Featuring the best attractions in the North West Lake District that are accessible by public transport
The Lake District and Cumbria are home to some of the best scenery and visitor attractions in the country. In the north west Lakes, these are all within easy reach from the popular tourist centre of Keswick and include beautiful Borrowdale valley, Derwent Water, Crummock Water, Buttermere, Bassenthwaite Lake, scenic forests, pretty villages and some impressive mountain passes linking them all.
There are various bus, train and boat services through the area which will transport you to all of the popular attractions described below. Each attraction includes a brief description, photograph, link to website (where available) and any facilities such as shops, cafes and toilets. Public transport services that stop nearby (within 1 mile) are listed and the location of each stop in relation to the attraction is described. Further information on each transport service, including route maps, timetable links and other attractions visited on route, can be found by following the transport service link.
North West Lake District
Select attraction for further detail
* Ashness Bridge & Surprise View – Famous old bridge and wonderful Derwent Water viewpoint
* Bowder Stone – Famous and massive boulder in the Jaws of Borrowdale that can easily be climbed
* Buttermere lake – Picturesque and relatively small lake near the village of the same name
* Buttermere village – Attractive small village surrounded by mountains and lakes
* Calfclose Bay & Great Wood – Picturesque bay and wood on the eastern shore of Derwent Water
* Castlerigg Stone Circle – Prehistoric stone circle in a fabulous position above Keswick
* Crummock Water – Picturesque lake in the Buttermere valley
* Dodd Wood – Woodland walks and wonderful views overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake
* Grange in Borrowdale – Pretty little village on the River Derwent in Borrowdale
* Honister Pass – High mountain pass linking Borrowdale and Buttermere valleys
* Keswick – Attractive Lakeland town at the northern end of Derwent Water
* Lake District Wildlife Park – Wildlife attraction at the northern end of Bassenthwaite lake
* Lakes Distillery – Distillery making Whisky, Vodka & Gin at the northern end of Bassenthwaite Lake
* Lodore Falls – Famous waterfall at the southern end of Derwent Water
* Mirehouse – Historic house and gardens on the eastern shore of Bassenthwaite Lake
* Rosthwaite – Attractive small village in the heart of Borrowdale
* Seatoller & Seathwaite – Two small Borrowdale settlements in magnificent mountainous surroundings
* Thirlmere – Attractive reservoir with surrounding forest walks
* Whinlatter Forest – Mountain Forest with various activities at Whinlatter Pass
North West Lake District - Attractions Map
Select icon on left side of top map bar for map key
North West Lake District - Attractions
Ashness Bridge & Surprise View
Ashness Bridge & Surprise View are located up the Watendlath road from the B5289 Borrowdale road and Derwent Water. There is no public transport up the Watendlath road but you can catch a bus or a boat to this road junction (Ashness Gate) from where you will need to walk up the hill.
Approx 0.5 miles up the road is Ashness Bridge, a traditional stone-built packhorse bridge dating from the 18th century which has become popular with tourists in more recent times due to its fabulous scenic location. Probably one of the most photographed scenes in the Lake District, you will find it on many souvenirs, cards and calendars. The best view is from upstream of the bridge, if you stand on the stones next to Barrow Beck you have the bridge in the foreground, Derwent Water behind and the mighty Skiddaw mountain range prominent behind that. The view has become a little obscured by trees over the years and would be better when there are no leaves but it’s well worth a visit at any time of year to appreciate this famous scene. There are no facilities in the area.
Approx 0.5 miles beyond Ashness Bridge, further up the Watendlath road, you will come across Surprise View which is a wonderful viewpoint overlooking Derwent Water and its surroundings. The surprise might be how unexpected it is, being completely hidden by trees from the road walking here. However, here is an open cliff top offering stunning panoramic views across the whole of Derwent Water and beyond. The distant view includes Skiddaw, Cat Bells and Maiden Moor mountains along with Bassenthwaite lake and even further beyond that towards the Solway Firth estuary and the hills of southern Scotland on a good day.
Looking at Derwent Water you can see the four main islands and Brandelhow wood below Cat Bells which was the first Lake District property acquired by the National Trust in 1902. Beyond Brandelhow are the lakeside wooded estates of Lingholm and Fawe Park where Beatrix Potter spent many holidays between 1885 and 1907. The surrounding area gave her much inspiration for her 23 enchanting children’s tales which were published in the early 1900’s and are still hugely popular today. Many background illustrations in the books are also recognisable from this area. Looking down below the viewpoint are Lodore Falls and Mary Mount hotels. Again there are no facilities here.
The Bowder Stone is a very famous boulder which has somehow come to rest in a gravity defying position perched on its edge in the woods of Borrowdale. The stone is about 30 feet high, estimated to be 2000 tons in weight and you can’t help but feel a little intimidated when you stand under the massive overhang in case it topples over! Nobody seems able to confirm how the stone came to land in such a precarious position, but it either fell from the crags above or was deposited by the Borrowdale glacier in the last ice age. There are steep steps to the top for the daring where you can get a better view of the area, although there are no barriers up there so you need to take care. This location is directly in the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ where the valley becomes very narrow before opening out again further upstream. You can see the wooded pinnacle of Castle Crag across the valley which doesn’t look far away at all.
Buses stop on the B5289 Borrowdale road near the car park. The Bowder Stone itself is about 10 minutes walk on the footpath from the bus stop. The footpath is well made and climbs for the first section past an old quarry which is now popular for rock climbing and abseiling. The path is then more level until you reach the big stone.
There are a few pleasant picnic tables inbetween trees at the car park but no other facilities.
Buttermere is a fabulous small lake surrounded by high mountains and wonderful scenery. The 4 mile footpath around the lake must be one of the best low level walks in the Lake District, with stupendous views, shingle beaches and attractive woodland. The lake is only a short walk from Buttermere village at the northern end, or from Gatesgarth Farm at the southern end.
The epic ridge of mountains to the south west of the lake includes the crinkly top of Haystacks mountain, above Gatesgarth Farm, towards the head of the valley. Haystacks is famous for being the favourite summit of the local author Alfred Wainwright, best known for his seven-volume ‘Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells’, published between 1955 and 1966. These small guide books were meticulously hand drawn and written with incredibly detailed maps and sketches for each fell walk. Today the books are still in print and still seen by many as the authoritative walking guide to the fells despite their age. In the end he covered 214 Lake District peaks in his books which are now known as ‘The Wainwrights’. A popular fellwalking challenge is to climb them all and many hundreds of people have achieved that, often over many years. Wainwright also produced a number of other books, including a Pennine Way guide and the Coast to Coast walk which he devised. When he died in 1991 his wife performed his final wish for his ashes to be scattered at Innominate Tarn on top of Haystacks mountain.
77/77A buses stop at Buttermere village and Gatesgarth Farm. Every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday from 13 May to 28 August 2023, there is also a shuttle bus running between Cockermouth and Buttermere village. This does not continue beyond Buttermere village towards Gatesgarth Farm. Nearest facilities at Buttermere village.
Buttermere is a pleasant little village in an awesome valley setting, surrounded by high mountains and inbetween the picturesque lakes of Buttermere and Crummock Water. There’s not much to see in the village itself but there are a couple of notable hostelries, namely the Buttermere Court Hotel and the Bridge Hotel plus a couple of cafes. Popular footpaths lead up surrounding mountains, but for something flatter and easier it is well worth taking the half mile walk to either Buttermere lake or Crummock Water if only to admire the views. There are more substantial walks around either lake which are also excellent. There are public toilets near the bus stop.
It is likely that the name Buttermere derives from Old English and means ‘the lake by the dairy pastures’. Once upon a time the two lakes were joined but the land now between them where the village sits has been formed over thousands of years by debris washed down in the becks from the hills above. Mill Beck runs through the village and Sourmilk Gill cascades down the steep slopes on the opposite side of the valley from a glacial corrie and tarn high above. The fertile land created by this deposition has been farmed for over a thousand years, going back to medieval times when Scandinavians settled in this area. Sheep farming has long been the main activity in the valley and you might well see some of the popular hardy Herdwick sheep on your travels.
Buses stop in the village centre, behind the Bridge Hotel. Every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday from 13 May to 28 August 2023, there is also a shuttle bus running between Cockermouth and Buttermere village.
Calfclose Bay & Great Wood, Derwent Water
Great Wood is an area of ancient woodland adjacent to Derwent Water lake shore. These woodlands are actually the last remaining fragments of English Rainforest which once covered much of the west coast of Britain before human interference. This Atlantic Oak woodland is the largest area of native broadleaf woodland in the Lake District and the ferns, mosses and lichens which grow here are all rainforest indicator species. It is also a good place to spot wildlife such as deer, red squirrels and birds of prey around the crags above. There is a circular walk from the car park through the woodland where you can appreciate it more. If you’re here in May you may well see bluebells in the woods and in October or November the autumn colours are fabulous across the valley.
Derwent Water lake shore is a short walk through the trees across the road from the car park. This brings you out at picturesque Calfclose Bay, with shingle beaches and wonderful views across the lake. Offshore, you can see Rampsholme Island with St Herbert’s Island behind. On the opposite side of the lake the mountain ridge containing the popular Cat Bells fell is prominent with other mountains beyond that. At the northern side of the bay you will see the unusual Centenary Stone sculpture on the shingle shore, placed there in 1995 to mark the centenary of the National Trust. Just beyond that is a small headland with a very well placed seat to appreciate the views which are fabulous looking southwards, straight up the lake towards the Borrowdale valley. You also get a good view of the Atlantic Oakwoods which cloak the craggy slopes and ravines on this side of the valley. The footpath continues northwards the relatively short distance back to Friar’s Crag and Keswick.
Buses stop on the B5289 Borrowdale road near the car park. An information board in the car park tells you more about the local walks. There are a couple of picnic tables but no facilities.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg stone circle is one of the oldest, most famous and most impressive prehistoric stone circles in the country. It is believed the 38 stones were brought to this elevated place by Neolithic farming communities around 4500 years ago. Quite how they got here and their purpose remain something of a mystery but it would have been an important meeting place for the scattered Neolithic communities, possibly as a trading place, a religious centre or an astronomical observatory.
The high open setting certainly enhances the experience, with fantastic 360 degree panoramic views over the northern Lake District, including many notable mountains such as Helvellyn, Skiddaw and Blencathra.
It became a popular tourist attraction in Victorian times but some visitors would chip bits of rock away for souvenirs. This resulted in a campaign for its protection and it became one of the earliest ancient scheduled monuments in the country in 1882. Later, it was acquired by the National Trust and now remains a popular attraction where you can wonder inbetween the stones and soak up the wonderful atmosphere. Free entry but no other facilities.
It is approx 1.5 mile walk along the road eastwards from the centre of Keswick with a fair bit of uphill. You can get closer on the 555 bus which stops on the main A591 at Castle Lane, leaving a pleasant level walk of approx 0.6 miles along Castle Lane. X4/X5 & 73 buses stop at Eleventrees Road on the eastern outskirts of Keswick, leaving approx 0.7 mile walk, mostly uphill.
Similar to Buttermere lake, Crummock Water is a wonderfully attractive and relatively peaceful lake surrounded by impressive mountains and no discernible development near the shore. The picturesque lakeshore at the southern end of the lake is approx 0.5 miles walk from Buttermere village. Alternatively you can access the lake via a short footpath from Cinderdale Common, on the B5289 about half way along the eastern shore. Wherever you are, the surrounding lake and mountain views are magnificent. There is also a fabulous 8.5 mile walk around the lake if you have the time and the stamina.
From Cinderdale Common, a 10 minute walk away from the lake leads to the attractive Rannerdale valley, centred around the nicely named Squat Beck, with the pointy peaks of Whiteless Pike and Rannerdale Knotts on either side. This valley really comes alive in late April and May when the famous bluebells are in full bloom and form a wonderful blue carpet across the open valley. Rannerdale was also the site of an abandoned medieval village and shows signs of habitation as far back as the stone age, although there’s no obvious sign of it now.
Buses stop at Buttermere village and Cinderdale Common. Every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday from 13 May to 28 August 2023, there is also a shuttle bus running between Cockermouth and Buttermere village, including Crummock Water. There are no facilities nearby.
Part of the Mirehouse estate and now managed by the Forestry Commission, Dodd Wood provides some lovely forest walks on the slopes of Dodd Fell. There are some fabulous views over Bassenthwaite Lake and the Derwent valley which only improve as you get above the trees and towards the summit of Dodd Fell at 500m. The wood became popular in 2001 when the first wild Ospreys to breed in the Lake District for over 150 years nested in the area and it became the best place to view them. Since then a pair normally take up residence and breed here each year between April and September before heading to Africa for the winter. There are two viewing areas in the woods, the lower one approx 15 minute uphill walk from the car park and the upper one approx 20 minutes walk beyond that. There are sometimes telescopes and volunteers to help you spot the magnificent birds and with a 5 foot wingspan you might well see them swooping over the lake on their fishing missions.
Toilets and The Old Sawmill Tearoom can be found in the main car park.
Buses stop on the A591 at the main car park.
Grange in Borrowdale
Grange in Borrowdale is a small attractive village in a fabulous setting on the River Derwent in the Borrowdale valley. An historic double arched stone bridge, which originally dates from 1675, leads across the river to the village from the Borrowdale road. It is worth a wonder through the timeless village with its pretty slate and whitewashed old houses. In the centre is a cafe and Holy Trinity Church which has some interesting ‘dog-tooth’ ceiling decoration. Next to the bridge is the Methodist Church which now houses ‘The Borrowdale Story’ display, telling the interesting history of the valley and its human influences going back over 6000 years. There are public toilets by the river.
Wherever you are in the village, the surrounding views are wonderful. Behind the village is a wall of mountains which includes Maiden Moor and High Spy. Back across the river are the wooded craggy slopes of Grange Fell. Looking up the river you can see the pointy peak of Castle Crag where the valley suddenly becomes very narrow and is known as ‘The Jaws of Borrowdale’, before opening up again further upstream. The river itself is normally shallow and crystal clear here with plenty of exposed shingle where you can picnic and paddle whilst enjoying the surroundings.
During the late medieval period, from the 13th century, much of the valley was owned by the Cistercian monks of Furness Abbey in southern Cumbria. Prior to that the land had been very poor quality but the industrious monks set about draining and cultivating the land. They established an outlying farm, or grange, here in the valley, hence the name of the village. They grew crops such as rye, oats and barley but their main produce was wool from sheep farming. This produce was transported out of the valley to the monastery using a network of packhorse trails over the fells that are nowadays used as bridleways. More and more land was cultivated until the floor of the valley would look pretty much as it does today. The end of the period was marked in dramatic fashion by the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII in the 1530’s, when he seized much or their wealth, destroyed most of their buildings and created the Church of England.
Buses stop on the B5289 Borrowdale road, across the bridge from the village.
Honister Pass is the B5289 mountain pass road linking Borrowdale and Buttermere valleys. The road summit is known as Honister Hause and at 356m altitude is one of the highest roads in the Lake District. There are some wonderful surrounding mountain views with many mountain walks in this area. It is also of historical importance being the site of Honister Slate Mine which has been producing slate since at least 1643. There are strong indications slate was extracted here long before that, during Roman times and possibly also by the medieval monks of Borrowdale.
Slate mines were developed on both sides of the road here, you can see tracks and old tramways leading up Honister Crag beyond the end of the car park and on Yew Crag across the road. Originally slate would be taken away by ponies on the old packhorse routes across the fells which are often public bridleways nowadays. It was a tough life for the miners who would stay in local stone huts whilst working in the often inclement climate here. In the late 19th century miners cottages were built closer to the mine, such as those at nearby Seatoller, giving the miners a more comfortable lifestyle.
Nowadays, Honister is the last working underground slate mine in England, still extracting Westmorland Green Slate to produce long lasting products such as worktops and memorials. There is a visitor centre where you can take a mine tour and learn more about its history. In recent years the slate mine has diversified by providing popular adventure experiences, including the ‘Via Ferrata’ which is a climbing experience on Honister Crag, plus ‘Climb the Mine’ which is a similar experience but underground in the old mine. There is a charge for these activities. The visitor centre also has a gift shop and cafe. Open daily all year, except early January.
Also at the road summit here is Honister Hause Hostel and nearby is Honister raingauge which is probably the wettest in the country with over 3.5 metres of rain annually. During the devastating storm Desmond flood in December 2015, the raingauge recorded 341mm of rain in 24hrs, a UK record. ‘Live’ rainfall figures are available online if you want to see if its raining before you go! There are no other facilities in this area.
Buses stop at the road summit adjacent to the Slate Mine.
Keswick is a popular and pretty tourist town nestled between Derwent Water and Skiddaw mountain. It has long been the main hub for the northern Lake District and boomed when the railway line from Penrith and west Cumbria was completed in 1864, bringing Victorian tourists to Keswick station. You can still see the station today in the northern town but the railway line was closed in 1972. The old railway line is now a popular cycle and walking path alongside the River Greta towards Threlkeld to the east.
There are plenty of attractions for visitors including the Pencil Museum which tells the interesting history of pencil making in the town and the opening of the UK’s first pencil factory here in 1832. Pencil manufacture moved to nearby Workington in 2008 but the museum remains and you can also see one of the largest colour pencils in the world at almost 26 feet long! Other interesting attractions in the town include Keswick Museum and The Puzzling Place. There are abundant shops, outdoor specialists, cafes, pubs and restaurants around the town as well as some lovely parks. In the town centre is the pedestrianised market place where you might find the market in full swing. In the centre of that is the prominent old Moot Hall which now houses the Tourist Information Centre. Over the River Greta from the town centre, you will find the attractive Fitz Park with it’s vast open grassy areas next to the river where you can escape the crowds.
A 10 minute walk from the town centre is the lakeside area on Derwent Water which is always popular and you can explore the lake, either by boat or the fabulous 10 mile footpath which circuits the lake. The Keswick Launch cruise is a wonderful way to take in the lake and its surroundings. There are regular boats (less in winter) which stop here and at several beauty spots around the lake. It is definitely worth walking the short distance to Friar’s Crag which offers beautiful views up the lake. Crow Park, opposite Lakeside car park, has a lovely open setting next to the lake where you can watch the boats come and go, again with great views. Between Crow Park and the town centre is Hope Park which has delightful landscaped grounds and miniature golf. There is a cafe, toilet facilities and the popular Theatre by the Lake which has its own facilities.
All buses stop at the main bus station in the town centre. All boats stop at the lakeside jetties, approx 0.5 mile walk from the town centre.
Lake District Wildlife Park
The only wildlife park in north Cumbria, Lake District Wildlife Park is a popular but quite well hidden attraction to the north of Bassenthwaite Lake. The Park is home to over 100 different species, mostly the less dangerous varieties such as zebras, monkeys, meerkats and birds of prey. The open site is well laid out making it easy to see and interact with the different animals. There are a number of interesting talks and displays where you can get close to many of the animals. Keeper experiences are also available if you want to get even closer. There is a cafe, shop, picnic areas, play areas and toilets on site. Admission fee applies. Open daily all year.
X4 bus stops on the B5291 near the attraction, approx 0.3 miles walk. 73 & 554 buses stop on the A591 at the Castle Inn, approx 0.7 miles walk.
Opened in 2014, The Lakes Distillery is a relatively new and unique Lake District attraction and one of only a few whisky distillery’s in England. The distillery produces its own popular whisky, vodka and gin and you can buy these in the shop on site. There are a few different tours available which end in tasting the local spirits. Outside there are Alpacas to see and you can wander down to the nearby River Derwent which provides water for the distillery. The Bistro on site provides a good choice of food and drink. Open daily. There is a charge for tours and meeting Alpacas.
Buses stop near the entrance.
The well known but well hidden Lodore Falls waterfall is located behind the grand Lodore Falls Hotel at the southern end of Derwent Water. This is where Watendlath Beck tumbles down from the high hanging valley above, created by the Borrowdale glacier thousands of years ago. It was made popular by Victorian tourists in the 19th century, although to be honest there’s not much to see in dry weather, just a big pile of boulders in a lush green canyon! But in wet weather the water rampages down this cascade and makes an impressive sight from the viewing area at the foot of the falls.
There is a rough footpath behind the hotel leading a short distance to the falls. In front of the hotel, a footpath leads down to the picturesque Derwent Water shore and Lodore jetty where the boats stop. Refreshments are available in the hotel but there are no public toilets in this area.
Buses stop in front of the hotel, boats at nearby Lodore jetty.
Mirehouse & Gardens
Mirehouse is an historic manor house built in 1666 and owned by the same family since 1802. The house has been extended and renovated and although still largely a private residence, the ground floor is sometimes open to the public. There is an interesting collection of furniture, antiques and manuscripts from eminent writers once connected with the owners. The accompanying live piano music helps enhance the experience.
Outside the house are some attractive gardens and grounds with various adventure playgrounds for the children. The grounds extend to the nearby shores of Bassenthwaite Lake and you can walk along the peaceful lakeshore. Nearby is the tiny St Bega’s Church overlooking the lake which you can also visit. You can pass near the house and visit the church for free by taking the public footpath to the left of the main gate on the A591.
The house is open from Easter to October but only on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, plus Sundays in August. The grounds are open daily from March to October. Admission fee applies to both. Toilets and The Old Sawmill Tearoom can be found in Dodd Wood car park across the A591. Mirehouse tickets can be obtained from the Tearoom.
Buses stop on the A591 outside the main entrance.
Rosthwaite is a small attractive village set in the heart of the Borrowdale valley, amongst wonderful mountain scenery. You can certainly admire the surroundings and the quaint old cottages, but there isn’t a lot else to see in the village itself. If you need refreshments there are some good options, including the Flock-in tea room up the minor road from the car park, or the Royal Oak Hotel and the Scafell Hotel, both on the main valley road.
This is superb walking country with numerous footpaths through the valley and up surrounding hills. A popular walk is Castle Crag hill in the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ and you can walk up it from here to enjoy one of the best views in Borrowdale, looking over the whole valley and Derwent Water. The walk is about 1.5 miles each way, following the River Derwent downstream, then a relatively short but very steep climb.
If you go back over a thousand years, the valley was a very inhospitable place, covered in dense woodland and boggy ground, but in the 10th century Scandinavian settlers came here looking for summer grazing for their cattle and started to create clearings, or thwaites, in the woods for settlements. Nowadays there are many place names with ‘thwaite’ in them, especially around here, for example Rosthwaite! All starting out as clearings and then settlements from this Scandinavian era. The Norse legacy is very evident in many local place names such as Fell (mountain), Beck (stream), Tarn (small lake) and even the name Borrowdale is a Norse derivation from the Iron Age fort on Castle Crag.
Buses stop in the village and there are toilets at the main car park.
Seatoller & Seathwaite
Seatoller village marks the end of the Borrowdale valley before the road climbs steeply up the Honister Pass. There’s not much to see in the village itself apart from a few cottages that were built as homes for miners working at nearby Honister slate mine. However, the surrounding mountain scenery is magnificent and very popular with walkers.
The nearby dead end minor road heads into the beautiful Seathwaite valley and an easy walk follows the road and the upper River Derwent for about a mile to the small hamlet of Seathwaite. This is a popular starting point for many epic mountain walks, including Scafell Pike which at 978m is the highest mountain in England. This is also the wettest inhabited place in England with over 3 metres of rain annually. An adjacent raingauge shows live rainfall data online.
Mining in the valley goes back over 6000 years to when Neolithic man made stone axes high up on the surrounding fells. A little more recently graphite was found and mined from the 16th century. Near Seathwaite hamlet you can still see the remains of mine buildings by the river and spoil heaps on the slopes above. This quality graphite was later used to make pencils and that became the main industry in Keswick during the 19th century. The Keswick Pencil Museum tells you more. The mine was closed in the late 19th century as the graphite became too hard to find and therefore unviable.
Near the mine workings and the river are the ancient ‘Borrowdale Yews’ which are believed to be over 1500 years old. The original 4 evergreen trees were made famous by the poet William Wordsworth who celebrated them in his 1826 poem, Yew Trees, as “those fraternal Four of Borrowdale, Joined in one solemn and capacious grove”. Unfortunately, the 4 became 3 during a storm in 1866 and the others have lost various limbs over the years but the massive twisting trunks and branches are still an impressive sight. They are a short walk along the footpath which follows the river between the road bridge and Seathwaite hamlet. Just beyond the Yews and the mine workings, Sourmilk Gill waterfall tumbles down the steep slopes towards Seathwaite hamlet and is impressive after rain.
There are public toilets in Seatoller near the bus stop but no facilities in Seathwaite valley.
Buses stop at the entrance to Seatoller car park which is the terminus for the 78 bus.
Thirlmere Reservoir was formed after the dam at the northern end was built between 1890 and 1894. The main purpose was to supply water to Manchester which had a booming population and industry at that time. Although around 90 miles away, an underground aqueduct was built which takes water by gravity all the way to Manchester, an incredible feat of Victorian engineering. The reservoir now supplies over 10% of the drinking water used in the north west of England and is almost 4 miles long with a usable capacity of around 30 billion litres.
The picturesque reservoir and surrounding hilly forests are all owned by the local water company, United Utilities, and they have provided a number of car parks, walks and picnic areas around the reservoir. Thirlmere information boards can be found in each car park. There is also a good footpath around the whole reservoir which is about 10 miles in length.
Swirls car park is probably the most popular location with forest footpaths to the south, a lakeshore footpath to the north, a nearby viewpoint and Helvellyn mountain rising directly to the east. The relatively minor and quiet western shore road makes a good level walk. There are various toilets around the lake, including at Swirls. No other facilities.
Buses travel along the main A591 on the eastern shore. There are bus stops at Swirls and a few other nearby locations, including Wythburn Church and each end of the minor western shore road.
Whinlatter sells itself as England’s only true mountain forest and it is certainly in a spectacular location overlooking Keswick, Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite lake. The visitor centre is at the summit of the Whinlatter Pass road, around 318m elevation. To each side of the road are forested hills and valleys with higher peaks emerging above the trees. The steepest slopes are on the opposite side of the road leading up to the popular peak of Grisedale Pike which overlooks the whole forest. The forest is now around 1200 hectares in size and includes some of the very first land to be planted by the Forestry Commission after they were formed in 1919 to combat timber shortages following the First World War. The coniferous forest is still harvested for commercial purposes but more recently it has developed as a tourist attraction with many recreational activities on offer.
There are some fabulous walking and cycling trails through the forest which provide picturesque views of forested valleys and surrounding mountains. Depending where you are you might also see Bassenthwaite lake, Derwent Water, Skiddaw mountain and Keswick in the distance. If you’re lucky you might also catch a glimpse of local wildlife, including the popular red squirrels and Ospreys. The forest also offers some of the best mountain bike trails in the Lake District, catering for all levels from easy forest tracks to black graded single track for expert riders. There are further activities for all ages and abilities, including Go Ape tree top adventures, forest Segway and even guided Alpaca walks.
It all starts from the visitor centre where you can find out more. Here you will also find a cafe, shop, Osprey webcam, childrens play areas, mountain bike hire shop and toilet facilities. These are open daily all year.
Buses stop in the visitor centre car park.