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Note: Links are provided so you can find more information on the attractions you are interested in. Please check the relevant sites as some attractions are not open all year round.
Links in BOLD type denote the property is owned/managed by the National Trust.
The National Trust owns and manages a large proportion of the land, houses and attractions in the Lake District and many of the car parks in the countryside. Joining the National Trust before, or at the start of your holiday, may save you a lot of money on entry and parking fees.
Pronounced 'kes - ick', Keswick is the major centre for tourism in the northern Lake District either as a base for the holiday maker to stay, or somewhere to visit for a day.
The town is situated between Derwent Water and the Skiddaw mountains which provide a picturesque backdrop. The mountains of Helvellyn and Scafell are within easy reach making it a perfect location for fell walkers and the beauty of the scenery makes an ideal location for photographers.
Keswick has been a settlement since 1240, and received its market charter in 1276 and the market continues to be held every Saturday.
Although not a large town Keswick has a good range of shops, cafes, restaurants and accommodation to suit everyone's needs. There is a swimming pool here, and centres can offer rock climbing to paragliding. It is a very popular area for cycling.
The Theatre by the Lake is set on the shores of Derwentwater and is open all year round. It offers a wide selection of drama, music, dance and film, and during the summer months has a season of six plays.
Who has not heard of the simple Cumberland pencil - at least one of which probably almost everyone had in their pencil cases at school at some time. Well, it was here near Keswick that the humble graphite pencil was invented. The Cumberland Pencil Museum explains the story of pencil making, and the history of the Cumberland Pencil Factory which was formed in 1832.
For something different that children and adults will enjoy The Puzzling Place in the centre of Keswick is free to enter, and has rooms full of optical and sensory illusions with intriguing names such as the Anti Gravity Room and Hologram Gallery.
Castlerigg Stone Circle, composed of 38 standing stones up to 3 metres in height, dates back to the Neolithic period about 3000 years BC It is located one and a half miles south east of Keswick is a beautiful location with the moutains of Helvellyn and High Seat providing dramatic views. It is amongst the earliest of Britain's stone circles.
The other larger town in the northern area of the lakes lies just outside the boundary of the Lake District National Park. Cockermouth dates from Norman times but has a notorious recent history as people remember the devastating floods that wrecked many businesses in the town centre and caused much destruction to the area. Most restaurants, shops and pubs which saw so much destruction were open for business just a year later. The floods did, however, unearth Derventio - a large Romano-British settlement at Papcastle. A programme of archaeological reserach is currently being undertaken.
Cockermouth can be quieter than the other places in Cumbria as it is not such a popular tourist destination. None the less it is still an attractive town with a wealth of history. The centre of the town has barely changed since the 1800s. William and Dorothy Wordsworth were both born here, and another famous (or possibly infamous) son of the town was Fletcher Christian who led the mutiny on the Bounty.
You can visit Wordsworth's childhood home laid out as it would have been in the 18th century. The beautiful Georgian townhouse is maintained as it would have been when William and Dorothy lived here as children and with costumed servants and various activities for children and adults it is possible to gain an understanding into what life was like in the late 1700s. Wordsworth's House is well worth a visit.
Take a tour of Jennings Brewery and see how their real ales are brewed and complete the tour by sampling some of the Lakeland ales. The brewery nestles under the ruins of Cockermouth Castle (which is privately owned and only open to the public a few times a year).
In the area between the larger towns of Keswick and Cockermouth there are many lovely places to visit. The area has many associations with Beatrix Potter who spent a lot of time here, first coming to spend the summer holidays at Lingholm and Fawe Park at the age of 19 in 1985. The woods around the area are the home of many of the woodland creatures which she liked to sketch, including the red squirrel. At Lingholm was the vegetable garden where many of the Peter Rabbit tales were based, and the distinctive wicket gate was here, and at the nearby Fawe Park she based many of her illustrations on the resident trees and their entwining roots. Neither Lingholm or Fawe Park are open to the public, but you can get a glimpse of the gardens she painted from a public right of way that starts at Portinscale.
The Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum can be found three miles to the east of Keswick, offering activities for all the family including underground mine tours (please check website for availability), a geological and mining museum and quarry site. There is a narrow gauge railway with three locomotives and daily train rides are available in the summer months.
Braithwaite makes a good walking centre, not so crowded as some of the other fells. Nearby at the top of the Coledale Vale is Force Crag Mine. This mine was the last working mine in the Lake District, and is now owned by the National Trust which welcomes visitors on several guided open days a year. There is an easy walk from Braithwaite to the mine.
Crag Force Mine Courtesy National Trust
The Bowder Stone
Borrowdale is one of England's finest valleys, with towering fells, green meadows and beautifully clear waters. Seathwaite is the starting points for one of the best known walks up to the summit of Scafell Pike and hence the whole area is renowned by walkers and climbers.
The valley is home to the Bowder Stone. Weighing 2000 tons and 30 feet high, 50 feet across and in total 90 feet in circumfenece, this stone was most likely carried here by glaciers in the last Ice Age, probably from Scotland. A ladder takes you to the top of the stone where it's almost obligatory to have your photograph taken.
Honister Pass takes you from the eastern end of Borrowdal to the southern end of Buttermere. Wit is one of Cumbria's highest passes reaching 1167 feet at it's highest point, and parts of the road have a gradient of 1 in 4. At the summit is Honister Slate Mine which has guided tours inside the mine, and demonstrations of the techniques of mining slate over the past 300 years. You can even have a go at making a roof slate yourself!
Making a slate at Honister Slate Mine
Buttermere is a peaceful looking lake. There is a circular 4 mile walk around Buttermere which is fairly easy underfoot.
A 2 1/2 mile walk from Buttermere will bring you to Scale Force - with a drop of 179 feet this is the highest waterfall in the Lake District. It is worth visiting at any time, but after rainfall the waterfall is particularly spectacular.
Nearby is Bassenthwaite - a small hamlet, but home to Trotters World of Animals on the shores of Bassenthwaite. More than enough to see and do in to spend a whole day in the 25 acre park seeing domestic and more exotic animals in natural open enclosures and attending the keeper led demonstrations and feeding sessions.
Mirehouse dates from 1666 and the groundfloor is open to the public holding an interesting collection of furniture, portraits and manuscripts. The house is situated in an extensive estate with gardens and walks for all ages to enjoy. There are four different adventure playgrounds for children up to the age of 16, and also a maze and family nature trail.
This is England's only real mountain forest and is not natural as the first trees were planted after the first World War as a result of the timber shortage. It is home to wildlife such as red squirrels to the Bassenthwaite Ospreys which can be watched from the live nest camera. It has the longest purpose built mountain bike trail in the Lake district and special play areas for children of different ages. If you enjoy walking there are many miles of gravel roads, tracks and surfaced paths to explore.
For adults and children alike who want to climb rope bridges and enjoy zip slides up to 40 feet high in the treetops Go Ape has one of there centres in the forest.
An Introduction to Keswick and the North Lakes