A Circuit of Derwentwater

Walk Date – 12th December 2018

Distance – 10 miles

Weather – cold, overcast, windy, brief glimmers of sun here and there


It was going to be dry but cloudy and dull today and, with most fell tops forecast to be cloud covered, we decided on a gentle walk around Derwentwater. Gentle only in terms of gradient that is because, as its a ten mile round trip, the legs get plenty of exercise over a variety of terrains. We haven’t done this walk since November 2014 so a return visit was long overdue and today seemed like a good day to do just that.


Portinscale – Nichol End – Fawe Park – Lingholm – Hawes End – Brandelhow Park – Brandelhow Bay – Great Bay – Mary Mount – Barrow Bay – Calfclose Bay – Strandshag Bay – Friar’s Crag – Keswick – Portinscale

Nothing much to see of the Skiddaw range as we park up in the little dead end lane off the B5289 just to the north of Keswick. Well, the cloud base was forecast to be quite low and the fell tops would be covered so no surprises there then. There’s also a gusty south easterly breeze which is keeping things fairly chilly but the winter weight trousers are on, as are thicker fleeces, jackets, gloves and hats so we are quite toasty as we hoist packs, lock the car and set off on our ten mile perambulation.

Just a few yards away from where we parked is the suspension bridge over the River Derwent which looks quite solid but you can feel the thing bouncing slightly as you walk across.

The view downstream from the bridge as we cross over and head towards Portinscale. The river flows on into Bass Lake, then on to Cockermouth, finally flowing into the sea at Workington.

Very little was stirring in Portinscale as we walked through, only a couple of tradesmen here and there getting work gear out of their vans and a delivery truck bringing supplies to the cafes and hotels. The residents of Portinscale seemed to have decided that indoors was better than out this morning. We reached the jetties and marina at Nichol End where once again there was no-one around and the quietness was only broken by the gentle slapping of the water against the boat hulls. Amazingly a large hole in the cloud layer had appeared while we were walking through Portinscale and it was good to see some blue sky once again. This gap in the cloud, which continually morphed into varying sizes, seemed to hover just to the north of us for the whole of the walk. To the south however the skies remained dark and brooding and with the sun so low in the sky at present it remained hidden behind the cloud bank all the time we were out.

Behind Nichol End marina the footpath takes a short, steep climb and leads up to this wide and level route through Fawe Park. Nothing moving through here although no doubt there would a few pairs of eyes watching our progress from high up in the tree branches. Gunshots thump out constantly as we walk along but there’s nothing to fear, unless you happen to be a pheasant that is.

We reach the Lingholm Estate where the alpacas are tucking in with enthusiasm accompanied by a few pheasants who were keeping their heads well down. Can’t say that I blame them with all this twelve bore noise going on all around us. If you have a mind to you can book to take an alpaca for a walk, just one of the many experiences on offer at the estate.

None of the alpacas showed the slightest interest in us, food was uppermost in their minds, so we carried on walking through the woodland adjacent to the Lingholm Estate just listening to the sounds of nature and enjoying the peacefulness, whenever the shotguns fell silent that is. There wasn’t a soul around, not even a dog walker.

Eventually we reach Kitchen Bay at Hawes End where …..

….. a former jetty now lies in disarray on the shingle beach. It  has always been used by the Derwentwater launches and served as the main landing stage for passengers heading for Catbells. Storm Callum on 12th October was the culprit and hopefully the jetty will be repaired and back in use by the time the holiday season comes around again in 2019.

 From Hawes End we leave the woodland behind for a while and carry on through the more open area of Old Brandelhow which gives us quite a different view of Catbells.

The path drops down and curves back towards the water and we reach the jetty at Low Brandelhow with a view of Walla Crag on the opposite shore.

Approaching Victoria Bay just beyond Low Brandelhow jetty and we still haven’t seen another walker anywhere even though we’ve been walking for just over an hour.

Victoria Bay with the Skiddaw range just about visible at the far end of the water, the summits still shrouded by the low cloud.

A ten minute walk from the jetty is ‘Entrust’, the hands sculpture installed at Victoria Bay to commemorate the centenary of the National Trust’s first land purchase in the Lake District. Was it always the intention to let it decay naturally like this I wondered.

As we continued a hint of brightness appeared through the murk at the end of the water so I took a closer look …..

….. and saw the slopes of Blease Fell bathed in sunlight and the top of Blencathra now free of the cloud cover it had when we drove past it earlier.

The patch of blue sky continues to hover out of reach just beyond Walla Crag as we arrive at the jetty at High Brandelhow. We could do with some of it over here, a bit more light would be useful right now because the further south we walk the gloomier, and windier, it seems to be getting.

A walk to the end of the jetty and a view of the spoil heaps just around the corner at Brandelhow Bay. The spoil heaps are a reminder of the extensive mining which took place around Derwentwater during the reign of Elizabeth I in the 16th century. German miners, who at the time were the leading experts in mining technology, were brought in to prospect and mine for anything of value, with most of any profits going to the Crown of course. Naturally this didn’t make the Queen all that popular with local landowners but she generally overruled their objections. There was also a considerable amount of discord between the well paid immigrant miners and the poverty stricken local inhabitants and attacks on the German miners were not uncommon. Eventually the Company of Mines Royal acquired Derwent Island which provided the miners with somewhere to live in safety. As often happens, over time the German miners married local girls, had children and became part of the wider community. Things don’t change much, do they?

We carried on around the spoil heaps from where I took a look back at the jetty, the Skiddaw fells and that tantalising patch of blue sky above them which was still allowing a glimmer of sun to land on the slopes of Blease Fell.

Rounding the spoil heaps and into Brandelhow Bay with the slopes of Maiden Moor rising beyond.

Crossing the shingle beach at Brandelhow Bay with a view across the water of Walla Crag on the left skyline, Bleaberry Fell just right of centre and Ashness Fell over on the right.

Just beyond the house in the last photo but one you can see the roof of this old shed. The sides are plastered with notes, cards, letters and photographs sent by children and adults to the ‘the teddy in the window’. I’m assuming the teddy bear was originally left behind by a child and the owners of the house placed it into a plastic bag and hung it in the window in the case the owner came back for it. Obviously the owner never did and so there it still hangs waiting to be re-united and receiving fan letters in the meantime. Royal Mail obviously knows where to deliver letters addressed to ‘The Teddy in the Window, Keswick, Cumbria’ and the owners of the house have taken to pinning them up on the wall of the shed for passers-by to read.

We read a few of the notes and then returned to our perambulation. From here on we began to meet other walkers, most of whom looked as if they were just out for a gentle stroll for the morning until it was time for lunch in their local hotel, of which there are plenty along the Borrowdale road. Things look a bit bleak along Borrowdale don’t they? The wind was fairly whooshing up along here too, not strong enough to blow you over but chilly enough to make the eyes water.

A look back at Maiden Moor and Catbells as we cross the boardwalk.

Looking north from Great Bay towards Skiddaw and Blencathra where patches of sunlight are still landing on the lower slopes. The top of Walla Crag is also catching some of it. Can we have some over here please?

A look to the south where things haven’t improved much along Borrowdale.

Heading towards the ‘Chinese’ bridge and …..

….. here it is. A quick shot and then its back on with the gloves to continue with the crossing.

Shepherds Crag, alongside the Borrowdale Road, is just ahead so it won’t be long before we turn to head back towards Keswick. Our backs will be to the wind then and I’m looking forward to a bit of respite from mopping watering eyes.

The boardwalk leads us over Cannon Dub from where I took a look across to Catbells and wondered just how draughty it would be up there right now.

Having crossed the head of Derwentwater there’s a short stretch of road walking up to the Mary Mount Hotel, where we leave the road and branch off to the left down to the jetty at Lodore. ‘All passengers for the Lodore Falls, Grange, Rosthwaite, Seatoller and the Borrowdale Valley please disembark here.’

Maiden Moor and Catbells from the Lodore jetty area and from here we make our way round the back of the Mary Mount Hotel and return to the road once more. Immediately opposite the hotel we cross the road and …..

….. follow the footpath, which follows the course of the road, through the woodland along to the Kettlewell car park. I always enjoy walking along this path, the moss covered boulders and the winding path through the trees remind me of the stories I read as a child where mythical creatures lived and had exciting adventures, with the obligatory monster baddie thrown in for good measure.

When the path ends we re-cross the road into the Kettlewell car park and immediately turn right along the narrow path beside the wall which eventually brings us to the lakeshore path once again. We aren’t getting much benefit from it but its very nice to be seeing blue sky ahead as we walk back towards Keswick.

Walking alongside Barrow Bay now with a clear (ish) view across to Maiden Moor and Catbells.

The Ashness Gate jetty at Barrow Bay with the Skiddaw group on the centre skyline. A good place to leave the launch if you want to walk up to Ashness Bridge, Surprise View and Watendlath, or simply take a stroll through Great Wood.

Maiden Moor and Catbells from the other side of the jetty. From here you can either move back up to the road for a short distance and then drop back down to the shoreside again, or you can keep to the water’s edge, although the route becomes rockier with more trees and bushes to work your way around. Towards the latter part of this section there is a high rock cliff to negotiate. There are plenty of footholds and an abundance of bare tree roots to grab hold of but a little extra care was needed today as everything was wet and slippery. Once on the top of the rock cliff the path becomes obvious again and it leads on to …..

….. this point, which gives you some idea of the height of the rock cliff a few yards back. From here there are several paths back down to the shore line some of which require a little more nimbleness than others. We each pick the one best suited to our individual levels of agility and make it back down to the shore without mishap.

We carry on round to Calfclose Bay and the Millenium Stone situated there. Its still as black as hell’s kettles along Borrowdale but a shaft of light managed to penetrate some of the thinner cloud and create a very atmospheric view back along Derwentwater. With the sun behind the stone there was little chance of seeing the carvings on the two faces of it, but the wind churning up the water and creating waves adds plenty of lively detail.

Rowling End and Causey Pike appear through the bare branches and twigs as we carry on beyond Calfclose Bay.

Out in the open once again and a panorama of north western fells appears on the skyline …..

….. the High Spy/Maiden Moor ridge and Catbells to the left of the skyline …..

….. and Rowling End, Causey Pike, Crag Hill, Outerside, Barrow and Grisedale Pike to the right.

Strandshag Bay and Friar’s Crag.

A view back to Lord’s Island as we round Strandshag Bay and make our way up to …..

….. Friar’s Crag and the Ruskin Memorial …..

….. a Grade II listed structure which is inscribed with Ruskin’s own words about his first memory.

Just a very short distance from Friar’s Crag are the Keswick jetties and boat landings. The rowing boats are stacked away somewhere for the winter and only one launch remains tied up at a jetty. Anyone wishing to take a boat trip around Derwentwater will need to get a move on. Since 17th November only a weekend service has been operating and that comes to an end this weekend on 16th December. After that anyone wanting a trip round the lake will have to wait until February 2019 when a limited service will be operating, with a full timetable operating again from 9th March.

So, we make our way through Keswick and take the old footpath through the field back to Portinscale with the northwestern fells of Causey Pike, Barrow, Outerside, Crag Hill and Grisedale Pike on the skyline to our left.

Back at the car where things are much brighter over Skiddaw and the rest of the northern fells than they were this morning. The tops are clear and the cloud has broken up very nicely, although the same cannot be said for the fells to the south of us where everything continues to be rather gloomy. Perhaps we should have stayed north of the A66 today but nevertheless we’ve had a good long walk. plenty of fresh air and noses and cheeks are glowing pink thanks to the brisk wind. What more could you ask for? Well, a hot cup of tea would go down very nicely, so we’d best get off home and get the kettle on then.