Keswick is a market town and civil parish in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England, nestled neatly between the magical Lakes of Bassenthwaite and Derwentwater.
In 1643, during the English Civil War, Keswick was besieged by Parliamentary forces. The town later became a centre of industry, with several mills and factories being built in the 19th century
The 16th century saw the unlikely discovery of an extremely high-quality deposit of graphite in Keswick’s neighbouring Borrowdale valley, and for the next 100 years, Keswick would dominate Europe’s pencil market.
Keswick became widely known for its connection with the Arts and Crafts Movement, mainly owing to the involvement of J.W.M. Turner with the town, which inspired many other artists including Francis Bacon and John Constable.
The town also became known for its literary associations, gaining the nickname “Booktown”. Prominent literary figures such as Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge and de Quincey all lived within close proximity to Keswick during their formative years.
Today, Keswick is a popular tourist destination, with visitors coming to enjoy its scenic beauty, relaxed atmosphere, and incredible hiking trails and lakes nearby.
Ready to discover the best things to do in Keswick? Let’s get to it…
Best Things To Do In Keswick, Cumbria
1. Hike up Helvellyn
Helvellyn is one of the most popular mountains in the Lake District, and also the third-highest mountain in England. The hike up to the summit is relatively straightforward, and the views are simply stunning.
On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction, taking in some of the most iconic landmarks in the region. Even on a cloudy day, the views are still impressive, and it’s well worth making the effort to reach the top.
The sense of achievement you’ll feel when you reach the summit is second to none, and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
2. Take a scenic boat ride on Derwentwater
Derwentwater is one of the most beautiful lakes in Keswick, and a boat ride is a great way to take it all in. There are several companies that offer boat tours, and you can even rent your own boat if you’d prefer.
They take you on a gentle tour around the edge of the lake, pointing out different places of interest along the way. The boats are spacious and comfortable, and the views from them are stunning.
You can see the mountains reflected in the water, and the boats often pass close to wildlife such as swans and ducks.
The rides are very enjoyable and relaxing, and they are an excellent way to spend a day in the Lake District.
3. Go for a swim in Derwentwater
If you’re feeling brave, why not take a dip in Derwentwater? The water is refreshing and there’s nothing quite like swimming in one of England’s most beautiful lakes.
Just be sure to check the weather forecast first as the water can get cold! Or better still, bring a wetsuit…as thick as you can pack!
4. Visit Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg is one of the most enigmatic and atmospheric stone circles in Britain. It lies within a panorama of extraordinary beauty, with sweeping views across the valley of Derwentwater to the lakeland fells beyond.
The setting sun aligns perfectly with the Heel Stone, and on clear evenings the northern sky is filled with the Milky Way.
The stones themselves are impressive: some are over three metres high, and they are arranged in a perfect circle measuring just over 33 metres in diameter.
But what makes Castlerigg truly special is its sense of mystery. No one knows for sure why it was built, or who erected the stones. Was it a place of worship? A meeting place for prehistoric tribes? An astronomical observatory? We may never know for certain, but that only adds to its allure.
5. Walk around Derwent Isle
Nestled in the heart of the Lake District, Derwent Isle is a small island that is unsurprisingly dominated by water. The Isle is home to a number of picturesque lakes, as well as a stunning stretch of river that flows through the centre of the island.
Although it is only a short distance from the mainland, Derwent Isle feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The island is home to a variety of wildlife, and its tranquillity makes it the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Derwent Isle may only be a small island, but it’s a great place to take a leisurely walk and enjoy the views.
You can reach the island by taking a short ferry ride from Keswick town centre.
6. Climb Catbells
The Climb Up Catbells is a popular hiking trail in the Lake District. The trailhead is located at the base of Catbells – a small mountain in the heart of the lake district.
The trail itself is relatively short, but it is very steep and challenging. There are several false summits along the way, which can be frustrating for hikers who are expecting to reach the top quickly.
Once at the top though, the views are more than worth the effort. On a clear day, hikers can see for miles in every direction.
The Climb Up Catbells is an essential experience for any hiker visiting the Lake District, and definitely one of the best things to do in Keswick.
7. Shop at Keswick Market
Wondering what to see in Keswick during your time here? Give Keswick Market a try. It’s held every Saturday, and it’s well worth a visit if you’re looking for some local produce or handmade gifts.
Moot Hall has been home to a market for over seven centuries and was voted “Best Outdoor Market in the UK” in 2015. Located on Market Square, the market is open every Saturday as well as Thursdays from February until December.
There are over 100 stalls selling everything from food to clothes to arts and crafts, so whatever you’re looking to uy in Keswick, you’ll hopefully be able to find it here at Keswick market.
8. Get lost in Whinlatter Forest Park
Whinlatter Forest Park is an expansive forest located just outside of Keswick, less than a 15-minute drive away.
The park is a beautiful place to visit any time of year, but it is especially stunning in the fall. The leaves of the trees turn a deep red and gold, and the air is crisp and fresh.
There are a ton of different trails to explore, and you might even spot some deer, red squirrels or other wildlife along the way.
The visitors centre has a cafe where you can warm up with a hot drink, and there are also picnic areas if you want to enjoy some snacks outdoors.
Whether you are looking for a short walk or a longer hike, Whinlatter Forest Park is the perfect place to enjoy the autumnal weather.
9. Visit Honister Slate Mine
Honister Slate Mine is one of Britain’s last working slate mines, and it’s located just outside of Keswick, about 20 minutes’ drive away.
The slate mine sits at the foot of Honister Pass, one of the most popular mountain passes in the country.
The pass is notorious for its steep and winding roads, which are often treacherous in winter conditions. The views from the top of the pass are breathtaking, with sweeping vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The slate mine itself is located inside a large opencast quarry. Visitors can take a tour of the quarry and see first-hand how the slate is extracted from the rock face.
The tours are led by experienced local guides who are full of stories about the history of the mine and its workers.
The Honister Slate Mine is an essential part of Cumbria’s industrial heritage and a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about England’s rich mining history.
Since you’re in the North, why not check out some of my other UK city guides in the north;
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10. Visit Friars Crag
Friars Crag is one of Keswick’s most popular beauty spots. It is a small, rocky outcrop that provides stunning views of Derwentwater and the surrounding mountains.
The Crag gets its name from the monks who used to live in a monastery here in the Middle Ages.
Today, Friars Crag is a popular spot for picnicking, walking, and climbing. The Crag is also home to several species of birds, including peregrine falcons and ravens.
Once you’ve taken in the views, head down into town for some lunch or shopping…or why not continue your walk along Derwentwater Lakeshore Road towards Portinscale.
11. Walk The Old Keswick Railway Line
The Keswick Railway is a heritage railway in Cumbria, where the line ran for 3 miles (5km) from Keswick to Threlkeld Quarry.
Although this line is no longer in service, there has been a recently renovated and upgraded trail that reopened again at the end of 2020.
The trail is 5km each way, so if you park at the pay and display car park in Keswick to make this walk, you’ll have a 10km roundtrip journey along the well-paved and tarmacked path.
The line was originally built in 1868 to connect the quarries at Threlkeld with the main line railway at Keswick. It closed in 1972, and reopened in 1977 as a heritage railway, but has since closed again.
You’ll take in some great views on the trail, along the river and even through one of the old train tunnels. It’s a popular route for runners, walkers and cyclists, and one that you should definitely consider enjoying.
12. Visit Mirehouse Historic House and Gardens
Mirehouse is an historic house that dates back to 1666. The house has been home to many notable families over the years and has been open to the public since 1949.
The house has beautiful grounds and gardens that are perfect for exploring on a sunny day, amidst the beautiful Lakeland scenery of Bassenthwaite.
There are some fantastic walks to be had around the grounds and there is a natural playground set within the woods. It’s one of the most fun things to do In Keswick with kids, and particularly fun for the whole family.
13. Visit the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
The town’s museum, which opened in 1898, was refurbished in 2014 and is now backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Prior to its current location, the museum bounced around a few venues in Keswick, including the Moot Hall.
The Keswick Museum and Art Gallery is a great place to learn about the history and culture of Keswick, England, and is well known for its obscure and strange exhibits it has on display.
The museum houses a variety of artifacts from the area, including pottery, tools, and clothing. The gallery also features a number of paintings and drawings by local artists.
There are eight octaves in the Musical Stones of Skiddaw, which is a rock instrument that uses pieces of hornfels. Hornfels is an exceptionally hard metamorphic rock quarried on Skiddaw.
Among the other oddities are a teacup owned by Napoleon, a mummified cat from over six hundred years ago, an array of mounted taxidermies, and a human trap that was used to catch local poachers.
14. Go Birdwatching At Bassenthwaite Lake
Bassenthwaite Lake is a haven for birdwatchers. Over 280 different species of birds have been recorded at the lake, making it one of the best places in the UK to see a variety of different birds in one place.
The best time of year to go birdwatching at Bassenthwaite Lake is from March to May, when migrating birds stop at the lake to rest and refuel before continuing their journey north.
During this time, the lake is teeming with activity, and birders can expect to see a wide variety of species, including warblers, wading birds, and waterfowl.
Head to The Dodd Viewpoint for the best views over the lake, and a great spot to catch ospreys fishing.
Whether you’re a seasoned birder or a novice photographer, Bassenthwaite Lake is definitely worth a visit and one of the best things to do close to Keswick.
15. Have afternoon tea at Lodore Falls Hotel
Lodore Falls Hotel is located just outside Keswick town centre. Afternoon tea is served daily from 3pm-5pm and costs £19 per person.
You can choose from a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, cakes, pastries, and unlimited tea or coffee.
If you’re feeling extra indulgent, why not add a glass of Champagne for an additional £7!
16. Play Golf at Keswick Golf Club
Keswick Golf Club is located just outside Keswick town centre less than 10 minutes drive away.
Visitors are welcome 7 days a week (subject to availability), where a round costs £30 for adults and £15 for juniors (under 18).
Don’t have any clubs with you? No worries – club hire is available for £20 per set. And if you don’t fancy playing a full round, there are also 9-hole options available as well.
After a round of golf with some of the most breathtaking, panoramic views around, relax in the clubhouse with food and drink and watch the afternoon pass you by.
16. Watch a Local Production at Theatre By The Lake
Theatre by the Lake in Derwentwater is a performance venue unlike any other. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Lake District, just a stones-throw from Derwentwater Lake, the theatre provides an intimate and atmospheric setting for a variety of productions.
The theatre first opened its doors in 1999, and since then it has been presenting a wide range of plays, operas and musicals. The venue is also home to a café and bar, which are perfect for pre-show drinks or post-show discussions.
With its picturesque setting and first-class programme, Theatre by the Lake is an experience not to be missed. Make sure you book your tickets in advance from the official website to avoid disappointment.
17. Visit Derwent Pencil Museum
Since the 16th century, Keswick’s rich graphite deposits have been mined for heavily. Small-scale pencil production began but quickly turned into an industry of its own here during the 19th century.
Derwent Pencil Museum is a journey through this same history of pencils, from the very first wooden pencils to the modern-day ones now in use today.
The museum tells the story of how pencils have been used over the centuries, from their humble beginnings as tools for artists and writers to their use in scientific discoveries and engineering feats.
Visitors can see how pencils are made, try their hand at using a quill pen, and even experiment with a few of the more unusual pencils on display.
If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Keswick for kids and adults, then this is the place for you!
18. Climb Up To Lodore Falls
Lodore Falls is a popular tourist destination located on the River Derwent, and they are formed by a series of limestone rocks that have been eroded over time.
The falls are about thirty feet high, and they offer a stunning view of the surrounding countryside.
Visitors can walk to the base of the falls, or they can take a boat ride up the river to get a closer look. There are also several hiking trails in the area, and picnicking is allowed in certain areas.
Lodore Falls is a beautiful spot, and it’s definitely one of the most beautiful places close to Keswick.
19. Water Sports At Derwent Water Marina
If you love being on the water, then Derwent Water Marina is the place for you. Located in the heart of the stunning Lake District right next door to Keswick, Derwent Water Marina offers a wide range of watersports activities for all ages and abilities.
Whether you want to try your hand at sailing, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding, or simply enjoy a day out on a boat or kayak, they have a little something for everyone.
The experienced instructors will be on hand to help you get the most out of your time on the water, and their modern facilities mean that you can enjoy a comfortable and safe experience.
And best of all, the prices are very reasonable. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced watersports enthusiast, you’ll find something to enjoy at Derwent Water Marina, with it being one of the most popular places to visit near Keswick.
Insider tip – bring a wetsuit if you have one!
20. Visit Hope Park
Hope Park is a beautiful fusion of gardens and recreational areas, located between Keswick and the lake.
Derwentwater’s picturesque scenery is the backdrop for this park, which in the 19th century was merely an empty field where horses pulling coaches stopped to graze en route from the train station to Keswick’s hotels.
Sir Percy Hope redesigned and landscaped the park in the 1920s, and Lady Hope made the sweet ornamental garden on its west side.
Hope Park has many amenities that are sure to please, right from the kids all the way up to the grownups, includeing Wi-Fi remote-controlled boats, a woodland walk and picnic area, crazy golf, a nine-hole pitch and putt course and an 18-hole putting green.
I think that’s enough to keep the whole family entertained, no?
20 Things To Do In Keswick Cumbria
- Hike up Helvellyn
- Boat trip on Derwentwater
- Swimming in Derwentwater
- Visit Castlerigg Stone Circle
- Visit Derwent Isle
- Hike up Catbells
- Shop at Keswick Market
- Visit Whinlatter Forest Park
- Visit Honister Slate Mine
- Viewpoint at Friars Crag
- Walk the old Keswick Railway line
- Explore the Mirehouse Historic House & Gardens
- Keswick Museum & Art Gallery
- Birdwatching at Bassenthwaite Lake
- Afternoon Tea at Lodore Falls Hotel
- Keswick Golf
- Watch a show at the Theatre By The Lake
- Visit Derwent Pencil Museum
- Climb up Lodore Falls
- Watersports on Derwentwater lake
- Visit Hope Park
What is Keswick famous for?
Keswick is known for its stunning scenery in the Lake District and its historic pencil industry. It’s also a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, and watersports.
What are some things to do in Keswick on a rainy day?
Some indoor activities to consider include visiting the Derwent Pencil Museum or exploring the many shops and cafes in Keswick’s town centre. You can also visit the Keswick Museum & Art Gallery to escape the rain!
Is there public transportation in Keswick?
Yes, there is a regular bus service that runs throughout Keswick and the surrounding Lake District. It’s also possible to take a train from nearby Penrith or Windermere.
Are there any castles near Keswick?
Yes, the Castlerigg Stone Circle and the ruins of Threlkeld Castle are both located within a few miles of Keswick. Additionally, the iconic castle at Dalemain is about a 20-minute drive away.
Are there any movie theatres in Keswick?
Unfortunately, there are currently no cinemas in Keswick. However, the Theatre by the Lake often screens movies during downtime between performances. Alternatively, you can take a short drive to Penrith or Windermere for the cinema.