If there is one centre around which the Lake District revolves, this is Keswick. It is within easy reach of most other places in the area and there are lots of lovely walks around the town. It is surrounded by such mountains as Grisedale, Helvellyn, Robinson, Saddleback, Scafell and Skiddaw. This is the heart of “Herries” country for those who have read the celebrated novels of Sir Hugh Walpole.
Derwentwater is certainly one of the most beautiful of the lakes and Keswick has lots of amenities for the visitor, including a small theatre. It has been a tourist centre for many years and has plenty of accommodation, restaurants, cafés and shops. Many of the houses in the town are Victorian and built with the familiar grey Lakeland stone. It is the largest town within the boundaries of the national park.
Keswick is an old centre of habitation and was granted a charter for its market by Edward I in 1276. The market is still held each Saturday. In the Market Square is the old Moot Hall, a slate building dating from 1813 and boasting one of the oldest one-handed clocks. The bell in the tower of the hall is dated 1601 and is believed to have come from the ancestral home of the Derwentwater family on Lord’s Isle.
The original parish church of Keswick is about half a mile from the town, at Crosthwaite. The present church of St Kentigern was erected in 1533 on the site of a much earlier building. The font is one of the relics from the 14th Century. The church was restored in the mid 19th Century and contains an effigy of Southey who is buried here. He lived most of his life in the nearby Greta Hall.
The main Keswick church today is the more recent St John’s, on the edge of town. It is well-known for its lovely spire and the author, Hugh Walpole, is buried here. It has a wonderful situation with terraced walks above the lake. There are several attractive parks in Keswick, offering venues for various sports in addition to pleasant walks. The museum and gallery in Fitz park contains many local artefacts.
Keswick has long been famous for the production of pencils and this still continues today. The local industry began in the 15th Century, when graphite was discovered in the area. The local factory is still one of the world’s leading producers of pencils. It houses a display centre in the Pencil museum, of interest to visitors to the area.
Another museum, which seems quite out of place in a Lakeland town, is the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum. This institution has cars seen in the James Bond films, The Avengers, Back to the Future and even Mr Bean’s Mini.
One of the most popular walks in the area is to Friar’s Crag, where one can see the Ruskin Monument, erected in 1900 and inscribed with the writer’s own words. This is part of the local National Trust property, which also includes Lord’s Island and Scarf Close Bay. Another walk to Castle Head is a little more demanding but offers one of the best viewing points in the Lake District. On a good day, one can see as far as Scotland in addition to having a spectacular view of the whole of Derwentwater.