museum (refurbished in 2014) with an assorted permanent collection and temporary displays. £4.95.
- 3 Keswick Brewery Tours, Brewery Lane, CA12 5BY, ☏ +44 17687 80700, firstname.lastname@example.org. F Sa at 11AM and 2PM, booking recommended. Small brewery of cask and bottled ales, established in 2006. Shop open M-F 10AM-3PM. £10.
- 4 Mirehouse House and Gardens (Mirehouse is 3 miles north of Keswick on the A591), ☏ +44 17687 72287, email@example.com. Apr - Oct: gardens daily 10AM-5PM, house W Sa Su 1:30-4:30PM. Mirehouse was built in 1666, with several later alterations. The lakeside gardens include Cumbrian fruit trees and woodland playgrounds. The Old Sawmill Tearoom is open 10AM-4:30PM all year, except winter Wed. House & gardens £8.50, gardens only £4.00.
- 5 Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum, Threlkeld CA12 4TT (off A66 three miles east of Keswick), ☏ +44 17687 79747. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM, also M during school holidays. Most of the site is from 1870, when granite was quarried to use as railway ballast. Propelled by either a steam or diesel heritage locomotive, tour carriages leave from below the museum and go past a mine entrance, then ascend past a workshop and an area containing many industrial machines. Further above the tour stops for a break of 5-10 minutes. Here evidence of quarrying can be seen as well as associated shovelling equipment. The locomotive then brings passengers back to the starting point. Additionally, there is a small indoor museum with a wealth of information on local mining. Adult £7.50, child £4.00.
Walk... walk.. . walk... Hikers can walk onto the surrounding hills (known locally as fells - a word dating from Viking times) or into the nearby valleys straight from the town, with more options opening up if you use the Keswick Launch, a car, or the local buses.
- The easiest walk locally is the ten-minute level stroll along the lakeshore to Friar's Crag viewpoint, looking down the lake deep into Borrowdale. Start at the end of Lake Road by the theatre.
- A circuit of the lake can be done but involves a bit of road-walking. The ferries can be used to shorten the walk as necessary.
- Skiddaw is Keswick's own mountain. The walking path leaves from the back of town and ascends this 3,000-foot hill, the fourth-highest in England. The walk is straightforward, just a little long for non-walkers. First you pass the smaller Latrigg, then along a well-worn path up the grassy slopes. The summit is a long undulating dome with four tops.
- 1 Catbells, 451 m (1,480 ft). The most-climbed of the local fells. This is because it looks great from the lake shore in town, and looks close and easy. Many people take the ferry over to the jetty at Hawse End and take the pleasant walk through the woods then onto the hillside for the easy ascent. However, it is also the hill with the most injuries, because people tackle it in trainers or sandals, then have problems on a section of smooth-worn rock. For an alternative (quieter) route, when the path crossed the lane by the cattle grid, take the small lane to the right of the hill toward Skelgill Farm, and continue the gently ascending path into the Newlands Valley, then head left and uphill to reach the summit ridge after the summit of Catbells. You can then backtrack along the ridge to the summit. People most often descend from this dip on the ridge, down to the side of the lake, then either walk along the lakeshore or catch a ferry back to Keswick from the jetty at Brandlehow.
- 2 Grisedale Pike, 791 m (2,595 ft). Walk up from the car park on Whinlatter pass, to a sharp scenic ridge leading up to the summit.
- Take a scenic drive. If you can't walk then at least drive around from Borrowdale. A trip over the Honister Pass to Buttermere is well worth the effort returning over either Newlands Pass or Whinlatter Pass for spectacular views.
- Keswick leisure pool is on the site of the old railway station.
- Theatre by the Lake is an attractive theatre at the end of Lake Road by the Lakeside car park. It is open all the year round and is particularly popular in the summer months when it runs a series of plays in repertory. The main theatre puts on three productions during the summer which run on consecutive nights throughout the season. Similarly there is a small studio theatre which also runs a three production repertory system. It is professional theatre of a high standard and has Dame Judi Dench as one of its patrons. The theatre building is modern and comfortable with good refreshment facilities and a small shop.
- Keswick Mountain Festival has outdoor activities and live music in May.
Outdoor gear. All the big high-street outdoor shops are represented in Keswick, so you'll be spoilt for choice if you need any clothing or equipment for walking, climbing, or camping (just don't forget to spend some time using it!)
- 1 Booths, Tithebarn Street, CA12 5EA (at the west end of he main street, next the bus stance). M-Sa 8AM - 9PM, Su 10AM - 4PM. Medium sized upmarket supermarket, which also has a small selection of souvenirs and outdoor stuff.
- 2 George Fisher, 2 Borrowdale Rd, CA12 5DA. M-Sa 9AM (W 10AM) - 5:30PM, Su 10:30AM - 4:30PM. Large outdoor equipment shop with a cafe. Website has a webcam giving a live view down Lake Rd.
- 3 Packhorse Court Shopping Centre. Small outdoor shopping centre, with a good cheese shop, and Sweet Treats which has a large selection of loose boiled sweets.
- 4 Lakeland Toys And Hobbies, 10 Museum Square, CA12 5DZ. Toys, camouflage hunting clothing and some value walking kit.
Pretty much all of the pubs in the area offer traditional pub food at lunch and dinner time. With so much sheep farming in the surrounding hills, roast lamb is a favourite local dish, as is Borrowdale trout. Cumberland sausage is a speciality throughout Cumbria.
Beyond pub grub there are plenty of restaurants - such as the Red Fort and Taste of Bengal (Indian), the Loose Box (Italian, so named as it is the former stables of one of the hotels), or the Golden Hills (Chinese).
- Cafe Bar 26, 26 Lake Road.
- 1 The Square Orange, 20 St John's St.
- 2 Woodstone, St John's St, ☏ +44 17687 73523. Pizza and steak restaurant. Good food, but service can be slow. Booking advisable at weekends. Pizza £10..
- 3 Old Keswickian, 5 Market Square. Fish and chip shop with sit down area.
The Dog & Gun, The Oddfellows Arms and the Bank Tavern are among the more popular of Keswick's traditional pubs, all offering a good range of real ales. The modern and stylish Cafe Bar 26, Sweeney's and The Square Orange offer a welcome change to the traditional.
Live music is very popular in Keswick. The Oddfellows on the main street has music every night of various quality. The Square Orange on St Johns Street and Cafe Bar 26 on Lake Road have music every Thursday, both worth a visit. Sweeney's on Lake Road has live music every Friday and Saturday.
The Loft on the main square is the town's only night club, with the vibe of a bad school disco with alcohol. However, a late-night drink is available at other venues such as the locals' favourite, The Queens Back Bar, or Rumours, the local dive bar.
- 1 Dog & Gun, 2 Lake Road, CA12 5BT, ☏ +44 1768 773 463. noon-. Green King
- 2 The Oddfellows Arms, 19, Main St, CA12 5BL. Jennings pub with meals at lunchtime.
- 3 Bank Tavern, 47 Main St, CA12 5DS. Jennings pub with meals.
- 4 The Chief Justice of the Common Pleas (JD Wetherspoon), 2 Bank St, CA12 5JY, ☏ +44 1768 773561. Daily 8AM - midnight or 1AM. Large chain pub with food until 11PM.
Out of Town
- 5 Royal Oak, B5292, Little Braithwaite, CA12 5SY, ☏ +44 1768 392 355.
- 6 Swinside Inn, Newlands Valley, CA12 5UE.
Keswick has many, many bed-and-breakfasts. Stanger Street and Bank Street just east of the bus station are good places to start, or the grid of streets around Southey Street, Helvellyn Street and Eskin Street just back from the riverside, or try the visitor information centre in the Moot Hall in the main square. Note that very few B&Bs in Keswick have a car park. During high season or weekends, reservations are strongly recommended. Try the Keswick Tourism Association site for finding accommodation .
- 1 Keswick Youth Hostel, Station Road, CA12 5LH, ☏ +44 870 770 5894. In a nice setting in the town by the river.
- 2 Denton House independent hostel, Penrith Road, CA12 4JW, ☏ +44 17687 75351. Independent hostel catering for groups including stag weekends.
- 3 Royal Oak, Main St, Keswick CA12 5HZ, ☏ +44 17687 73135. Town centre pub with rooms, earning mostly good reviews. B&B double £100.
- 4 Borrowdale Youth Hostel, Barrow House, Borrowdale, CA12 5XE, ☏ +44 845 371 9624. From £13 pppn.
- Camp at sites in town, or a mile away at Castlerigg Farm, or at the nearby village of Braithwaite, or at Hollows Farm in Borrowdale.
- Lots of inns and guesthouses in the countryside around.
- 5 Dalegarth House, Portinscale, Keswick CA12 5RQ, ☏ +44 1768 777817. Pleasant B&B in Edwardian house a mile west of town. Open Mar to mid-Dec, no children under 11 or dogs. B&B double £100.
- 6 Leathes Head Hotel, Borrowdale, CA12 5UY, ☏ +44 1768 777247. Charming country house in great valley setting, but service and comfort lapsed in early 2020. Open Feb-Dec, no children under 15. B&B double £100.
- 7 Borrowdale Gates, Borrowdale, CA12 5UQ (off B5289), ☏ +44 1768 777204. Upscale country house hotel in quiet woodlands. Open Feb-Dec. B&B double £200.
- 8 Hazel Bank, Borrowdale CA12 5XB, ☏ +44 1768 777248. This Victorian country house hotel earns rave reviews for style, service and cuisine. Open Feb-Nov, no children under 16 or dogs. B&B double £150.
- Royal Oak, Borrowdale CA12 5XB (on B5289 below Hazel Bank), ☏ +44 1768 777214. Dog-friendly pub in 18th-century farmhouse with comfy rooms and a good restaurant. "Royal Oak" is a common pub name, don't confuse it with the one in Keswick town. B&B double £150.
- 9 Lyzzick Hall, Udderskiddaw CA12 4PY, ☏ +44 1768 772277. Charming hotel and restaurant in mid-Victorian house, open Feb-Dec. B&B double £180.
- 10 Coledale Inn, Coledale Gardens, Braithwaite, CA12 5TN, ☏ +44 17687 78272. Cozy rooms in this Inn, well positioned to walk the Grisedale Pike Horseshoe £80 incl. breakfast.
- 11 Fern Howe Guest House, Fern Howe, Braithwaite, CA12 5SZ, ☏ +44 17687 22268, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 10:00, check-out: 16:00. Family run guest house located in Braithwaite, Keswick, providing high quality bed and breakfast accommodation in the Lake District National Park. £58.50-£145.
- 12 Cottage in the Wood, Magic Hill, Whinlatter Forest, Braithwaite CA12 5TW (On B5292), ☏ +44 1768 778409. Excellent restaurant with 9 rooms on Whinlatter Pass. No children under 10 or dogs. Half Board double £210.
Keswick has 4G from all UK carriers. As of March 2022, 5G has not reached this area.
- Head to the southern part of the Lakes via Grasmere to Ambleside, Coniston, Hawkshead or Windermere.
- Go back to civilisation via Penrith, a nice small town which is less touristy than the Lake District proper. Has a ruined castle, the nearest McDonald's to Lakeland, a mainline railway station and a motorway junction.
- Head west to Cockermouth for a tour of Jennings Brewery.
- Head west for the coast around Workington, Maryport, or Silloth on the Solway Firth with views across to Scotland.
- Head north to Carlisle, a city with a cathedral and castle, then cross the border into Scotland at Gretna.
- Or go deeper into the Lakes via Borrowdale to Buttermere.