Islands of Derwent Water

Canoe and dog on Derwentwater lakeshore, Cumbria

The longer days and warmer weather of spring allows us to spend a little longer outside and perhaps explore a little further - but how about trying something new and exploring from a canoe?

Derwent Water has four permanent islands that we care for plus one floating island (reputedly) which sporadically appears towards the end of summer consisting of a mass of vegetable matter that rises to the surface on a cushion of methane gas!

You can hire a canoe from one of the marinas on Derwent Water and have your very own Swallows and Amazons adventure right where the 2016 film was shot and premiered!

Swallows and Amazons was filmed at Derwent Water
Still from the Swallows and Amazons film
Swallows and Amazons was filmed at Derwent Water

St Herbert's

St Herbert’s is the largest of the islands, covering between four and five acres and named after the saint of the same name who brought Christianity to the area in 685 AD. St Herbert used the island as an hermitage. After his death, it became a place of pilgrimage, and St. Herbert's cell can still be identified amongst the undergrowth.

St Herbert's is also the inspiration for the fictional Owl Island in Beatrix Potter's 'The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin', so be sure to keep your eyes open for any little rafts pulled up along the shore!

St Herbert's Island, the largest of Derwent Water's four islands
St Herbert's Island in Derwent Water, Lake District
St Herbert's Island, the largest of Derwent Water's four islands

Rampsholme Island

Rampsholme derives its name from the wild garlic that thrives on the island. The word derives from the Old Norse 'Hrafns holmr' or 'wild garlic island'.

Not much of note has happened on Rampsholme other than it formed part of the late Earl of Derwent Water's confiscated estate, which was purchased by John Marshall Esq of Leeds in 1832.

'Wild garlic' Island
Rampsholme Island on Derwent Water, Lake District
'Wild garlic' Island

Lord's Island

Lord's Island is situated in a quiet part of the lake. To protect the resident wildlife, such as the nesting geese, we ask you not to land here and to respect a 'no-paddle' zone between the main shoreline and the island. However it is worth paddling past on the far side at this time of year to see the primroses.

Lord's Island was once the residence of the Earls of Derwent Water. A great house used to exist on the island dating from around 1460, with a drawbridge across to the mainland. The house is now gone, although you can still make out its foundations.

Walkers with Lord's Island in the distance
Visitors walking on shores of Derwent Water, Lake District
Walkers with Lord's Island in the distance

Derwent Island

Derwent Island with Keswick behind
Derwent Island with Keswick in the background, Lake District
Derwent Island with Keswick behind

Derwent Island is the only inhabited island on the lake and as a private residence should only be admired from afar. Once owned by the monks of Fountains Abbey, it was the home of German miners working in the area in Elizabethan times.

The island and its house, which was considered by Wordsworth to be a blot on the landscape, has, since the 1950's, been in the ownership of the National Trust and is open to the public five days a year.

The all important 'housekeeping' notice

  • We kindly request that you do not stay overnight on these islands or light any fires.
  • Please take care not to disturb any nesting birds.
  • Please take your litter home (and if you see other people's litter consider picking that up and taking it with you too!)
  • Help us prevent the spread of invasive species from Derwent Water to the other pristine lakes we care for; take a look at the 'Check, clean, dry' advice for watercraft users.