Keswick - Borrowdale - Buttermere drive
A drive of many natural wonders starting from Keswick visiting some of the most beautiful lakes, valleys and mountain passes in the Lake District. Highlights include Derwent Water, Borrowdale, Honister Pass, Buttermere, Crummock Water and Whinlatter. 35 miles.
Summary of main attractions on route
|Distance||Attraction||Car Park Coordinates|
|0 miles||Keswick||N 54.59936, W 3.13758|
|1.4 miles||Calfclose Bay||N 54.58325, W 3.12902|
|2.7 miles||Ashness Bridge||N 54.56663, W 3.13059|
|3.2 miles||Surprise View||N 54.56102, W 3.13284|
|5.1 miles||Watendlath||N 54.53684, W 3.12033|
|8.6 miles||Kettlewell / Lodore Falls||N 54.56537, W 3.13476|
|10.2 miles||Grange in Borrowdale||N 54.54705, W 3.15544|
|10.9 miles||The Bowder Stone||N 54.54158, W 3.15620|
|12.4 miles||Rosthwaite||N 54.52358, W 3.14818|
|15.2 miles||Honister Pass||N 54.51165, W 3.19697|
|17.6 miles||Gatesgarthdale||N 54.52381, W 3.24607|
|19.6 miles||Buttermere Village||N 54.54097, W 3.27756|
|21.1 miles||Crummock Water, Rannerdale||N 54.55376, W 3.29549|
|30.0 miles||Whinlatter Forest||N 54.60939, W 3.23012|
|34.8 miles||Keswick||N 54.59936, W 3.13758|
The attraction car park coordinates are available as Points Of Interest (POI) files for your sat nav device. Use the following link to download a zip file containing the most common POI file formats; Keswick – Borrowdale – Buttermere POI. Further information on sat nav files can be found on the Route Navigation page.
Distance: 0 miles
Location: Keswick, Central car park
Coordinates: N 54.59936, W 3.13758
Keswick is a popular and pretty tourist town nestled between Derwent Water and Skiddaw mountain. There are plenty of attractions for visitors including the Pencil Museum, Keswick Museum and The Puzzling Place. The town has some lovely public park areas which provide peace and quiet away from the often bustling town centre. The main feature of the pedestrianised town centre is the old Moot Hall which now houses the Tourist Information Centre. There are abundant shops, outdoor specialists, cafes, pubs and restaurants.
A little way out of the town centre, the lakeside area on Derwent Water is always popular and you can explore the lake either by boat or the fabulous 10 mile footpath which circuits the lake. The Keswick launch cruise is a wonderful way to take in the lake and its surroundings. There are regular boats (less in winter) which stop here and at several beauty spots around the lake. It is definitely worth walking the short distance to Friar’s Crag which offers beautiful views up the lake. Crow Park, opposite Lakeside car park, has a lovely open setting next to the lake where you can watch the boats come and go, again with great views. Between Crow Park and the town centre is Hope Park which has attractive landscaped grounds and miniature golf. There is a cafe, toilet facilities and the popular Theatre by the Lake is also here which has its own facilities. Central and Lakeside car parks are pay and display.
Leave the car park and turn left on the B5289 Borrowdale Road towards Borrowdale. Soon meet a mini-roundabout, taking the second exit leads a short distance to Keswick lakeside and parking. Otherwise the drive takes the first exit then the second exit at the following mini-roundabout towards Borrowdale. Continue for approx 1 mile to Great Wood car park on the left.
Calfclose Bay, Derwent Water
Distance: 1.4 miles
Location: Calfclose Bay, Great Wood car park
Coordinates: N 54.58325, W 3.12902
Great Wood car park gives access to some wonderful local walks and scenery. Across the road a short footpath leads to the picturesque Calfclose Bay with shingle beaches and attractive views across the Derwent Water towards Catbells hill. At the northern side of the bay is the unusual Centenary Stone sculpture on the shore which was placed there in 1995 to commemorate 100 years of the National Trust in the Lake District. Just beyond that is a small headland with a well placed seat to appreciate the views. From there the lakeshore footpath leads on towards Keswick. There are also good footpaths around Great Wood itself from the car park and they lead on up to Walla Crag high above if you are feeling fit. The large car park is National Trust pay and display with a couple of picnic tables but no toilet facilities.
Continue along the B5289 towards Borrowdale. The road follows the wooded lakeshore and after approx 0.5 miles there is a left turn signposted to Ashness Bridge and Watendlath. If you take this left, the dead end road is single track with passing places, steep and tight in places and can be busy in season. However, the attractions along this road are well worth visiting. There is a small free car park immediately after the junction on the left giving access to the adjacent lakeshore and Ashness Gate jetty. Continue up hill for approx 0.5 miles to Ashness Bridge. Take care driving over the bridge which is very narrow. The car park is just beyond the bridge on the right.
Distance: 2.7 miles
Location: Ashness Bridge
Coordinates: N 54.56663, W 3.13059
Ashness Bridge is a famous old packhorse bridge in a picturesque location. There is open access to the rough riverbank upstream from where you can admire one of the most photographed views in the Lake District with the beautiful backdrop of Derwent Water and Skiddaw mountain. The car park is National Trust pay and display with no facilities nearby.
Continue up the minor road towards Watendlath. After approx 0.5 miles there is a car park on the left for Surprise View.
Distance: 3.2 miles
Location: Surprise View
Coordinates: N 54.56102, W 3.13284
A wonderful viewpoint from which to appreciate Derwent Water and its surroundings. The surprise might be that Derwent Water is hidden from the road by trees until you reach this point so the view is quite unexpected. Beware of steep drops from viewpoint. The car park is National Trust pay and display with no facilities nearby.
The minor road continues to wind up through the trees but shortly becomes more level and leaves the trees behind to pass along the scenic valley floor. At peak times the road can be quite busy and difficult. Eventually, the hamlet of Watendlath is reached and there is a small car park to the left.
Distance: 5.1 miles
Coordinates: N 54.53684, W 3.12033
A picturesque hamlet and tarn owned by the National Trust and located at the head of a remote high valley. The pretty Watendlath Beck that leads out of the tarn is spanned by a lovely old packhorse bridge. There are some well placed benches to appreciate the surroundings and a cafe. The car park is National Trust pay and display with adjacent toilet facilities.
Retrace your steps all the way back down the Watendlath road to the B5289 Borrowdale road and turn left towards Borrowdale. After approx 0.5 miles, Kettlewell car park is on the right.
Kettlewell and Lodore Falls
Distance: 8.6 miles
Location: Kettlewell car park and Lodore Falls
Coordinates: N 54.56537, W 3.13476
This often busy National Trust pay and display car park gives direct access to the shingle shore with good views across the lake. Unless you are visiting the nearby Lodore Falls Hotel, this is also the best place to park if you want to see the well known but well hidden Lodore Falls waterfall. The falls are where Watendlath Beck cascades down to the lake from the high valley above. A footpath opposite the car park follows the road southwards and then up through the woods to the falls which are behind the hotel. The walk is just over half a mile each way. No facilities at the car park.
Back on the Borrowdale road, there are two elegant looking hotels coming up on the left, firstly the Lodore Falls Hotel and a little further on the Borrowdale Hotel. Continue along the road for a short distance before it comes alongside the River Derwent on the right and you see a double arched bridge over the river. Cross this bridge to enter the village of Grange in Borrowdale.
Grange in Borrowdale
Distance: 10.2 miles
Location: Grange in Borrowdale
Coordinates: N 54.54705, W 3.15544
Pretty little village at the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ where the valley starts to become very narrow. An impressive double arched ancient bridge over the River Derwent leads to the village and the river is normally clear and shallow with vast areas of shingle making it ideal for a paddle. There are a couple of cafes in the village, one overlooking the river. There is some free parking just over the bridge on the right with a National Trust donation box. Otherwise parking in the village is quite limited. Toilet facilities in the village.
Travel back over the river and turn right to continue along the B5289. In approx 0.5 miles on the left is the Bowder Stone car park.
The Bowder Stone
Distance: 10.9 miles
Location: The Bowder Stone car park
Coordinates: N 54.54158, W 3.15620
The Bowder Stone is a very impressive and famous boulder which has somehow come to rest in a gravity defying position perched on its edge. The stone is about 30 feet high and estimated to be 2000 tons in weight. Steep steps lead to the top for the daring. The stone is approx 0.3 miles walk from the bus stop along a reasonably well made path with some ups and downs. It is located in the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ where the picturesque valley is very constricted with steep slopes either side. The car park is National Trust pay and display with a few pleasant picnic tables dotted around but no other facilities.
Back on the B5289, continue up the Borrowdale valley. The windy road follows the crystal-clear river and narrow wooded valley with glimpses of the surrounding hills including Castle Crag ahead which appears as an isolated peak in the middle of the valley. Shortly, the valley opens up again with great views in all directions and soon enters the village of Rosthwaite. The minor right turn in the village leads to the village car park on the right.
Distance: 12.4 miles
Coordinates: N 54.52358, W 3.14818
Rosthwaite is an attractive small village set amongst the mountains of Borrowdale. This is superb walking country, numerous footpaths head off along the valley and up surrounding hills. A popular walk leads up nearby Castle Crag, a relatively short but steep climb, which offers magnificent views over Borrowdale and Derwent Water. The village has some good refreshment stops, the Flock-in tea room near the car park or for something more substantial try the Royal Oak Hotel or the Scafell Hotel, both on the main road. The small car park is National Trust pay and display with adjacent toilets. Other car parks are available further up the valley as described below.
Back on the B5289, continue through Rosthwaite and glorious countryside beyond. After approx 0.5 miles, a left dead end turn takes you a short distance to the quaint small village of Stonethwaite where you will find the Langstrath Country Inn and limited free roadside parking. The B5289 continues approx 1 mile to another dead end left turn, just beyond the Glaramara Hotel. This turn leads to the tiny hamlet of Seathwaite which is approx 1 mile distant. Not much to see apart from the wonderful scenery, but this is a popular starting point for many epic walks towards Scafell Pike and Great Gable. The mountains are probably why the raingauge in the hamlet shows this to be the wettest inhabited place in England. Roadside parking is free but can be very busy.
Back on the main B5289 valley road, it immediately enters the village of Seatoller, the main car park is first on the right. Another attractive small village which is mainly used as a centre for walking. The car park is National Trust pay and display with toilet facilities. This marks the end of the Borrowdale valley before the road climbs steeply up the Honister Pass.
Beyond Seatoller, the road quickly becomes narrow and very steep through a wooded section alongside a cascading stream before the gradient eases and the valley opens up. The road continues to climb steadily alongside the stream and there are a few places where you can stop and enjoy the surroundings. Eventually you reach the summit of Honister Pass at 356m altitude.
Distance: 15.2 miles
Location: Honister Pass
Coordinates: N 54.51165, W 3.19697
Apart from the wonderful scenery, the highlight of the summit area is the Honister Slate Mine. This famous old mine is still producing slate today and now also specialises in adventure activities for visitors. There is a visitor centre, gift shop, showroom, cafe and various activities including mine tours and adventure climbing experiences. Entrance is free but there is a charge for the activities and for parking. The mine is open all year apart from early January. During the devastating storm Desmond flood in December 2015, the nearby raingauge recorded 341mm of rain in 24hrs, a new UK record. The summit area also has a Youth Hostel with adjacent National Trust pay and display car park and is a good place to start walks up the surrounding hills. No other facilities.
Continue on the B5289, over the summit of the Pass and start descending towards Buttermere. Again steep and narrow, the road is hemmed in by some very impressive peaks but soon descends to the more open valley floor and follows the pleasing river along Gatesgarthdale. There are a number of free layby’s next to the river where you can stop and admire the scenery before reaching Gatesgarth Farm where there is a small formal car park on the right.
Distance: 17.6 miles
Location: Gatesgarthdale car park
Coordinates: N 54.52381, W 3.24607
If you don’t want to stray too far from the car, it might be better to stop at one of the free layby’s further back up the valley. However, this pay and display car park provides better access to the southern end of beautiful Buttermere lake. You can walk to the lake either on the footpath across the valley floor or along the road. You could walk the full circuit of the lake from here which is approx 4 miles. There is a charge for the car park, if it is full there is quite a large overflow car park on the opposite side of the road behind the farm. No facilities.
Continue along the B5289 which soon follows the shore of Buttermere lake. Although narrow, this is a lovely section of road with views of the lake and the surrounding hills. After approx 1.8 miles, pass the quaint church of St James in a wonderful setting on the right before a short sharp descent into Buttermere village. The main village car park is down the lane on the left, immediately before the Bridge Hotel.
Distance: 19.6 miles
Location: Buttermere Village car park
Coordinates: N 54.54097, W 3.27756
A pleasant little village in an awesome setting surrounded by high mountains and picturesque lakes. Not much to see in the village itself but there are a couple of notable hostelries, namely the Buttermere Court Hotel and the Bridge Hotel plus a couple of cafes. Popular footpaths lead up surrounding mountains but for something flatter and easier it is well worth taking the half mile walk to either Buttermere lake or Crummock Water if only to admire the views. There are more substantial walks around either lake which are also excellent. The car park is pay and display with toilet facilities.
From Buttermere car park, turn left on the B5289 past the Bridge Hotel and climb out of the village. In a short distance is a National Trust pay and display car park on the left. Beyond the village the road gradually descends towards Crummock Water and soon meets the shore of the lake. There is limited free parking where you can access the open lakeshore and admire the fabulous views. The road continues along the open shore with further great views over the lake. Shortly, the road twists around a tight rocky headland and beyond this is the small Rannerdale car park on the right. If this is full, further parking is available on Cinderdale Common, approx 0.6 miles further on.
Distance: 21.1 miles
Location: Crummock Water, Rannerdale car park
Coordinates: N 54.55376, W 3.29549
Similar to Buttermere lake, Crummock Water is a wonderfully attractive and relatively peaceful lake surrounded by impressive mountains and no discernible development near the shore. Rannerdale car park allows limited access to a small section of shore a short distance back along the road. More popular is the short easy walk up the adjacent footpath into the picturesque Rannerdale valley. It is particularly pleasing every April and May when the famous bluebells fill the open valley and provide an incredible sight. Footpaths from the car park and up the valley also lead up the adjacent Rannerdale Knotts which is a relatively small summit with wonderful views over Buttermere, Crummock Water and towards Loweswater. Free car park but no facilities.
Turn right out of the car park and continue along the B5289. There are wonderful views across Crummock Water towards Mellbreak mountain and to the right is the mighty Grasmoor mountain. After approx 0.6 miles there are two small free car parks on Cinderdale Common which also give access to Rannerdale valley and adjacent open land. Just beyond on the left is a footpath which takes you along the picturesque lakeshore. The narrow road then climbs slowly away from the lake, there are one or two small places where you can stop and admire the views. Just beyond the first house on the left is a larger free car park. Beyond this the road crosses a cattle grid then descends with views ahead down Lorton Vale valley. Continue through a wooded section and shortly meet a T junction where you turn right towards Lorton, still the B5289.
Continue along the pleasant Lorton Vale road for approx 1.9 miles and at the sign for Lorton village take the right turn towards Keswick. This road meanders through Lorton village and after approx 0.7 miles take the right turn towards Keswick. Shortly meet a T junction where you turn right again on the B5292 towards Keswick. The road begins to climb steadily away from Lorton and views open up over surrounding hills and valleys. The road soon crosses a stream on a stone bridge, you can park here and walk the short distance up the valley to Spout Force waterfall. Continue to climb steadily through the lower slopes of Whinlatter Pass. Eventually as the road reaches the summit of the Pass you will see the entrance to Whinlatter Forest Visitor Centre on the left.
Distance: 30.0 miles
Location: Whinlatter Forest
Coordinates: N 54.60939, W 3.23012
Whinlatter is an attractive forest in the hills overlooking Keswick, Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite lake. There are plenty of activities for visitors, including many walking and cycling trails through the forest offering some fabulous views inbetween the trees. There are some good single track trails for the more adventurous mountain bikers. There are also Go Ape experiences with a tree top adventure or forest Segway plus guided Alpaca walks. It all starts from the visitor centre where you will also find a cafe, play areas, mountain bike hire shop and toilet facilities. These are open daily all year except 25/26 December. Car park is ‘pay on exit’.
Turn left out of the Visitor Centre car park and continue on the B5292 which descends through the forest towards Keswick. You soon pass the free forest car parks of Revelin Moss, Masmill and Noble Knott which offer further picnic tables and forest walks. On the roadside at Noble Knott is a large layby where you can stop and enjoy the wonderful views across Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw mountain. The road continues to descend and soon there is a small free car park on the right from where you can walk up the remote and attractive Coledale valley to the historic Force Crag Mine, now owned by National Trust. The walk is over 2 miles in each direction but relatively easy. The road then enters the village of Braithwaite. In the village centre is the Royal Oak Inn. Continue through the village and shortly meet the main A66 at a T junction. Turn right towards Keswick. After approx 1 mile, turn right on the B5289 and after 1 more mile, this road approaches the centre of Keswick. Turn right at the mini-roundabout (still the B5289) and Keswick Central car park is a short distance on the left.
Distance: 34.8 miles
Location: Keswick, Central car park
Coordinates: N 54.59936, W 3.13758
Return to start point.