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Exotic creatures, wild ospreys, forest trails, wetland habitats, adventure playgrounds, old mines, and even a ‘wee drop’ of whisky can all be found around the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake – the only body of water in the Lake District to actually call itself a lake (all the others are ‘waters’, ‘meres’ or ‘tarns’). Discover our Bassenthwaite Cottages.
Wherever you are in the Bassenthwaite area, the towering massif of Skiddaw dominates the view. At 931m (3,054 ft), it is the fourth highest mountain in England. There are several routes to the summit. The most popular way is to drive to the car park behind Latrigg and follow the well-trodden path via Little Man. Other routes take the steep climb to Carl Side from Millbeck or follow the ridge path to Ullock Pike and head upwards from there.
Find adventure in the woods
For year-round activities for all the family, Whinlatter Forest Park is hard to beat. Over 50 km / 31 miles of forest roads and tracks await discovery on foot, by bicycle, or on horseback. Have a go at orienteering. Try the high-wire ropes course, or immerse yourself in WildPlay – a series of fantastic forest adventures to test all your skills. For dedicated thrill-seekers, the Altura mountain bike trail will expend plenty of adrenaline. Lots more information can be found in the Visitor Centre, along with live video links to the osprey nest during the breeding season (April–August) and to a red squirrel feeding station.
Encounter the exotic
For something a little more ‘tropical’, pay a visit to the Lake District Wildlife Park at the north end of Bassenthwaite Lake. Enjoy close-up encounters with exotic animals from all over the world from monkeys to marsupials, along with a dazzling array of birds of prey and reptiles. A variety of activities from flying displays, feeding demonstrations, animal handling sessions and pony rides easily makes for a full day out for adults and children alike.
Bassenthwaite Lake Station Café
Once upon a time, a railway used to run alongside Bassenthwaite Lake between Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith. Now, a road has replaced the route, but the old Bassenthwaite Lake Station still remains and has been meticulously transformed into a fabulous café! Utilising the same steam engine that was used in the 2017 adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel, Murder on the Orient Express, you can enjoy a tasty breakfast, fancy afternoon tea, or strong coffee on the train itself! There are some walk-in tables available on the station platform, but booking is advised if you'd like to have the on-train experience!
A walk on the wild side
Meandering boardwalks take you around Dubwath Silver Meadows – a wetland reserve at the north end of Bassenthwaite Lake, which is being managed to maintain its wildlife diversity. See if you can spot all the different types of flowering plants, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies and birds. You may even come across the elusive roe deer. Paths and boardwalks (suitable for wheelchairs and children’s buggies) provide a circular trail around the reserve, with bird hides located at key viewing points.
How about a 'wee dram' in Cumbria?
After all this activity, why not take a break at one of the Lake District’s newest attractions – the Lakes Distillery – and sample their range of Cumbria-made malt whiskies, vodkas and gins. Book a tour to learn about the art of distilling, or simply relax and enjoy a delicious meal in their Bistro.
The Bishop Of Barf
On your travels, you may notice a white-painted rock on the side of a hill called Barf (western side of Bassenthwaite Lake). It commemorates an unfortunate incident in 1783 when the newly appointed Bishop of Derry was on his way to Whitehaven to take a boat to Ireland. He stopped for the night at an inn beside Bassenthwaite Lake and, after consuming several drinks, wagered that he could ride his pony to the top of the crag. Halfway up, the pony stumbled and fell, killing both horse and rider. The large rock is painted white in remembrance of this futile act. At the foot of the slope is another white-painted stone marking where the bishop and his pony lie buried.
Meander around Mirehouse
This historic house on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake is a pleasure to visit, and comes with formal gardens, a wildflower meadow, intricate heather maze, a rhododendron tunnel, poetry walk and four adventure playgrounds in the woods. A circular walk passes through parkland to the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake taking in the romantically sited chapel of St Bega. The house was built in 1666 and has been sold only once and that was in 1802 when it was acquired by the Spedding family who have been in residence ever since. The house has strong literary connections with Tennyson, Southey and Wordsworth, who were all friends of the Speddings. Open April to October.
In 2001, the Osprey Project succeeded in persuading ospreys to return to the Lake District after an absence of over 150 years. Every year since then, the birds have reared their young on nesting platforms overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake. During the osprey season (April to September), staff are on hand at two special viewing points in Dodd Wood to help you spot the birds and to provide information. The lower viewpoint can be reached after a 15-minute uphill walk from the main car park. The upper viewpoint is further into the forest but may provide better views. Alternatively, you can watch the ospreys on a live video link at Whinlatter Visitor Centre.
Force Crag mine tours
For something a little more unusual (particularly if you like industrial heritage), you might find a visit to Force Crag Mine very rewarding. This isolated zinc and barytes mine at the head of Coledale was the last mineral mine to operate in the Lake District, closing in 1990. The processing mill is still intact and opens on selected days each year with conducted tours around the site.
Feed your creative spirit at Thornthwaite Gallery near Braithwaite. This long-established gallery (housed in a converted bank barn) displays the work of over 140 local artists – paintings, sculptures, ceramics, glassware, pottery, woodwork and jewellery. An on-site tearoom serves light refreshments.
Stay in Bassenthwaite
Discover the beauty and diversity of the area and browse all of our Bassenthwaite Self Catering Holiday Accommodation.