Things to see at Derwent Water and Keswick
Derwent Water has been called 'Queen of the Lakes' because of the way it's cradled by the surrounding fells. Visit the viewpoints and historic sculptures on a lakeside stroll or set off from Keswick to explore the surrounding woodlands and fells.
Derwent Water foreshore
If you’re visiting the Lake District around Keswick, a great place to start your trip is Derwent Water foreshore. Just a five-minute walk from Keswick's market square, the foreshore offers easy walks with parking, toilets, cafés and benches, with views down the length of the lake of Cat Bells and the Jaws of Borrowdale.
Ten minutes on the Lakeside Amble waymarked trail from the Keswick foreshore and landing stages takes you to Friar’s Crag. Visit Lake District’s Miles Without Stiles Number 36: Friar's Crag for more information and a map.
From the bench on the crag you get an unbroken view down the length of the lake, with the fells of Walla Crag and Maiden Moor curling along the left and right shores, and the ‘tooth’ of Castle Crag right in the centre at the far end. This view inspired a lifelong love of natural landscapes in artist and writer John Ruskin.
In a grove of trees on the crag is a slate memorial to the writer, thinker and painter John Ruskin who named the view from Friar’s Crag as his earliest memory. His writing on the impact that natural landscapes have on people was a huge influence on the founders of the National Trust.
‘The first thing I remember … was being taken by my nurse to the brow of Friar’s Crag.’
- John Ruskin, artist
Walk around Derwent Water
You can walk all round Derwent Water. The entire loop is 10 miles, so make sure you've got all day. Good places to start from are the National Trust car parks at Great Wood and Kettlewell which are both close to the lake.
The lakeshore circular path is waymarked and it takes you from Keswick's foreshore, along beaches, through woods and over bridges with plenty of boat and bus links to save any weary legs.
Cat Bells: ‘the Lair of the Wildcat’
A proper little mountain
Cat Bells, 'the Lair of the Wildcat' is a notable part of the skyline of Borrowdale. At a mere 451m it’s considered a ‘minor’ fell but the rangers here call it a 'proper little mountain'.
Expect false summits, short scramble sections where you have to use your hands, a bare rocky dome for a summit and views right across Derwent Water to Skiddaw and down the length of Borrowdale.
How to get to Cat Bells
There’s very limited parking at Cat Bells, so it’s best to park in Keswick and go by boat to Hawes End Jetty, or by bus to the trail head. Cat Bells was nominated as one of the Nation's Favourite 100 walks and is the Lake District National Park’s Miles Without Stiles route number 33.
Beatrix Potter country
The area around Cat Bells was a favourite of children’s writer Beatrix Potter who used the surroundings as locations for The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin and of course Mrs Tiggy-Winkle the hedgehog laundress who famously lived behind a little wooden door on Cat Bells.
Protect Cat Bells as you walk
You can help minimise erosion damage by sticking to the main path up the ‘nose’ of the ridge. Some people use short cuts up the flanks that can quickly be gouged out into deep erosion scars by the famous Lake District rain.
Waymarked walks near Keswick
If you're looking for an easy or moderate walk close to Keswick, we’ve created seven waymarked walks through the woods and along the lakeshore to help you explore.
Ranging from just 15 minutes to 1¾ hours the routes are easy to follow, whichever one you choose. There’s a map opposite the Keswick Launch boat jetties and another in Great Wood car park.
The shortest walk is a pushchair-friendly half-mile circuit of Cockshot Wood beside the lake. It starts opposite the boat jetties and includes wild play areas for den building, while the trees provide a bit of shelter from the wind for families with young children.
The longest walk, around Great Wood, starts from Great Wood car park and climbs up to the top of the internationally significant Atlantic oakwood and from the top of the hill a few 'windows' through the trees give glimpses out over Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite.
Other things to see and do near Keswick
Explore Derwent Water by boat
If you fancy taking to the water, there’s plenty of water activities on offer at Derwent Water. Visit the Activities on Derwent Water page to find out more about lake cruises, watersports equipment hire and visiting the islands on Derwent Water.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Surrounded by the fells of Skiddaw and Blencathra to its north and Castlerigg Fell, High Rigg and Clough Head to its south, this ring of 38 stones, set within a ring of mountains, has stood at Castlerigg for about 4,500 years since it was created by Neolithic farming communities.
The archaeological studies suggest that Castlerigg is an early example of a stone circle as it is not perfectly round; one side is slightly flattened.
The square enclosure within the circle appears to have been added at a later date, suggesting that Castlerigg was used by many generations of people over a long time period.
To find out more about Castlerigg Stone Circle’s history, visit the History of Borrowdale page.
Find out how you can walk from Keswick to Castlerigg here.
Hundred Year Stone sculpture at Calf Close Bay
Calfclose Bay lakeshore is only 250m across the road from the entrance to Great Wood or on the 2¾-mile circular Lakeside Amble. Here you will find the well-known Hundred Year Stone sculpture by Peter Randall-Page: one of the most popular photo opportunities to be had on the shores of Derwent Water. It was placed in 1995 to mark the centenary of the National Trust and there are 100 folds in the design.
The hands sculpture and the birth of the National Trust
Derwent Water holds a special place in the National Trust’s history. The lakeshore at Brandelhow became the first place in the Lake District to be protected for the nation in 1902 – a fact marked by the sculpture 'Entrust' by sculptor John Merrill, locally known as 'the hands sculpture'.
Most of the landscape around Derwent Water is now cared for by the National Trust thanks to the activism of local hero Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley who was one of the three people who founded the charity in 1895.
In this video his great-granddaughter revisits this special place to talk about the sculpture and reflect on her great-grandfather’s vision and what it means for us today.
Force Crag Mine
As you walk the gently rising mine track from just outside Braithwaite village, it is hard to believe that this beautiful area of the Lake District fells was once the backdrop to a mining industry. Hugging the side of the fell with the winding beck below, you are led to the head of the Coledale valley and the sheer dark face of Force Crag.
Click here to find out more about the walk from Braithwaite to Force Crag.
Force Crag Mine itself is open to the public for a few days each year. In 2023, our open dates will be Saturday 27 May, Sunday 16 July as well as Sunday 10 September. Please click here for more information and we look forward to welcoming you soon.
This video gives you a glimpse of what you can expect on an open day at Force Crag Mine.
Discover the internationally significant ‘Atlantic oakwoods’ and Derwent Water which support a variety of rare species of plants and animals, including the red squirrel and vendace.
There are nine National Trust car parks in Borrowdale and Derwent Water to choose from. Find out how to find them and how much parking costs.
Derwent Island and House are open to visitors five days a year. Find out all your need to know about the visit and how to get the most out of your day.
Take to the water for a spot of canoeing, paddleboarding or paddling. The islands of Derwent Water are waiting to be discovered
Plan a visit to one of the special countryside places in our care and discover the benefits of being in the great outdoors. Pack your walking boots and get ready to explore woodlands, valleys and rivers.
Explore the Lake District's majestic mountains – among them Scafell Pike, the tallest in England – ancient woodland, hidden waterfalls, rugged coastline and, of course, its many lakes. You might even spot a red squirrel, roe deer or bird of prey.
Explore some of the finest landscapes in our care on coastal paths, accessible trails, woodland walks and everything in between. Find the best places to walk near you.
On a clear night leave the bright lights of Keswick behind for a short walk at Friars Crag, a magical Lake District location for both stargazing and wildlife spotting.