If access to the fells, great places to eat, proximity to a popular Lakeland town, and beautiful surroundings are on your list of holiday requirements, then the villages of Portinscale and Braithwaite could scarcely be better. Both are easily accessible from main road routes while being nestled in truly glorious scenery. Their position, just a short distance from the bustling town of Keswick, makes them incredibly popular with visitors, yet they each retain their own distinct character and make ideal bases from which to enjoy the unparalleled natural surroundings.
Braithwaite and Portinscale
Messing About on the Water
Portinscale holds a special position in many people's hearts due to its privileged situation on the shores of Derwentwater, at the foot of iconic Catbells, and just a stone's throw from Keswick. It's the perfect village from which to launch your water-based adventures, boasting two marinas from which you can hire kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, sailing dinghies, windsurfs and rowing boats. Pack a picnic and head over to St Herbert's Island to have your own Swallows and Amazons escapade right where the 2016 film was shot. If you're not so confident of your abilities on the water then why not take some tuition? You could be tacking your way across the lake with the wind in your hair in no time. If you'd rather experience the lake with a little less exhilaration, then why not catch one of the stately Keswick Launches from Nichol End Marina? You could enjoy the scenic 50-minute trip around the lake on one of these delightful heritage vessels or you could get off at one of the jetties in the "jaws" of Borrowdale and walk back along the shore.
The lake itself and its four permanent islands have an interesting history with characters aplenty. Lord's Island was formally the home of the Earls of Derwentwater and used to have a great house and drawbridge dating back to the 15th century! Rowing past the island in spring, you'll be treated to a wonderful view of primroses on the shore. Lord Joseph Pocklington purchased Derwent Island in 1778 and built a mansion, boat house and battery! (Derwent Island is private, however, the National Trust run tours of his mansion on various dates every year). A grand British eccentric, "King Pocky", as he was known, started the tradition of the Derwentwater Regattas which are still held in July each year. The largest of the islands, St Herbert's, has been a place of pilgrimage since the saint, for who it was named, brought Christianity to the area in the 7th century. Why not take your little Squirrel Nutkin fans along to explore as it was also Beatrix Potter's inspiration for "Owl Island".
Whether you'd like a home cooked pub meal, fine dining in a mountain forest or just a delicious piece of cake, visitors to Portinscale and Braithwate are spoiled for choice with eateries. The Coledale Inn, Royal Oak and Middle Ruddings at Braithwaite are popular country inns with good reputations. Sunny afternoons will see thirsty fell walkers sitting outside enjoying a pint of local real ale and have a chinwag about their mountain adventures. Tuck into hearty pub meals there or head up into Whinlatter Forest for a special treat of imaginative fine dining at the Cottage in the Wood, which recently received its first Michelin Star.
Ivy House is a well-regarded restaurant nestled in the heart of the village while at Hobcarton's Tea Room you can tuck into a delicious slice of cake. Portinscale boasts a well-loved local pub in the Farmer's Arms and an excellent cafe much beloved by cyclists and walkers in The Chalet Tearooms. A short walk beyond the edge of the village brings you to the Lingholm Kitchen and Walled Garden, a fabulous place to enjoy brunch, lunch or afternoon tea. You can explore the walled garden where you'll find out about Beatrix Potter's links to Lingholm or even arrange a walk with the resident Alpacas! After messing about on the water at Nichol End Marine you can indulge in one of their delicious pizzas or in one of their famously gargantuan scones. Just beyond the two villages as you head into the Newlands Valley is the Swinside Inn, a traditional country pub with a great atmosphere, a loyal following and a glorious situation.
Walking around Braithwaite and Portinscale.
It's said of many places that they boast "some of the best walking in the country" but Braithwaite and Portinscale are truly spoiled in this regard. For those that would like a low level ramble from Portinscale, then The Derwentwater Walk is a gentle, 10-mile ramble around the lake. Look out for the sculptures that commemorate the National Trust's centenary along the way. The iconic form of Catbells gently rises up from the edge of Portinscale, so easily recognisable that you can even pick out its distinctive form as it makes an appearance in Star Wars - The Force Awakens. Lakeland mountain chronicler Alfred Wainwright said of it; "It is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved." Most definitely worth the effort.
The mighty mountains that rear up from Braithwaite offer a staggering choice of walks. The small, but perfectly formed, Barrow makes a rewarding family walk from the village while the walk along glistening Newlands Beck is just delightful and the river is perfect for a paddle and a picnic on sunny days. The grand summits of Grisedale Pike, Crag Hill and Causey Pike rise up behind Braithwaite and, along with Barrow, form the Coledale Horseshoe, a stunning all-day walk through glorious mountain scenery. The fells surrounding Braithwaite are deceptively steep so height is gained quickly and the walking is much easier than it first appears. Of course, any one of these fells makes an enjoyable walk in itself and the beauty of Braithwaite is that they are all on the doorstep. Braithwaite's position at the bottom of the Newlands Valley also opens up yet more fell walking inspiration. Families with children in pushchairs should check the "Miles without Stiles" trail between Braithwaite and Keswick.
The Perfect Place for Forest Sprites
Braithwaite lies on the edge of Whinlatter Forest, a real mountain forest park with a world of activities to enjoy. Smaller forest elves will love the story-based trails around the woods; keep your eye out as you go as you might just encounter a Gruffalo! There are miles of walking and cycling trails for all abilities and the opportunity to hire bikes and Segways or get tuition to make the most of your surroundings. The park also has an excellent visitor centre with a wonderful imaginative outdoor play area for children and an excellent cafe where you can indulge in cake whilst watching the birds. Why not book a turn around the Go Ape! high ropes course where you can test your balance and head for heights on a series of exhilarating obstacles high up in the forest canopy (discounts available for guests of Sally's Cottages). You could find yourself whizzing through the trees on a zip wire in no time! The area has become famous in recent years for its successful Osprey programme, resulting in the first wild breeding pair in the Lake District for over 150 years. At Whinlatter you can find out about the programme and watch their progress on nest cams.
Wheely Good Fun
Portinscale and Braithwaite are a paradise for cyclists with miles of off-road trails and some of the best road cycling to be found anywhere. Aficionados of road cycling will be well aware of the Lakeland mountain passes that have played a part in the Tour Of Britain in the past. Give your legs a workout by taking on the Newlands Pass nearby before dropping into the stunning Buttermere valley on the other side. Venture back via Honister Pass and Borrowdale for one of the most picturesque rides you're ever likely to find. For a mountain biking challenge, why not take on the mighty Borrowdale Bash? It takes in some unique scenery and has opportunities for a secluded wild swim along the way! If you're a little intimidated by all the hills around the Lakes but still want to get out on two wheels, you can always hire an electric bike from E-Bikes in Keswick nearby. For more fun on wheels, why not have a day out on quad bikes? Follow one of Lingholm Sporting Quad Trek's instructors through private forestry taking in marvellous views and having a fine muddy time of it along the way.
This is a Tale About a Tail....
Beatrix Potter's Lakeland legacy is well known but Portinscale and the Newlands Valley can lay claim to an important place in her story. Throughout her youth she holidayed at Lingholm on the shores of Derwentwater and the views and creatures she encountered there are easily recognisable in her books. Visitors can now explore the connection at Lingholm's Kitchen and Walled Garden. Fans of her books can use the National Trust's downloadable trail map to visit some of the spots that play a part in her stories.
Adventure is out there!
Braithwaite and Portinscale lie just a stone's throw from the Lake District's adventure capital, Keswick. The town has a wealth of outdoor instructors and adventure companies to help you find your wilder side. However, nearer still is The Newlands Adventure Centre, which offers a range of outdoor activities such as ghyll scrambling, climbing, canoeing, mountain biking and archery. If you want to check your head for heights then head along to Honister Slate Mine at the head of the Borrowdale Valley where you can try their Via Ferrata, climbing cliff-edge ladders and cargo nets in an incredibly picturesque setting.