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Keswick Walks for 2022

Keswick Walks for 2022

With its glacier-carved ribbon lakes, craggy fell mountains and postcard-perfect hill farms, Lake District National Park is one of England’s most iconic walking destinations. Keswick, a loveable market town set on the banks of Derwentwater, is a terrific base for exploring the park. Bunked down in one of the cosy inns or B&Bs, you’ll literally have some of Lake District’s best hiking trails at your doorstep. Thankfully, we’ve compiled a definitive list of the very best Keswick walks for 2021 right here.



Why stay in Keswick?


When choosing the best town to stay in Lake District National Park, it’s hard to look past Keswick. So, what makes this town so special? 

For starters, location. Not only is Keswick set on the banks of one of the park’s most beautiful lakes, but it’s also nestled at the foot of Skiddaw and Blencathra. These are two of the biggest and most impressive fells in Lake District. Additionally, if you want to lace up your boots and venture further afield, Keswick’s northerly setting makes it well-placed for exploring the nearby valleys of Buttermere and Borrowdale. 

Even on the coldest and drizzliest of mornings, a good view is always an incentive to crawl out of bed. Keswick delivers with an evocative setting on Derwentwater and a backdrop of cloud-enveloped fells and rugged mountain peaks. 

Forgot your hiking poles? Need an extra pair or merino socks? In the market for a pair of new binoculars? You’re in the right place. Keswick is home to some of the best outdoor equipment shops in North West England. As well as hooking you up with outdoor gear, Keswick is also brimming with cafes, pubs and restaurants where you can refuel after a long day on your feet. Furthermore, there are also some great little galleries and museums to keep you entertained on rest days. 

Now we’ve covered why we love Keswick as a base, let’s take a look at some of the best hikes to set off on from the village. 



Derwentwater Circular


In the hiking world, circumnavigating lakes has a similar appeal as summiting mountains. So, our list of the best hikes in Keswick wouldn’t be complete without the Derwentwater Circular. The 10-mile loop walk around the lake is flat and well graded, making it ideal for all fitness levels. It’s also suitable for kids with the stamina to spend several hours on their feet. Tip: pack plenty of snacks! 

Parts of the trail skirt the shoreline while others take you through sun-dappled woodland and towering Scots pine stands. There are a handful of picturesque picnic spots along the way. These are perfect for digging into a sourdough sandwich followed by a big slab of Grasmere gingerbread. Dreamt up by Victorian cook Sarah Nelson in the 1800s, the gingerbread is still made according to Sarah’s original hand-written recipe. It remains a staple around these parts. 

The views are pretty spectacular, with some of the best enjoyed from Millennium Seat just after you pass Stable Hills Cottages. Savour the shade as you walk through the Brandelhow Park woodlands and stop for afternoon tea or a celebratory pint in Portinscale, a friendly village on the northern tip of Derwentwater. From here it’s a short walk back to Keswick. 

Length: 10 miles

Average time to complete: 5+ hours with stops 

Starting point: Keswick Launch



Friars Crag via Cockshot Wood


Short and sweet, Friars Crag is an easy stroll from the Keswick town centre and unlocks huge views over Derwentwater, Cat Bells fell and the glacier-carved Jaws of Borrowdale valley. Set off from Market Square and head towards Lake Road, following the path through Hope Park, down to the lakeshore and past the boat landings. You’ll soon arrive at Friars Crag, which has been enchanting the likes of John Ruskin and other legendary artists since the 1800s. Ruskin claimed Keswick is “a place almost too beautiful to live in” and we don’t really blame him. Fortunately, the views haven’t changed much over the centuries and what you see today is more or less what inspired Ruskin in the 19th century. 

The walk from Market Square to Friars Crag really isn’t far so we’ve tacked on a section that takes you down to Strandshag Bay where you can enjoy Derwentwater from a different angle. The grassy foreshore is great for picnics so why not stock up on supplies in Keswick before you set off? Loop back to Keswick via Cockshot Wood, where you can spot birds, badgers and other locals. 

Length: 2.5 miles

Average time to complete: 1 hour

Starting point: Keswick Market Square 





Steep and challenging, the ascent up Skiddaw is a rite of passage for serious hikers. At 931 metres tall it’s one of the highest peaks in England and is on the bucket lists of most mountaineers. There are several routes up Skiddaw, with this one starting in the Keswick town centre. The trail stretches across the lower slopes of Latrigg fell before taking you on a relatively direct route to the summit via Little Man, another smaller fell. You’ll start gaining elevation early on in the hike and it’s pretty relentless until you reach the summit. It can be a little hard on the knees so it’s worth packing hiking poles. 

On a clear day the views are epic, with panoramas over Derwentwater, Helvellyn and Scafell Pike. Sunshine is always a treat but be prepared for cloud to roll in when you’re at the summit. The 931-metre-tall peak tends to create its own weather systems. Pack layers, waterproofs and a headtorch for emergencies. If the weather’s not cooperating there are some nice little shelters near the summit that are good for escaping the rain or wolfing down lunch. The path is well-worn but Skiddaw is still a mountain and the peak is very exposed so be sure to pack all the usual essentials. 

Length: 10 miles

Average time to complete: 5 hours

Starting point: Keswick



Castlerigg Stone Circle 


Perched on a plateau and commanding panoramic views over the fells, Castlerigg Stone Circle is one of Lake District’s signature walks. The 38 stones have been standing tall for thousands of years, with some more than three metres high. Starting in Market Square, you’ll follow the old railway path up to the ancient Neolithic site. The purpose of Castlerigg Stone Circle remains unknown, adding a healthy dose of mystery to this Keswick walk. It’s definitely a talking point, with some historians musing it could be a religious site and others swearing it’s the work of aliens. Where do you stand? 

The return journey takes you through Springs Wood, where there’s a good chance of spotting redstarts and spotted flycatchers. In spring the woodland is carpeted with wild garlic and bluebells, making for some very pretty photos. 

Length: 4 miles

Average time to complete: 2 hours

Starting point: Keswick Market Square 



Cat Bells


From the moment you step foot in Keswick your eyes will be drawn to the dramatic peak towering over the lake’s western shore. Known as Cat Bells, the fell is a healthy 451-metres high and promises some of the best views in the park. The walk up is worth the effort, with sweeping views over Derwentwater and the surrounding peaks, fells and valleys. 

Note: this walk starts at Hawes End Landing Stage, which can be easily reached by taking the ferry from Keswick. It’s a terrific ride and is a great way to start and end a day on your feet. Alternatively, you can reach Hawes End Landing Stage on foot from Keswick. This will add an extra hour to your itinerary each way. Adding the extra leg is a great excuse to head straight to the pub after your walk. Square Orange is a local favourite, with amazing from-scratch pizzas and an impressive craft beer list. If you’re lucky you could even catch some live music, the ideal way to end a day on the trail. 

Length: 3.5 miles

Average time to complete: 3 hours

Starting point: Hawes End Landing Stage



Walla Crag 


There is no shortage of fells around Keswick but there’s just something about Walla Crag that makes it particularly special. At 379 metres high it’s not the tallest peak in the area but it rewards its victors with incredible views and that all-important sense of achievement. You’ll definitely encounter some steep sections, making it ideal if you’re craving a bit of a challenge. Despite the elevation it’s a surprisingly versatile mountain, suitable for complete beginners, experienced hikers, families with young kids and runners training for marathons. You can basically tailor the walk to fit your fitness and endurance level. The views are also worth writing home about, with many locals maintaining the outlooks from Walla Crag are the best in Lake District. 

Looking for somewhere to refuel after your hike? Founded by a pair of mountain aficionados, Fellpack is designed by adventurers, for adventures. Aptly named ‘fell pots’ are the order of the day, with these freshly made bowls of goodness guaranteed to fill you up. If you’re really keen the café even has a time challenge, with some of the fastest customers making it up and back in under 35 minutes. 

Length: 6 miles

Average time to complete: 4 hours

Starting point: Keswick



Dodd Wood


While the Dodd Wood summit trail seems short at just over three miles, it slogs you with some decent uphill sections that will get your thighs burning. Before reaching the summit, you’ll pass by a handful of streams and waterfalls, great for filling up your bottle if you’re hiking with a SteriPen or LifeStraw. The panoramas are eye-popping and stretch across Keswick and Derwentwater, all the way to Bassenthwaite Lake, Solway Firth and the distant hills of Galloway and Dumfries.

Wondering what to pack for lunch? The name Keswick is thought to mean ‘cheese farm’ so it’s only fitting you stock up on dairy products while you’re in town. The Saturday market has been running for more than 700 years. It’s one of the best spots in the North West to pick up a block of the district’s signature extra mature cheddar. 

Length: 3 miles

Average time to complete: 2-3 hours

Starting point: Dodd Wood Car Park



Bob Graham Round


No roundup of Keswick hikes would be complete without a nod to Bob Graham, one of Lake Districts’ most celebrated hikers. A former Keswick hotelier, Bob set out to summit 42 Lake District peaks to celebrate his 42nd birthday. Fuelled by nothing more than bread and butter, he completed the challenge in just under 24 hours and quickly became a local legend. The fable lives on, with hundreds of people attempting to complete the Bob Graham Round every year. Despite being armed with the best energy bars and hydration drinks, only a few dozen manage to achieve Bob’s epic time. 

Planning to conquer the Bob Graham Round? This run is not for the faint hearted, with the route covering almost 70 miles and gaining 28,000 feet of altitude, putting the total elevation gain on par with a Mount Everest climb. Starting with Skiddaw, the route gets juicy fast with peaks like Blencathra, Helvellyn, Bowfell, Pillar and Great Gable thrown in. While the classic Bob Graham Round is done in 24 hours or less, like many long-distance hikes there’s also the option of completing it in sections. You can choose to hike the route with a backpack and camping gear. This should take around five days, or tick off each fell one-by-one. Whatever your style, it’s a fantastic feeling to follow in the footsteps of Bob and keep his passion for Lake District alive. 

If you’re thinking about attempting this mammoth walk, check out the website dedicated to the Bob Graham Round and read more about the history of it and those who have attempted it here

Length: 70 miles

Average time to complete: 24 hours – 5 days

Starting point: Keswick



Guided Walks in Keswick


If you don’t feel confident or experienced enough to walk on your own, we highly recommend the guided walks offered by Lake District National Park rangers. From local flora and fauna to stargazing, they’re a brilliant way to stretch your legs and find out more about the park along the way. Most are free or require a nominal fee. This makes them ideal if you’re on a budget or simply want to try something different.

Honestly, we could wax lyrical about the magic of Lake District National Park all day. Keswick is one of our favourite places to stay in the park however it’s definitely not the only option. To find out more about other Lake District hikes check out our guides to towns like Ambleside, Grasmere, Hawkshead and Bowness-on-Windermere here.