What does a climber and mountain biker do on a wet, wild, windy, freezing cold, snowy, (did I mention wild?), winter week in Keswick?
Well, aside from sampling the fabulous independent cafe’s in town, indulging in a spot of retail therapy at the great selection of outdoor shops and spending a rainy afternoon cranking hard at the relatively new indoor climbing wall, the natural response would be to say toughen up, layer up and get outside!
But what if tackling the icy and snowy summits on top of the hills holds no appeal and you left your mountain bike at home having seen the weather forecast (and that your favourite trail at the local trail centre is closed)? Well, when it comes down to it, you can’t go far wrong with a wander to circumnavigate Derwent Water. It’s right there, on the doorstep so to speak, and takes you down into the Borrowdale valley without having to think about navigation skills and crampons.
The last time I attempted to walk around part of Derwent Water, the paths at the Grange end were impassable – waterlogged and only fit for waders (or boats). That must have been some years ago as I can happily report now that there is a bridge and network of raised paths – making this a fabulous all weather/winter walk, which is pretty much flat and a distance of around 8 miles.
Setting off from Keswick and walking anti-clockwise, the path takes you to the village of Portinscale. Incidentally, there looked to be an amazing cafe here, but it was sadly closed – not surprisingly for a mid-week winter day. Leaving the village, the path enters into woods with different options available for wandering along the waters edge or through the main part of the woods.
As the path passes under Catbells, it becomes an obvious track alongside the shore. Various landing stages are passed for the Keswick Launch boat service (weekends only in winter). The jetty’s which lead out from the land give great photograph opportunities and have even been known on past occasion to make a lovely setting for an evening glass of wine 🙂 There are also plenty of beaches or rocks around here to sit, admire the view and have a spot of lunch.
Nearing the south end of Derwent Water, we were fully expecting to have to retrace our steps, or take a longer detour through Grange village. However, the raised path through the marsh area is brilliant and gives a really nice view back up the valley towards Keswick, along with fine views of the climbing at Shepherds Crag in Borrowdale.
As the path on the West side of Derwent Water is so good, I was expecting something similar when coming back on the East side. However, the proximity of the Borrowdale Road and the narrow shoreline meant that there was plenty of walking on the beach, or weaving around through the wooded areas (which look to flood in bad weather). Naturally, an expanse of open water and a pebble beach meant lots of opportunities for skimming stones!
Before long, the path emerges onto the grassed areas just south of Keswick, with easy walking back to the town. Mention must be made of a stop off at Friars Crag to sit on the bench which is featured in so many photographs of the area. The view from here down Derwent Water and into Borrowdale is one of my favourites (I have one of said photographs on the wall back home) and it is well worth taking a few moments to savour.
Back in Keswick, the only choice is which tea room (or pub) to visit!
Map: OS Explorer The English Lakes, North-Western Area (OL4) or PDF download from http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk
Refreshments: Plenty of tea rooms and pubs in Keswick. Nice looking cafe in Portinscale (but it was closed so not able to give any more information). Apparently a good pint can be had from Mary Mount Hotel on the Borrowdale Road near Grange (according to a friendly walker we passed who had just left there)
Accommodation: Lots of choice from B&B, hotels, holiday cottages – visit http://www.keswick.org which is the main tourist information site for the area
Time of Year: The paths are so good that this is a year round walk (or run – we passed lots of people running round). I suspect it will be much busier in the summer months so if you want quiet paths, it may be better to visit off-season. The Keswick Launch boat service has stopping off areas if you don’t want to do the full walk, but it is a weekend only service in winter http://www.keswick-launch.co.uk