Derwentwater is one of the Lake District’s most famous and best loved lakes thanks to its ease of access, position close to the town of Keswick, spectacular views, and activities available. It’s also the lake where many of our outdoor adventure activities take place, so we’re in, on and around it on an almost daily basis! So here’s our guide to our favourite lake in the Lake District!
Things to do around Derwentwater
Derwentwater is a real playground and there’s a good reason that many of our adventure activities take place there! Kayaking, paddleboarding and canoeing are great ways to get out on the water. You can join us for a guided trip, or hire our equipment and make your own way around the lake.
Speed restrictions on the lake mean it is not a suitable location for activities such as jet skiing and water skiing. But that makes it all the more enjoyable in other forms of vessel!
There are strict restrictions on powered boats on Derwentwater, but you can hire motor boats from Keswick Launch, which stick to the maximum allowed speed of 10mph. This is a great way of getting about with a bit more speed and a little less effort.
The Keswick Launch cruises across Derwentwater for most of the year. You can sit back and admire the sights on a journey around the whole lake, or use it to get to and from various locations by way of several handy jetties.
Keswick is a town on the shores of Derwentwater. It’s one of the most popular locations in the Lake District thanks to its stunning location and plethora of attractions. Just a short walk away from the lake, you’ll find museums, cafés, pubs, restaurants, accommodation, shops and entertainment.
You can walk the full way around Keswick on a long but fairly straightforward hike. The paths are well marked and reasonably flat for most of the way, passing through open fields, below mountains, along rivers, and through woodland.
Other popular hiking routes around Derwentwater include Catbells, Walla Crag and Maiden Moor.
Theatre by the Lake
One of the best-located theatres in the country, the Theatre by the Lake is positioned right on the shores of Derwentwater. There’s a busy and highly-acclaimed programme throughout the year that includes theatre, live music, comedy, talks and cinema screenings. You can also purchase refreshments from the attached café.
Derwentwater is a popular lake for wild swimming, and you’ll often see heads bobbing close to the shore. If you’re lucky, you may even spot Becca and Lee enjoying an evening dip!
There are a number of little pebble beaches around Derwentwater, which are pleasant locations for a picnic. If you’re hiring a boat, you could even paddle out to St Herbert’s Island for lunch in the middle of the lake!
Lodore Falls Spa
The Lodore Falls Spa offers a luxurious day of pampering. Their spa is gorgeous, with plenty of treatments on offer, as well as an outdoor thermal infinity pool with views of Derwentwater.
Because Derwentwater covers quite a large area, there are a number of places that you can stay, so there is plenty of choice.
Keswick is the most popular option and is where you’ll find the most variety of accommodation. The town is convenient for everything and has plenty of things to do and see while you’re there.
Borrowdale is perfect for walkers. The valley is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the Lake District and there are a number of small villages and hamlets dotted throughout.
Portinscale is a large village on the northern edge of Derwentwater. It’s a good option if you would like a convenient location with some amenities, but don’t need or want somewhere as big or as bustling as Keswick.
Types of Accommodation
You’ll find plenty of hotels and B&Bs nearby. Our friends at Babbling Brook Guesthouse in Keswick will give you a very warm welcome. Or The Borrowdale Hotel is a gorgeous retreat surrounded by amazing scenery.
Camping and caravaning is available at the Derwentwater Camping and Caravanning Club Site or the Borrowdale Caravan and Motorhome Club Campsite. If you’re a member of the Caravan Club, you can even claim a discount on our activities!
There’s a massive range of self-catering accommodation throughout Keswick, Borrowdale and Portinscale. Try Sally’s Cottages for a large selection all around the lake.
Food and Drink
Whether you’re looking for an evening meal, a hearty lunch in the middle of a long hike, or a relaxed breakfast to kick off the day, then you’ll find something perfect around Derwentwater. Again, nearby Keswick will have the most choice. But Borrowdale also has lots of eateries with tasty treats in store.
Ashness Bridge and Surprise View
Up a steep hill above Derwentwater are a couple of well known beauty spots and photo opportunities: Ashness Bridge and Surprise View. Just a few metres apart from each other, they’re worth the hike up (you can also drive, but be aware the car parks are usually very busy). Ashness Bridge is a picturesque packhorse bridge over a rippling stream, with views of Derwentwater. Surprise View really is that - an open panorama that you come upon suddenly through a break in the surrounding trees. You can see for miles across two lakes and plenty of mountain scenery.
Right on the water’s edge, Friar’s Crag looks over Derwentwater towards the impressive “Jaws” of Borrowdale. The outlook is really something, and a handy bench means you can sit back and take it all in. Even more handy is that Friar’s Crag is an easy short walk from Keswick, along fairly good paths, so will be accessible to most.
Brandelhow was the first National Trust purchase in the Lake District, so plays an important part in the national park’s history and heritage. It covers 108 acres of pasture and woodland at the foot of Catbells, with views of the lake. You can visit by boat from Keswick.
The Derwentwater Islands
There are several islands on Derwentwater, all owned by the National Trust. The largest is Derwent Isle, which also includes a grand private house. There are very occasional guided trips over to Derwent Isle, which is the only way to visit, though you can pass by it on a kayak, canoe or paddleboard.
The other islands on Derwentwater are:
Lord’s Island - once accessed from the mainland by a drawbridge. There are foundation remains of an old stately home from when it was occupied, but it’s now a protected area for wildlife and shouldn’t be landed on.
St Herbert’s Island - named after a 7th-century hermit who once lived on the island, you can still see the remains of his hermitage. You can land boats at St Herbert’s Island to explore for yourself.
Rampsholme Island - a very small island known for the growth of lots of wild garlic!