The English Lake District is not, perhaps, well-known outside the UK and certainly not as a tourist attraction on par with London or even Blackpool, which is closer by. It is, however, an attraction to many day-tripping Britons and an increasing number of discerning overseas tourists. Charming small towns with a range of bucolic and more modern attractions - such as Keswick - are something Northern England does rather well. In fact, Keswick is a wonderful holiday choice should you wish to cast your net further when visiting the UK.
1. Rock on at Castlerigg Stone Circle
Neolithic standing stone sites are something people might more immediately associate with Stonehenge, far to the South. However, there are as many as 1,300 such sites around Britain and Northern France. Castlerigg is the most visited one in Cumbria and one of the most visited in Britain. This might have something to do with the spectacular scenery that surrounds it, including the picturesque peak of Skiddaw.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Address: Castle Lane, Underskiddaw, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4RN
Website: Castlerigg Stone Circle
2. Witness the unique at Honister Slate Mine
Two things mark out Honister as remarkable. The first is that it is the last remaining working slate mine in all of England. The second and perhaps more important remarkable trait is its astounding, rugged natural beauty. Tours of the mine start at 38 GBP (about 50 USD) and allow you to climb the sheer valley walls. It’s real value for money as the experience lasts up to three hours and provides some of the most thrilling views anywhere in England.
Honister Slate Mine
Address: Honister Pass, Keswick CA12 5XN
Website: Honister Slate Mine
3. Indulge your cultural side at Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
While Keswick’s natural attractions are not in any doubt, do not be misled into thinking that it lacks more “refined” indoor pursuits. The Keswick Museum and Art Gallery is an attraction that will keep curious minds occupied for hours on end.
First built in 1898 and refurbished in 2014, the museum features the works of local artists and filmmakers, as well as displays inspired by the natural surroundings of Keswick. At 4.25 GBP for an adult and 2.50 for a child (5.50/3 USD), it’s a bargain. The tea shop is also well worth a visit!
Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
Address: Station Road, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4NF
Website: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
4. "Lead" the way to Cumberland Pencil Museum
You may ask yourself: “Is a museum about pencils really where I want to spend my time?” The answer to that is yes, of course, it is.
Among the museum’s claims to fame is that it hosts the (former) world’s biggest colouring pencil - 26 feet long and weighing just under half a metric tonne. If you’re wondering what colour the pencil is, it’s yellow. You’ll also find the world’s first ever pencil, as well as a collection of World War II pencils which contained hidden maps. Offbeat? Maybe, but also fascinating and genuinely historical.
Cumberland Pencil Museum
Address: Southey Works, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5NG
Website: Derwent Pencil Museum
5. Take in a show at the Theatre By The Lake
Given the UK’s cultural history, it is no surprise that most cities and towns have one or more performing arts theatre. However, the Theatre by the Lake is a little bit different. Opened in 1999 on the banks of the Derwent, the theatre itself is as much an attraction as any of the shows that tread the boards within. In one of Britain’s prettiest counties, it makes sense that you would find one of its prettiest theatres. It may be less than twenty years old, but it’s rich in old world charm and character.
Theatre by the Lake
Address: Lakeside, Lake Rd, Keswick CA12 5DJ
Website: Theatre by the Lake
6. Take a walk around Derwent Water
As noted, Keswick is in the Lake District, and its theatre is located on a lakeside. So, of course, those lakes play a huge part in the tourism and general life of this region. Perhaps the most prominent attraction is Derwent Water, which covers more than two square miles and contains no less than twenty-nine million cubic metres of water.
That in itself is impressive, but it’s the setting that really makes it. The lake can be viewed from any of the seven separate marinas, one of which is located at Keswick itself. Motorists may enjoy the drive from Keswick to Borrowdale, which runs along the Western shore and provides some of the most stunning views.
Address: Lake District, Cumbria
Website: Derwent Water
7. Become utterly confused at The Puzzling Place
If you thought the Pencil Museum was a bit offbeat, then the Puzzling Place will just about finish you off - in the best possible way. Entry here is free, allowing you to browse around the shop and tease your brain in the puzzle area. You will be expected to pay (just 4 GBP, less than 5 USD for adults) for the World of Illusion, however, which contains such attractions as the Anti-Gravity Room (don’t try to levitate, it won’t work) and the Eyelusions Exhibition. It’s all of those creepy optical illusions you’ve seen online and in pictures. You’ll leave feeling bewildered and entertained.
The Puzzling Place
Address: Museum Square, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5DZ
Website: The Puzzling Place
8. Wander, lonely as a cloud, to the Wordsworth Museum
Close to Keswick (about 20 minutes’ drive away), you’ll find the charming village of Grasmere. Here is where the legendary poet William Wordsworth made his home. He and his sister Dorothy lived in Dove Cottage from 1799 to 1808. It was also here that Wordsworth wrote the immortal lines “I wandered, lonely as a cloud / That floats on high, o'er vales and hills…” The poem itself was inspired by a visit to nearby Ullswater, itself worth a visit. Entry to the museum costs just 9 GBP, less than 11 USD.
Dove Cottage & Wordsworth Museum
Address: Grasmere, Ambleside LA22 9SH
Website: Dove Cottage & Wordsworth Museum
9. Climb for the view at the Cat Bells
Just three miles away from Keswick on the shores of Derwent Water, you’ll find the gentle rising fell of Cat Bells. A slope which rises to 451 metres, it’s the perfect place for a country walk. Pack a picnic and you can lunch while looking out over the magnificent lake beneath. If your camera has a panoramic function, this is an ideal place to put it to use - one sweeping vista can take in Bassenthwaite Lake, the Newlands Valley, Keswick and Skiddaw.
Address: Cumbria, England
Website: Cat Bells
Keswick: where weird is really weird, and wonderful is everywhere!
Whether it be optical illusions or very real lake shores, the take-home message from Keswick is that it has to be seen to be believed. You’ll be captivated by the vertiginous scenery and enchanted by the character of this unique town. You’ll want to visit again and again.
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