Keswick is a bustling town in the English Lake District. Its streets are full of people, browsing in shops, checking menus outside bars and restaurants or strolling down to the lakeshore to enjoy the wonderful views across Derwentwater to Cat Bells – that’s a mountain by the way. While many visitors are active hikers, keen to climb mountains, or fells as they’re called locally, there are plenty of activities for families as we found out on our weeklong break.
Keswick has two main parks at either end of town. North of the centre is Fitz Park. It has a good children’s playground which kept our daughter F occupied for ages, plenty of open space for ball games, tennis courts, a bowling green and pleasant paths by the River Greta. A cafe serving ice creams (apparently they might have served other things!) is close to the playground.
Our favourite though was Hope Park, between the town and Derwentwater. It has a cafe, pretty flower gardens and golf anyway you want it – crazy, putting or mini par 3. We did all three, but on the mini golf, the adults played onto the green at which point F (then 7) was able to use the putter. This was until halfway round the course when a number of rabbits hopped across the fairway and F seemed to lose all interest in the little round ball.
Whinlatter Forest Park
Whinlatter Forest Park and its visitor centre proved to be a good day out. We did a superworm trail, which kept F engaged throughout the walk. She was given a sheet with information on things to look for at various points on the trail. She followed it religiously, overturning rocks to reveal creepy crawlies and looking for rare plants. At various points, views open up down to Keswick and across to Skiddaw, a fell which towers over the town. There are also great views of Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake. When we arrived back at the visitor centre, the cafe, gift shop, information centre and not least the adventure playground were much appreciated. There is also a go ape attraction elsewhere in the forest park, as well as a number of mountain bike trails and other walking trails.
Walking the lakeshore, Keswick Launch and Grange in Borrowdale
Much of the film Swallows and Amazons was filmed around Derwentwater and there are many paths along the shore that can capture children’s sense of adventure. The Keswick launch helps in this respect – a ferry that can drop you off in about 6 different locations along the lake. You can walk through woods playing hide and seek and often find your own private pebble beach. Before setting off, we bought duck feed from the launch office which helped F attract an avian audience whenever she wanted.
From Brandelhow on the west shore of the lake, we walked into Borrowdale, a lovely valley flanked by majestic fells. We soon arrived at the quaint village of Grange, which has tea rooms to welcome walkers in need of nourishment. After lunch we came across a beauty spot on the edge of the village. Just below an old stone bridge was a pebble beach and “island” on the River Derwent. F and I waded across and spent a good couple of hours building a stepping stone bridge, skimming stones and experimenting with dams. Other children were floating around in rubber dinghies. It was certainly an idyllic spot appreciated by young and old alike.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle dates from 3000 BC in Neolithic times. It is similar to Stonehenge, although the stones are a lot smaller but more perfectly concentric in a spectacular setting in the mountains of Cumbria. It is less of a tourist trap than its Wiltshire counterpart and definitely worth a visit. Castlerigg is another place quite capable of exciting the imagination of children.
National Park Visitors Centre
The Lake District National Park Visitor Centre is some distance away from Keswick on the shore of Lake Windermere. It was a pleasant drive to get there, passing Thirlmere, Grasmere and Rydal Water. Well, pleasant until we got to Ambleside at the northern end of Windermere. There we entered the traffic jam and realised that while Keswick was bustling with tourists, this area was just overrun. When we arrived at the Visitor Centre, we were turned away as the car park was full. There followed an unscheduled visit to Bowness-on-Windermere after we finally found a space in the 3rd car park we tried. F isn’t the best car traveller so this day turned into a bit of an ordeal. Later in the day, we managed to get to the National Park Visitor Centre which turned out to be quite good. There was an educational exhibition with lots of interesting information on the Lake District. The grounds had footpaths which arrived at “secret beaches” on the lake. There was also an adventure playground and a long zip wire for which there was another queue. When we left, it wasn’t long before we had to endure the misery of driving through Ambleside.
World of Illusion
Back in Keswick, the World of Illusion is a fun attraction based on optical illusions. It has an anti-gravity room, where you appear to be defying gravity but in reality you aren’t. There is also a hologram gallery and an “eyelusions” exhibition, displaying an eclectic array of things that appear to be odd, or impossible.
Cumberland Pencil Museum
The Cumberland Pencil Museum is on the site of the original Cumberland Factory, the only pencil manufacturer in England. It was established here as the graphite was originally mined in nearby Borrowdale. We entered the museum through a replica graphite mine and found a very informative exhibition on the history of pencil production in the area. A children’s pack was provided which gave F a challenge to find answers to the questions provided. She got a prize at the end which was much appreciated
Friars of Keswick
This is totally unsponsored but the Friars is probably my favourite gift shop in the world. It has a great range of handmade chocolates, novelty gift sweets, own brand delicious honey and a range of other gifts for young and old that I could happily browse for hours, despite not being a natural born shopper! F bought a beautiful doll which sort of exploded later – ok, so not everything is perfect there but my cousin did manage to repair it for her.
And if that isn’t enough to keep the family occupied, there are plenty of mountains to climb!
Keswick is in the north-west of the Lake District National Park, England, UK, about 17 miles west of Penrith
The A66 trunk road connects the town to the M6 motorway at Penrith. The nearest train station is Penrith, from where there is a regular bus service. The nearest airport is Newcastle (88 miles) although train links maybe better from Manchester (122 miles)
Keswick has plenty of hotels, b & bs, self catering options and camp sites. For further information click here
Please click the links for further information on Keswick, Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick Launch, Whinlatter Forest Park, World of Illusion, the Lake District National Park and the National Park Visitor Centre