Things to do around Derwentwater – a gem-hunter’s guide

From Surprise View looking over Derwentwater

Derwentwater is one of the main bodies of water in the northern Lake District. Situated just south of the town of Keswick and lying within the Borrowdale valley to the south, Derwentwater is three miles long and one mile wide, and is surrounded by some of the Lake District’s most iconic scenery.

Things to do around Derwentwater

One of the things that really draws people to Derwentwater is the walking, and this area has routes to suit pretty much any walking taste. If you’re not into the big hills then there are more manageable routes such as the Miles without Stiles walk along the side of Catbells (external link). Recently, the low-level Derwentwater Walk, a 10-mile waymarked walk around Derwentwater, was also launched.

Along the Derwentwater walk on the eastern shore
Along the Derwentwater walk on the eastern shore

The Derwentwater Walk takes in Friar’s Crag, a stunning viewpoint looking down Derwentwater towards the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’, which is just a 10-minute walk from the Theatre by the Lake outside Keswick – look out for the Ruskin Memorial stone, and take a wander along neighbouring Strandshag Bay.

The view along Derwentwater towards the 'Jaws of Borrowdale' from Friar's Crag outside Keswick
The view along Derwentwater towards the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ from Friar’s Crag just outside Keswick

Other landmarks to look out for include the Hundred Year Stone (marking 100 years of the National Trust’s care of special places such as Derwentwater) in Calfclose Bay on the eastern shore, and the Entrust sculpture marking the centenary of the National Trust caring for Brandelhow (you’ll find this at Low Brandelhow on the western shore).

To the south of Derwentwater you can stop off at the Lodore jetty and visit the Lodore Falls – there’s no car parking unless you visit the hotel, but it would make a good excuse for an afternoon tea treat!

It is possible to explore the areas around Derwentwater by car, but the car parks are small and some of the roads narrow, so during the season you may enjoy the freedom of exploring by boat using the Keswick Launch. This stops off at several jetties around the lake.

The Keswick Launch - things to do in Keswick, the Lake District
The Keswick Launch at the jetty on the Derwentwater foreshore

One place suitable to reach by car or on a Keswick Launch is the Lingholm Kitchen and Walled Garden at Portinscale on the western shore of the lake, and there are also several self-catering properties there. Beatrix Potter’s family stayed at Lingholm for several of their annual summer holidays, and some scenes from Beatrix’s tales are based on the original kitchen garden. Lingholm do amazing lunches, and you should also take time to wander around the newly recreated octagonal kitchen garden while you’re visiting.

The octagonal kitchen garden at the Lingholm Kitchen and Walled Garden - things to do around Derwentwater
The octagonal kitchen garden at the Lingholm Kitchen and Walled Garden

Some of the Lake District’s most iconic scenery and landmarks lie around Derwentwater, including Ashness Bridge, a small packhorse bridge on the eastern shore, and Surprise View, located just above it. You can take a walk (or the car during quieter spells) to these and the small hamlet of Watendlath, which I understand takes about an hour on foot from the Ashness Gate jetty (two hours retracing your steps afterwards).

Ashness Bridge above Derwentwater - things to do around Derwentwater
The iconic Ashness Bridge, a small packhorse bridge above Derwentwater
Surprise View looking north over Derwentwater
Surprise View looking north over Derwentwater

Another famous landmark is the Bowder Stone, a rock six times the height a person, and an historic tourist attraction established by the wealthy eccentric Joseph Pocklington in 1798. The stone, which has a wooden ladder leading to the top, was enjoyed by Georgian tourists who loved the idea of combining fear of the wild with a safe experience! This is a 15-minute walk from the nearby National Trust car park, or you can visit it as part of a longer walk.

If taking a longer ramble, there are refreshments available in the tiny village of Grange south of Derwentwater. The English novelist Hugh Walpole lived a mile away until his death in 1941.

If you’re a little more active than I am, you can hire a rowing boat or motor boat from Keswick Launch back at the Derwentwater foreshore by the theatre, or take part in lake activities such as canoeing with providers including Keswick Canoe & Bushcraft, Nichol End Marine and Derwent Water Marina.

On Derwentwater looking towards the Derwentwater foreshore at Keswick
On Derwentwater looking towards the Derwentwater foreshore at Keswick

There are four islands on Derwentwater, and on the most northerly one, Derwent Island, there is actually a house owned by the National Trust. Rented to private tenants, Derwent Island House was owned by Joseph Pocklington (mentioned above in relation to the Bowder Stone), and the National Trust organise canoe visits with a house tour on just five dates each year – as I found, it’s well worth a look.

On a National Trust visit to Derwent Island House
On a National Trust visit to Derwent Island House

If you enjoyed my gem-hunter’s guide to Derwentwater then you may also enjoy my further guide to neighbouring Keswick.

There is so much to explore around Derwentwater, but if I haven’t included one of your favourite Lake District gems, please feel free to let other readers know by leaving a comment below (and I’ll do my best to include your suggestions in future revisions to this post)!