Things to do around Derwentwater holiday cottages

Things to do around Derwentwater

Kim Brough 26 June 2023

A visit to Derwentwater reveals the true beauty of the Lake District National Park and is typical of the picturesque yet rugged landscape encountered in this area of England. 

Derwentwater Lake is around 3 miles long and 1 mile wide. It is surrounded by hills (known as fells locally), offering ample opportunities for walking and exploring nearby Keswick, Borrowdale and Portinscale. Soak up the joy of being outdoors and admire the majestic views from every shore as you get to know this little corner of paradise.

Ready to enjoy a stay at Derwentwater? Take a look at our things to do near Derwentwater below and browse our collection of holiday cottages just waiting to welcome you.

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Exploring the islands of Derwentwater

Islands of Derwentwater

The lake is home to several islands owned by the National Trust. Beatrix Potter fans will be excited to find out that the largest – St Herbert’s Island – was the inspiration for Owl Island in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, but it was also once an important Christian centre and place of pilgrimage.   

Lord’s Island was home to the Earls of Derwentwater until the 17th century and access then was by means of a drawbridge that connected it to the shore. Now it’s a protected area for wildlife and home to many birds. The area around it is a no-paddle zone so that the wildlife remains undisturbed.

Islands in Derwentwater

Derwent Island – the largest of the group – is the only inhabited island and the house located on it is owned by the National Trust. However, apart from a short time each year when the house is opened to the public, there is no right of access here.

Rampsholme Island is the smallest and its name comes from the old Norse for the wild garlic that grows there.

Don’t miss: A visit to Derwent Island. The house on the island is only open to visitors for five days each year, but if you’re the curious type and love TV shows like Through the Keyhole, this is for you.

Boat trips on Derwentwater

Keswick Launch on Derwentwater

One of the fastest, and most enjoyable, ways to explore Derwentwater is by boat. The Keswick Launch Company operates cruises around the lake, taking in views of celebrated landmarks such as The Lingholm Estate, inspiration for several stories by Beatrix Potter, who often holidayed there.

The cruisers stop at the eight jetties dotted around Derwentwater, so you can disembark and explore at your leisure – with your canine companion if you wish as the launches are dog friendly – or if you prefer to simply sit and soak up the calm, then the roundtrip lasts 50 minutes. 

Boats operate year-round, with different timetables for summer and winter, so check out the Derwentwater ferry timetable and plan your next cruise.

Don’t miss: Stop off at Ashness Gate Jetty for one of the loveliest views of Derwentwater at Ashness Bridge.

Derwentwater boat hire

Rowing boats for hire on Derwentwater

Of course, a cruise isn’t your only option when it comes to messing about on the water. Explore the lake on your terms and in your own time by hiring a boat from the Keswick Launch Co. Don your captain’s cap and motor or row your way around and across the lake, discovering the islands, coves and wildlife that all contribute to this being such a magical place. 

Rowboats, as well as kayaks and canoes, can also be hired at Derwentwater Marina, while on the western shore of the lake, Nichol End Marine offers kayak, canoe, sailing boat and paddleboard hire. Exploring with your own boat is also an option, but please remember to follow Check, Clean, Dry guidelines to protect the lake and its immediate environment.

Don’t miss: The chance to try your hand at paddleboarding at Nichol End Marine.

Wild swimming in Derwentwater

Morning at Derwentwater with Catbells in the background

While we’re on the subject of water, one activity that has grown massively in popularity in recent years is wild swimming – and what better place to try it out than from the shores of Lake Derwentwater? 

Whether you’re new to this form of swimming, you just fancy a dip on a hot day, or you’re an ardent fan, you’ll find a spot to suit you from the many little beaches that stud the shoreline. Open-water swimming is incredibly freeing and the views of the surrounding countryside seen from inside Derwentwater are simply stunning.

Ideally, you want to have somebody with you when you’re swimming and because of the boat traffic on the lake, you should make sure you’re easily visible. If all of this is new to you, but you’re tempted to try it, then consider an introductory course or guided swim

Don’t miss: The Dawn Chorus – a sunrise swim to the sound of the birds waking, followed by breakfast to set you up for the day.

Outdoor adventure activities

Canoeing on Derwentwater

Because water dominates much of the landscape in the Lake District, it’s no surprise that water sports play a big part in people’s lives here. If you’re an experienced enthusiast, then you’ll find so many opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, sailing, swimming and more. If you’ve never tried anything like this, but want to have a go, then Derwentwater is the place for you, with experienced instructors, beginner and improver courses, as well as taster sessions covering a wealth of activities.

On land also, adventure awaits. Keswick is known as the adventure capital of the Lake District – and with good reason. It plays host to outdoor events such as the Keswick Mountain Festival and the Lakesman Triathlon, while the stunning scenery surrounding the town offers a majestic backdrop for rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, ghyll scrambling, pony trekking and even paragliding.

Bowder Stone

Shepherd’s Crag in Borrowdale is a popular destination for both experienced and novice climbers, thanks to its variety of routes, suited to all skill levels, while Lower Falcon Crag attracts capable climbers and offers great views over Derwentwater. The Bowder Stone is worth a trip just for the photographs even if you decide not to climb it! This 2,000-ton stone fell came to its resting place as a result of a glacial retreat and has become a celebrated Lake District destination as well as a bouldering attraction.

For those wanting to try their hand (and foot) at climbing, but who aren’t feeling brave enough to tackle the crags and peaks just yet, indoor venues Kong Adventure and Keswick Climbing Wall provide an opportunity to have a go in a managed environment.

Don’t miss: Kayaking across Derwentwater, either with your own boat or from one of the surrounding outdoor activity centres. The best time is early morning or early evening when the boats are docked and the atmosphere is incredibly peaceful.

Derwentwater walks

Derwentwater from Castle Head

The Lake District is a magnet for walkers and hikers of all kinds, from those who enjoy a leisurely ramble on relatively flat routes to adventurous souls who tackle the highest fells. Derwentwater is an ideal place from which to explore, with paths, trails, hikes and walking routes galore.

Why not start off with the Derwentwater Walk, a scenic 10-mile circular stroll around the lake which takes in the amazing scenery, including ancient woodland, bays, stony shoreline, meadows and marshland, as well as spectacular views from points such as Friar’s Crag (looking towards the impressive Jaws of Borrowdale), Ashness Gate and Calfclose Bay.

Friars Crag

The path is waymarked and not too difficult, so suitable for many different abilities. The full route will take the best part of a day, but alternatively, you can walk part of it and catch a boat from one of the eight jetties around the lake back to your starting point, or to a different destination.

There are many popular walking routes near Derwentwater to explore, of different lengths and difficulty to suit all levels of walker. They include Catbells, Borrowdale, Blencathra and the Keswick to Threlkeld railway path.

Don’t miss: The Catbells walk for stunning views. Suitable for most walkers, this circular mountain route takes two to three hours to complete.

Visit Keswick

Shops in Keswick town centre

Keswick lies on the shores of Derwentwater and it’s just a mile from the town centre to the water’s edge. You’ll find many independent and unique stores at its heart, as well as a great choice of restaurants, cafes, traditional pubs and bistros. Our guide to the best things to do in Keswick will give you a starting point from which to explore.

Don’t miss: Derwent Pencil Museum and the history of graphite mining in Keswick.

Visit Borrowdale

River Derwent in Borrowdale

This impressive valley surrounded by towering peaks is a must-see during your visit to Derwentwater – as well as on foot, it’s accessible by boat, car, bus and bicycle, so perfect if you’ve overdone the walking the day before.

Borrowdale offers spectacular scenery and a variety of inspiring destinations, including the imposing Bowder Stone, Ashness Bridge, Castle Crag and Honister Pass.

Don’t miss: Honister Slate Mine, on top of Honister Pass. The still-active slate mine offers fascinating historic tours, as well as adventure activities such as Climb the Mine and the Via Ferrata.

Ashness Bridge and Surprise View

Ashness Bridge

When you picture a Lake District scene, chances are you’re picturing a view from Ashness Bridge. The 18th-century packhorse bridge is one of the most photographed places in The Lakes and offers spectacular views over Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake towards Skiddaw, the sixth-highest mountain in England that towers above Keswick.

Not far from Ashness Bridge, Surprise View presents one of the best vistas in the Lake District, opening out from a tree-lined road onto a cliff top and overlooking the whole of Derwentwater, Keswick, Skiddaw and beyond that, Bassenthwaite Lake.

Don’t miss: From the base of the hill leading to Surprise View, continue on to Lodore Falls, which are pretty impressive after heavy rain. Lakeland poet Robert Southey was so inspired he wrote a poem about them. There’s also a fabulous spa and restaurant with the same name.

Eating and drinking


You’ll find a wealth of places to whet your whistle around Derwentwater, with a great range of restaurants, cafes and traditional pubs catering for all tastes in Keswick, Borrowdale and Portinscale. As well as eat-in options there’s a variety of takeaway and casual dining opportunities, from bars offering pub grub to sandwich shops and delis. 

The Chalet tearoom in Portinscale is a great option if you’re in the village, or The Flock Inn in Borrowdale offers a unique menu and plenty of sheep-based puns!

Don’t miss: A picnic in Fitz Park – gaze at Skiddaw in the distance while you eat. There are also plenty of activities to keep the kids amused.

Things to do near Derwentwater

You may be in the middle of the countryside, but there are plenty of opportunities for culture, history, getting close to animals and relaxation amid all of that walking, climbing and swimming.

The Theatre by the Lake

The Theatre By The LakeImage credit: Steve Barber

Overlooking Derwentwater, the Theatre by the Lake offers a programme of live theatre, concerts and exhibitions, as well as film screenings, throughout the year. Just the thing to help you unwind after a long day’s walking.

Don’t miss: The varied and exciting seasonal programme that includes everything from film festivals and drama to comedy and live music.

Lingholm Kitchen and Walled Garden

Walled garden at Lingholm

Part of the Lingholm Estate, which was a favourite holiday destination of Beatrix Potter and her family, Lingholm Kitchen and Walled Garden is open daily to visitors. Explore the gardens – the inspiration for Mr McGregor’s Garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit – including the outdoor Beatrix Potter Derwentwater Gallery, before retiring to the cafe.

Don’t miss: A restorative cup of tea or coffee while gazing out upon the garden and beyond to Skiddaw.

Alpaca tours

Alpaca toursImage credit: Alpacaly Ever After

If you love animals, then do not miss out on a visit to Alpacaly Ever After, an amazingly cute, therapeutic and unique attraction that rehomes and rescues unwanted alpacas and llamas from across the UK. Alpacaly gives their herd a home for life and at the same time, puts smiles on the faces of the many thousands of visitors who take part in meet and greets, walks and treks with the cuddly crew.

Don’t miss: Feeding the alpacas and getting to know more about these amazing animals.

Brandelhow Park

Brandelhow Park

Brandelhow on Derwentwater’s western shore was the first-ever National Trust property purchase in the Lake District and it’s well worth a visit. The circular Octavia Hill Walk (named after one of the Trust’s co-founders) takes you through the parkland and past landmarks such as the commemorative stone laid to mark the original purchase.

Don’t miss: Entrust, a wooden sculpture of cupped hands that marks the centenary of the estate’s purchase by the National Trust. It floats to a different location when the lake water is high, so you’ll have a bit of fun hunting it down!

Rest and relax with a spa day

Lodore Halls SpaImage credit: Lodore Halls Spa

After so much activity and adventure, you’ll certainly be ready for chilling out and relaxing at the Lodore Falls Hotel and Spa. Enjoy a day of luxury pampering with facials and body treatments, a rejuvenating dip in the 16-metre hydro pool and a warming blast of heat in the sauna and steam rooms. 

Don’t miss: The Champagne bar, Mizu Restaurant and afternoon tea in the Lake View Lounge – all perfect ways round off your spa day. 

Stay near Derwentwater

With so many things to do near Derwentwater, you’re bound to have a marvellous Lake District holiday. Browse our self-catering cottages in the area to find your perfect base.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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