Keswick is a great place to go for festivals. There’s ‘Words by the Water’, the Beer and Jazz festivals, and the famous Christian Convention, but our favourite is the Mountain Festival.
Here you can rub shoulders with some of the greatest outdoor activity experts in the country, compete with seasoned athletes, dabble in something new or even party with like-minded adventurers.
The headline sports event is the Triathlon – a 750m swim around Derwentwater, a 35km cycle ride and an 8km run. If you like the idea but find that one a bit daunting, there’s a second, smaller Triathlon comprising a 400m swim, 17.5km cycle ride and a flat, 5km run.
- Triathlon: 750, swim/ 35km cycle/ 8km run
- Triathlon: 400m swim/ 17.5km cycle/ 5km run Beginner
If that’s too much, try the ‘Splash and Dash’ – a 400m lake swim and a run, or the ‘Wild Swim’ in Derwentwater. Other competitive events include a fell race, climbing, running, mountain bike orienteering and a forest trail.
The Mountain Festival’s aim is to get all sorts enjoying the great outdoors, so there’s lots of opportunity to take part, even if you’re not inclined to enter sporting events.
Fitter walkers would enjoy a guided trip up Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, or you could tackle the fearsome, jagged ridges of Sharp Edge. If you have a head for heights as well as fitness, try the long walk from Seathwaite to Sty Head Tarn with the National Trust’s High Level Footpath team.
- Scafell Pike via Sprinkling Tarn, Great End, Esk Hause and Broad Crag Strenuous
- Scafell Pike with proceeds to Mountain Rescue Very Hard
- Blencathra via Sharp Edge and Hall’s Fell Ridge Strenuous
Just to demonstrate that the outdoors is for everyone, there are some events specially designed to include particular groups. ‘Walks for Women’ are hosting a guided walk up Hall’s Fell Ridge for women on their own, or accompanied by children under 14. They’re also leading a group up Latrigg’s Limited Mobility Path, which is suitable for female wheelchair users and women with pushchairs. Children would also love the Woodland ‘Bush’ Trail though the woods around Crow Park.
People who would prefer a gentle, low level walk would love Shaun the farmer’s gentle walk at his farm in Watendlath, or else there’s an easy Bluebell Walk in the Rannerdale Valley.
- Wainwrights for Women with ‘Walks for Women’ to Hall’s Fell: for women and women accompanying children under 14 Strenuous
- Latrigg via the ‘Limited Mobility Path’ with ‘Walks for Women’: for women with pushchairs or who use wheelchairs Moderate
- Woodland ‘Bush’ Trail for accompanied children, aged 8-13
- Farm Walk at Watendlath Gentle Free
- Secret Valley of the Bluebells at Rannerdale Easy
Climbing and scrambling enthusiasts will find real expertise at hand at the Mountain Festival. Leo Houlding is leading a scramble up Cam Crag Ridge, climbing 700ft to Rosthwaite Fell. If you’d like more specific advice to improve your climbing skills, Peter Whittaker, a GB-level climber, is hosting climbing masterclasses at Keswick Climbing Wall.
But if you’re new to all this and just fancy a dabble, try the Multi Activity Day, where you can learn rock climbing, gorge walking and abseiling in one day.
- Scrambling with Leo Houlding at Cam Crag Ridge and Rosthwaite Fell Strenuous
- Climbing Masterclasses
- Multi Activity Day¨rock climbing, gorge walking and abseiling Beginners
As you’d expect in a county full of lakes, there’s a selection of water-based activity, too. You can take a river journey from Derwentwater to Bassenthwaite via canoe or kayak, or you can sail around Derwentwater. You can also take taster sessions every day in canoeing, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing.
The adventurous with strong stomachs should give Waterwalkerz a try – giant, inflatable, see-through balls that allow you to run on water!
- River Journey from Derwentwater to Bassenthwaite by canoe/kayak Moderate
- Sail around Derwentwater
- Waterwalkerz: walk on water in an inflatable ball Easy
The Mountain Festival also offers you the chance to gain some specialist knowledge. You can combine a walk with lessons on outdoor photography, or improve your map reading skills.
- Digital Photography in the outdoors plus a gentle Borrowdale walk Beginners
- Outdoor photography for enthusiasts plus a gentle Borrowdale walk Intermediate
- Introduction to Mountain Navigation Moderate
- Map Reading for Beginners with the National Trust Easy
After a hard day’s adventuring, a trip to the Theatre by the Lake to hear inspiring talks is just the ticket. Pop to one of Keswick’s many eateries first – our favourite is Morrel’s on Lake Road, which offers gourmet food as early as 5.30pm.
The headline speaker is Sir Ranulph Fiennes, with other talks from acclaimed international, national and local climbers, fell runners, mountaineers and explorers.
- Lakeland Mountain Heroes: Dave Birkett, climber and Doug Scott CBE, mountaineer
- Lakeland Fell Running Heroes: Joss Naylor and Kenny Stuart
- Bike Night for mountain biker enthusiasts
- Andy Cave, climber
- Sir Ranulph Fiennes, explorer
- Andy Kirkpatrick, climber
- Leo Houlding, all-round adventurer
The excitement doesn’t end there. Two parties are planned: one, the Funky Festival Party, is exactly what it says, with renowned DJ Matt Sharman and live music from indie rock band, Supacuba.
If sophistication’s more your thing, try ‘Dine in a Mine’, hosted by TV’s Julia Bradbury, at Honister Slate Mine. It’s strictly black tie, with a gourmet meal served within the mine. I bet that’s one adventure you’ve never had before!
- Funky Festival Party at Fitz Park with DJ Matt Sharman and Supacuba
- ‘Dine in a Mine’ with Julia Bradbury at Honister Slate Mine Black Tie
Please note that most events have to be booked in advance, and some sell out beforehand.