Derwentwater is the lake right next to Keswick in the Northern Lake District. It offers plenty of things to do both on and around the water, and it’s easy to reach. All this combined makes Derwentwater one of the most popular destinations in the Lake District!
If you’re staying around Derwentwater at one of our cottages in Keswick, Borrowdale, or Portinscale, then you’ll no doubt want to know more about this wonderful lake and what to do on and around it!
The Keswick Launch
The Keswick Launch is the cruiser that sails around Derwentwater and ferries you between several jetties on the lake. The charming wooden boats can be seen sailing throughout the year, with a more limited service in the winter. You can hop on for a 50-minute round trip for a fantastic exploration of the whole lake, or get on and off at one of the eight handy stops to explore further afield.
The Keswick Launch is dog-friendly, so your pooch can enjoy the experience too!
Perhaps you’re keen to explore the water under your own steam, in which case you might like to hire your own boat! The Keswick Launch Co. hires out rowing boats and motorboats from the foreshore at Keswick.
Alternatively, at Portinscale you’ll find two marinas – Nichol End Marine and Derwent Water Marina – where you can hire kayaks, paddleboards, sailing boats, canoes, and rowing boats.
You can also launch your own boats from a number of points. Just remember to maintain good Check, Clean, Dry procedures to avoid cross-contamination!
Walking in the fells
There are a huge number of walks available near Derwentwater, so you can take your pick of the best! For a reasonably long but relatively flat route, you can walk right around the lake, taking in woodland, spectacular mountain views, and even the occasional sculpture! It’s approximately 10 miles around, or you can just do part of it, then catch a Launch back to your starting point! Enjoy our guide to the top 10 lakeside walks in the National Park.
Other popular walking routes near Derwentwater include Catbells, Borrowdale, Blencathra, and the Keswick to Threlkeld railway path.
Outdoor adventure activities
Keswick is the adventure capital of the Lake District, so if you love a thrill, then you’re in the right place! There are a number of exciting outdoor activities to enjoy on and around the lake including paddle boarding, kayaking, ghyll scrambling, climbing and rafting.
Rock climbing in the area around Derwentwater is fantastic! Shepherd’s Crag is perhaps the best-known and most popular location thanks to its range of routes and year-round appeal. Lower Falcon Crag, for experienced climbers, has excellent views of the water, while the Bowder Stone offers some bouldering opportunities.
If you fancy sticking indoors, there are also two climbing walls nearby: Kong in Keswick and Keswick Climbing Wall just outside the town. There are also plenty of guides who will be able to take you out for a safe and fun time. Read more in our guide to outdoor adventures and activities in the Lake District.
A trip to Derwentwater isn’t complete without a wander into the pretty market town of Keswick! Just a 5-minute walk from the shore, it’s packed full of iconic slate-clad buildings, independent shops, entertainment, and attractions. Take a look at our guide to the best things to do in Keswick.
As you stand on the shores of Derwentwater on the Keswick side, you look down into the distant ‘Jaws’ of Borrowdale, an impressive valley surrounded by towering peaks. It’s a magnificent sight and the explorer inside you is bound to want to get a bit closer! Fortunately, you can get there by bus, car, boat, foot, or bike, so you have plenty of options!
Borrowdale is walking country at its finest, with riverside strolls alongside mountain hikes. There are also lots of lovely places to eat, and excellent attractions such as Honister Slate Mine and the Bowder Stone.
Eat and drink
Whether in Keswick, Portinscale or Borrowdale, there are plenty of places to eat and drink around Derwentwater. Keswick has a huge range of restaurants, cafes and pubs to choose from, so you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to local specialities, international taste sensations, and lots and lots of cake! 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!
Wild swimming has become more and more popular over the last couple of years and you can often see early-morning, late-evening and mid-afternoon swimmers cooling off in the waters of Derwentwater. The lake has options for most levels, from dippers to experienced triathletes. A number of rocky beaches around the shores offer an easy spot to get in, and the views are amazing. Just be aware of the boats and other watercraft on the lake, particularly during the day on weekends and in the summer holidays. Take all relevant precautions and be safe while you beat the heat!
We love a good picnic, and Derwentwater is a fabulous place for it! Stock up in Keswick with treats from supermarkets and independent specialist shops, then head down to the waterside. Crow Park is a great grassy spot near the town, or you can go a little further by bus, car, or on the Keswick Launch to find a perfectly secluded spot.
The Theatre by the Lake
After a day on the water, you could be ready to sit back for some cultural entertainment. You’re in luck with the Theatre by the Lake, which overlooks Derwentwater and has an excellent varied programme of theatre, film, concerts and exhibitions throughout the year.
Surprise View and Ashness Bridge
High above Derwentwater is the aptly named Surprise View. As you drive or walk along a narrow country road, surrounded by trees, suddenly a wonderful and expansive view of Derwentwater opens up before you! Stop off at the small National Trust car park to admire it properly, though please take care as there are no barriers along the cliff top.
Extend your time in this area with a wander down to pretty Ashness Bridge where you can admire more views and perhaps dip your toes in the cool mountain stream!
Lingholm Kitchen and Walled Garden
From one of many viewpoints around Derwentwater you’re likely to spot the grand Lingholm, which has links with Beatrix Potter. The estate includes a kitchen and walled garden, open every day and serving delicious fresh food. The café and terrace look out upon Skiddaw, and you can enjoy a wander around the octagonal walled garden to learn more about its history and the produce grown there.
Also on the Lingholm Estate you’ll find Alpacaly Ever After, a fabulously quirky attraction where you can meet and walk with the alpacas (or llamas)! This social enterprise rehomes alpacas and llamas from around the UK and welcomes guests to explore the beautiful Lake District landscape at a relaxed pace, accompanied by these fantastic fluffy creatures!
Brandelhow is the first-ever National Trust property in the Lake District, and you can see a commemorative stone at Brandelhow Park. Enjoy it as part of the circular Octavia Hill walk (Hill was one of the co-founders of the Trust) on the west shores of Derwentwater.
Stunningly situated on the edge of Derwentwater is the Lodore Falls Hotel and Spa. Here, you can enjoy a day of pampering at the luxury spa, which offers a range of treatments as well as a sauna, a hydrotherapy pool, an infinity-edge hot tub, and much more!
Explore the Islands
There are four main islands on Derwentwater plus if you believe the stories, a ‘floating island’ that appears every now and again! You can pass by all of these and even land on a couple, and they all have their own unique character. St Herbert’s is the largest and was immortalised in Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. It’s also named after a 1st-century saint and was a place of pilgrimage after his death. You are free to visit this island, as well as Rampsholme Island just beyond Calfclose Bay.
Lord’s Island was once the home of the Earls of Derwentwater and even had a drawbridge across to the mainland! Now it’s a protected area for wildlife, and you should avoid landing there and paddling in the area between it and the shore.
Derwent Island is the only inhabited island on the lake. Once owned by monks, it has been home to German miners and is now a private residence. Though there is usually no public access, the National Trust runs trips on five days every year, giving you a rare opportunity to explore!
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Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages in Derwent Water
For even more ideas about the wider National Park check out our guide to the lakes. We’re sure you’ll have a jam-packed visit to Derwentwater with all this to do and more. Find your perfect cottage for your stay and enjoy exploring!
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.