Keswick is a market town and civil parish within the Borough of Allerdale in Cumbria, England. It is largely a rather developed town with a population of about 5000. It is situated just north of Derwent Water, and a short distance from Bassenthwaite Lake, and about a 90mins drive north of the town of Windermere.
We arrived by bus from Windermere right at the city center and town hall, home to the The Moot hall which now serves as a visitor information center with maps and a rundown of the places and mountains to climb in the vicinity. The town hall area, blessed with it’s vast open spaces are popular for it’s Saturday market. No wonder, the town is recorded in the 13th century as Kesewic, meaning ‘farm where cheese is made’. The name is from the old English word “cese”, meaning cheese, with a Scandinavian initial ‘k’ and wic, which stands for a special place or dwelling.
As with every new town we visit, it pays to give their gift stores a visit, particularly the postcard section, where we will more or less be informed of the local sights we can expect to see from the surrounding mountains. A short trip to Gregg’s and Lakeland sandwich shop yielded full trekking bags loaded with packed sandwiches for lunch, we choose Latrigg Fell to climb. Lunch up on the mountains was something we’ve not tried to date and is something worth trying (not to mention bringing all the way up) for a change. A tough journey and climb beckons.
Armed with a free map from the visitor’s center, we made our way through the town and local park by the river, into the countryside. There, we met several seniors by a ball park who pointed us in the right direction after seeing us navigating around with a map in hand. It was not long before we reached the out skirts of town in the vast open fields. There we followed a path leading right into the mountains from a distance, passing through several quiet residential estates and a motorway bridge.
It was not long before we hit the bottom of the Fell, with a the dirt path slowly transitioning into a gradient climb. This path is wide enough for single-way access for vehicular traffic only up to a certain point 200 meters up where it slowly tapers into a dirt footpath just over a meter wide. We had a short chat with an elderly couple decked in trekking gear and sticks making their way down, asking about their journey, they said the views up there are fantastic with distant sights of Scotland in the background, a must visit. But it will be about an hour’s climb here before hitting the top though.
True enough, this path clings onto the contoured edges of the mountain, circling endless all it’s way up. The mountain is covered with a reasonably sparse vegetation, with certain dense spots along the path. The main path serving the uphill route cuts through these forests at some point, often spiting into Y-junctions, offering several alternative routes uphill. There are times where the vegetation clears out considerably, offering rather nice intermediate distant views of the country side. As always, the views just gets better with each climb. We decided to take a direct route up the peak, following a shortcut through the highland forests before coming face to face with the mountain peak with a nothing but vast steep open plain just between us. The real climb had begun.
This final stretch proved to be the most challenging. The peak looked much nearer than it actually is, with an occasional tiny distant silhouette of a human climber appearing over the ridge line allowing us to realistically gauge and reaffirms the true distance we were from the peak. The terrain is largely variable too, at times, going on all fours to scale the steep faces of the mountain through grassy plains and shrubs to the top. At least the weather was good.
It was not long where we finally reached the top, in half the estimated time too. The reward is of course the breezy scenic views in all it’s glory. Here is a photostitch of Keswick, Derwent water and the surrounding fells, as viewed from Latrigg north.
Surprisingly there were many climbers up on the peak enjoying the views over lunch too, easily 8-10 separate climbing groups excluding ours, they were all mostly seated along the wind-shielded south bank of the peak overlooking the town. In the midst of the dung covered mountain, we unleashed our lunch sash from our backpacks as a highland treat on the mountains. The grazing Sheep on the mountain are largely to blame for the large aerial bombardment of dung all over the highlands, there is simply just no area too isolated or too steep for dung to reside, proving quite a challenge in finding a reasonably dung-free site for our little picnic. Well, not that it actually spoiled our lunch, but I would appreciate my meal better if I won’t sitting on or next too a pile of sheep dung.
The winds on the mountains were surprising strong too, we had to shy from the open areas and go under cover by the bank side to avoid having our lunch being blown away. Guess that’s all part of the experience you get at the top. A meal on a mountain with the strong highland breeze in your face is simply just unreal.
The sights were unreal too, from our vantage point, we could make up the town of Keswick with several neighboring lakes in the vicinity, namely the Bassenthwaite lake on the west and Derwent water on the wast behind the town. We could even trace back in the distance the route we took through the country side up into the mountain. There is still much to explore, with our lunch wrappers packed and area clean, we made our way further down the mountain ridge line, occasionally chancing upon and scaring Sheep along our way.
Much of the highlands are openly sparse, with trails seen leading into the distant adjacent mountains. We trekked further inland over few nearby mountains, occasionally chancing an occasional patch of vegetation or trees which seem completely out of place. There were surprising so many Sheep on the mountains too, they seem to all magical cluster and appear on the highest and steepest spots you least imagine. You can even make up little white dots on the distant mountains which are clusters of these four legged dung factories. The excellent fair weather allowed a clear far visibility of the distant mountains, we could almost make out the Scotland highlands on the northern edge of the fell.
We spent few hours on each mountain high spot, hanging out and enjoying the views, only to make our way back to town by early afternoon and passing by the beautiful reflections of the River Greta. There, we got the chance to explore and appreciate more of the town of Keswick. In a nutshell, the place much more built up and developed than most other towns we’ve visited so far. The town is bestowed with buzzing city streets, a huge town center compete with a hall on a parade walk as well as a fine healthy selection of eating places and pubs to name a few.
You can find rather good buys on outdoor gear too, not to mention lower prices presumably from the competition from the number of equipment stores around the area. For instance, I brought a trekking stick for use on the mountains at about half price than what it costs back at Glenridding. Accessibly plays a part too, with the town served by a large bus terminus with few major bus services.
There, we took our direct bus towards Grasmere, which is a small town just along the route towards our next destination for the day- Rydal. Grasmere is a tiny town just off the main road, but in size is much smaller than Keswick which has a span of just over 2 kilometers. It’s another quiet little town with few rather nice gardens, churches and stores, but didn’t warrant a need to alight from the bus for exploration.
Check out more great views in Keswick in it’s own photo gallery here.