Lake District Walks - Keswick via Derwent Water
12:43 14 February 2011
THIS walk is one of my top five favourites. It's flexible in that, thanks to the launch that bustles round the lake, you can cut your walk short and be taken back to your starting point in style. It is also more or less dead flat, avoiding any tiring uphill sections so for those walkers who 'don't do hills' it's an ideal choice.
It pays to check the launch times so as to keep long waits to a minimum. Basically, one launch sets out from the pier at Keswick to go round the lake clockwise while another sets out half an hour later to go round anti-clockwise, hence you should not need to wait longer than half an hour for a launch.
There are seven landing stages at intervals round the lake and a full circuit would cost a reasonable £7.90 per adult or £3.95 per child. Single fares are also available to various points around the lake. What is more, the launch operates throughout the year although the winter service is slightly reduced.
Keswick has sorted itself out when it comes to parking but even so on a busy weekend at the height of the season it can be a problem. You can usually find a space in the big car park on Lake Road next to the Theatre by the Lake. Incidentally if you haven't been to a show here, I'd recommend having a look at their programme. In my book it's one of the best regional theatres in the country. A good day out would be to do the walk below including a boat-trip on the lake, have a meal in Keswick and see a play in the evening. This is living!
The walk follows the path round the lake in a clockwise direction so from the theatre follow the road to the jetty and keep left past some benches overlooking the water.
The island just opposite is Derwent Island which is accessible on a few summer weekends when the National Trust opens it for visitors.
The path enters the wooded area of Friars Crag and where the path divides, keep left and a gate gives access to the shore at Strandshag Bay. Keep to the water's edge and at a second gate we enter woodland again. Keep on the path and after crossing a cattle grid, it bends right
then left to skirt a property. Keep to the shore around the next bay, Calfclose Bay, and as you leave it you have to negotiate a rocky promontory where you touch the edge of the road. Pick up the path again and keep to the lake side. When the water is low you can walk along the fore-shore.
The landing-stage which we come to is Ashness Gate and just across the road from it is the Youth Hostel, Barrow House. Stay on the shore and go through a gate, the path taking us away from the road to follow round a
peninsula, one of the nicest parts of the whole walk.
Beyond it we come back to the road again and at a parking area, Kettlewell Car Park, cross the road to enter woodland on the left of the road.
Stay on the undulating path and where it rejoins the road keep left walking on the edge of the road and the impressive Lodore Falls Hotel comes into view on the left.
Continue past the hotel and beyond it, on the right, is a toilet block, at your convenience. There's a bus stop here on the Keswick-Seatoller route, if you want to bail out and go back to base.
Here's a hint: if you could do with a cuppa, continue along the road for about half a mile where there's a teashop, High Lodore Farm, famous hereabouts because of its proximity to climbing routes on the Borrowdale Crags.
If you decide to press on, take the gate on the right beyond the toilets and follow the broad track across the meadow to the River Derwent which is crossed by a fine, curved bridge.
Across the other side, the path is taken over the marshy area on a raised walkway for most of the way. Money has been found to replace the old timber boards with ones made out of recycled plastic bottles, a laudable enterprise aimed at improving access for those of limited mobility.
Once past the marshes we enter woods at a gate from where a clear path follows the lake shore. At this point you might choose to catch the launch at High Brandlehow landing stage or at one of the subsequent stages each about ten minutes apart. Low Brandlehow is a popular starting point for climbing Cat Bells, for many their introduction to fell walking, a fell whose very name according to Wainwright, has 'a magic challenge'. The path to the summit of Everest starts at Cat Bells - who said that?
Somebody should have and if nobody has, they can have the quote for nothing, with my compliments.
The path along the lake keeps close by the water then rises away from it to the outdoor centre at Hawse End where we join a Tarmac road. Keep right then take a gate on the right into a stand of rhododendrons. Cross a footbridge and go through a gate into a meadow then through another gate into woodland. We come to a lane beside the drive to Lingholm and cross over diagonally to a signed path indicating Portinscale.
Where this path forks keep right along a right hand boundary which leads to a slate-built house called The Lodge. Turn left and at the sailing shop turn down right to the jetty. They sell launch tickets in the shop. This is
Nichol End, a centre for sailing on the lake. Catch the launch back to the Keswick pier, our starting point.
Distance: Nine miles but can be shortened by catching the launch.
Time to allow: If you do the full walk, about five hours, less if you catch the launch.
Map: OS Explorer OL4 The English Lakes North West
Start and finish: Lake Road Car Park, Keswick
Refreshments: Wide choice in Keswick; High Lodore Farm, Borrowdale
Derwentwater Launch: 017687 72263, web www.keswick-launch.co.uk
Useful book: Wainwright's Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells Book Six