A version of this post was featured on the Keswick Tourism Association’s blog: “Guest Blog: 3-Day Itinerary of Family-Friendly Adventure in Keswick.” This was not a sponsored or compensated post, but they provided fantastic recommendations for our visit!
There are some towns from which you just get a vibe, and, for us, Keswick was one of those towns. Located in the northwestern quadrant of Lake District National Park, it’s surrounded by the lakes and fells that define the region’s stunning landscape. It’s that scenery and the promise of outdoor activity that draws most visitors to the area, and it’s a town that doesn’t discriminate towards a particular type of adventurer; young couples, families, seniors, and everyone in between is a welcome visitor.
Keswick is an old market town with several hundred years of history. Through farming and mining, the surrounding land had long provided the region’s industry and employment, but tourism began in earnest in the late 18th century as guidebooks enticed visitors to the area’s beautiful landscapes. There was a romanticism attached to it that inspired the works of writers and artists; an entrepreneurial man named Peter Crosthwaite opened a museum and served as a one-man sort of tourism board; and finally the addition of a railway line in 1860 transformed the town into a bonafide destination.
We had three nights booked to explore Keswick and its environs. Upon our arrival, it was immediately clear that Keswick wasn’t just a sleepy little hiking village. Yes, this is a hub for visiting outdoor enthusiasts, but it also boasts a thriving local community that dispels the myth this is a tourists-only kind of town. There is way more to see, do, and experience than was possible during our short stay, but our 72-hour itinerary packed in as much as we could.
We were staying just east of Keswick’s heart, where it took a 15-minute walk to reach all the action. By good fortune, we were right around the corner from the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Trail, a 6-mile long paved, accessible path renovated from the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith train line that closed in 1972. Most of the route carries on eastward, but the western-most section took us from across Penrith Road and the River Greta, into Fitz Park.
We were blessed with fantastic early summer sun and warmth, which allowed the kids to enjoy a late afternoon creek stomp and swim in the River Greta, accessible from the northern bank at the Station Road bridge. The playground was also visible just a short walk away, and, with wet feet, we headed over for the first of what would be several visits during our stay. Situated beside an impressive public cricket ground, the playground has different sections suitable for different ages.
With the kids satisfied, it was time for some parent-centered fun, which we found on the south side of the river at Keswick Brewing Company’s Fox Tap Bar. It’s dog-friendly and, thankfully for us, kid-friendly as well. One Saturday a month, from April to September, they host Brewery Socials that feature new beer releases and partner with a local restaurant for food options. It was quieter for us on a Wednesday but, being such a beautiful day, the outdoor beer garden was the place to be, full of picnic tables and parasols. It’s a great place to talk to locals (or other visitors) and get some under-the-radar recommendations. A Birmingham couple at the table next to us was on their fifth “hill walking” visit to Keswick of the year–and this was the first time they’d seen the sun!
The Lake District is home to England’s deepest lakes and highest peaks, so, intentionally, we began our first full day with an excursion that would immediately immerse us in this landscape. Derwentwater is considered Keswick’s local lake, and Keswick Launch Co. offers daily boat service to explore its waters. There are eight jetties around the lake to hop-on and hop-off for hikes and other attractions. We opted to stay on board for a round-trip, hour-long cruise.
Our boat, the 1932 Annie Mallor, was nearly full as it departed the dock. Most of the company’s wooden fleet dates back to its founding in 1935, with rebuilds and refurbishments along the way to keep them up to modern standards and in regular use. With clear blue skies overhead, we weren’t the only ones inspired to get out on the water; several fellow passengers just popped over for a weekday ride to get outside during such beautiful weather.
On recommendation of the couple we met at the brewery the previous evening, we sought out a local café called Chinty’s for a midday meal. “The most lovely couple owns it, and the food is fantastic,” they promised. Just down the street from the refurbished Keswick Cinema, Chinty’s is the very definition of “local.” We were immediately greeted and seated by Ian, who shared the day’s specials (mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, and balsamic on toast) and copies of the menu (the offerings photographed and handwritten). Our kids were welcomed and offered their choice of anything the café could provide (among their choices: a cheese toastie, scrambled eggs, and chocolate croissant). The café is filled with art and goods for sale and made by local artisans, as well.
After lunch, we took the opportunity to continue wandering the streets of the town centre. The Keswick Market was up and operating as it does every Thursday and Saturday–and has for over 740 years! Market Square is surrounded by shops, cafés, and pubs. One shop in particular grabbed the attention of the kids–Ye Olde Friars, a family-owned chocolate and sweets shop that has been open since 1927. There are tables upon tables piled high with all sorts of sugary concoctions, but the real thrill is in browsing the chocolates behind the glass display counter. We each chose one and savored it outside on the steps of the iconic Moot Hall, its clock tower chiming overhead on the hour.
We stayed in town for dinner and booked an early table at Woodstone Pizza & Flame Grill. (Highly recommend booking reservations when available, especially during busy summer months.) We were starving, and a hearty Italian meal hit the spot. The service was fast and friendly, and the portions very filling. The kids enjoyed their own personal-sized pizzas, and the restaurant was dog-friendly, too–we made friends with a sleepy retriever (and his human friends) nestled under the table next to us.
You can’t visit Keswick without breaking a sweat! There are endless walking and hiking routes in the area, and we chose a climb up Latrigg, Keswick’s closest fell, after recommendation that it’d offer great views and work for little legs, too. The peak is lower in comparison to others in the region, but it has a stunning view of the surrounding town and lake that is hard to beat.
We parked behind the Leisure Center, just north of Fitz Park, and followed the path up Spooney Green Lane. The route climbs up through forest before the views really open up to the surrounding hills and vales. At several points, we crossed paths with cows and sheep, and giving silly names to the ones we found helped get the kids through the harder parts of the hike. From Keswick, it’s about a 3-mile hike round trip, but one of the best things about Latrigg is that it’s accessible for adventurers of all kinds; there’s a small car park reachable from Applethwaite with a Limited Mobility Path that climbs to the viewpoint. At the top, you can see the sprawl of Keswick below, and the fells of the Lake District extend as far as you can see. We rested and enjoyed a picnic lunch, savoring the view we had earned, before beginning our descent.
Back at lower elevation, we made a well-deserved visit to Luchini’s Ice Cream for an afternoon treat. During our Derwentwater boat ride, we talked with a couple who happened to be part of the Luchini family. Their ice cream shop has been open in Keswick since 1901 and was the first to manufacture ice cream in Cumbria. A further walk west across Main Street, towards the river, led to our next activity, the Derwent Pencil Museum. Mining was a huge part of the region’s early economy, especially with the discovery of a new material called graphite. Keswick is home to the first-ever pencil as well as the UK’s first pencil-making factory. The museum shares this history and the evolution of the pencil as an art form–and houses the Guinness World Record-holding largest color pencil!
On such nice days as we had been experiencing, the perimeter of Market Square was lined with patrons enjoying the al fresco seating of its many cafés and restaurants. For dinner, we wanted something hearty after our morning calorie burn, so we headed to Bank Tavern for some traditional pub fare. The bartenders were welcoming to our high-energy family, and the menu sated our hungry appetites with our picks of fish and chips and mac and cheese. As a bonus, the walls were full of old photos and maps of the area, which, after a 2-day familiarity with Keswick, were thrilling to peruse. Washed down with a pint of local cask ale, it was the perfect end to a busy day.
On the last morning of our visit, we were at the doors of the Keswick Museum right when it opened. The museum, located near our beloved playground in Fitz Park, opened in 1898, and (aside from modern updates) its Victorian architecture remains relatively unchanged. The collections are varied and share a lot about the local geography, growth of the tourism industry, environmental impact, and well-known local artists and writers that found inspiration from their Lake District home. There are many hands-on activities for the kids to explore–art projects, puppet shows, a badger scavenger hunt. Our favorite, though, was definitely the Musical Stones of Skiddaw. It’s an 8-octave xylophone built in the mid-1800s by a local stonemason with local hornfel stone. He and his son toured the country and continent performing concerts, including one for Queen Victoria, and it now has a permanent home in the museum.
We had time for one last meal before our trip to Keswick came to an end, and we chose The Wild Strawberry, a café located in a red-trimmed historic building on Main Street. There’s a mouth-watering patisserie when you first enter, but we headed upstairs for a table and enjoyed a delicious lunch of crepes, soup, sandwiches, and tea. A mother-daughter pair next to us ordered the afternoon tea for two, and the multi-tiered tray of goodies they were served had us all eyeing their table with envy.
We could have easily spent another week enjoying Keswick; there were loads of offerings for the whole family to explore and enjoy. Despite packing our three days full of activity, it feels like we barely scratched the surface–it’s no wonder visitors, like the ones we met on our first night in town, return to the area again and again!