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.

Derwent Water from Crow Park
Central Lakes Drives Home

Route Map

Summary of main attractions on route (click on name for detail)
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
13.5 miles Stonethwaite N 54.51367, W 3.14061
16.1 miles Seathwaite N 54.49940, W 3.18209
17.4 miles Seatoller N 54.51354, W 3.16710
18.9 miles Honister Pass N 54.51165, W 3.19697
21.3 miles Gatesgarthdale N 54.52381, W 3.24607
23.3 miles Buttermere Village N 54.54097, W 3.27756
24.8 miles Crummock Water, Rannerdale N 54.55376, W 3.29549
33.7 miles Whinlatter Forest N 54.60939, W 3.23012
38.5 miles Keswick N 54.59936, W 3.13758

The Drive

Distance: 0 miles         Location: Keswick, Central car park          Coordinates: N 54.59936, W 3.13758

Keswick town centre
Derwent Water from Friar's Crag
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 footpath which runs right around the lake. The Keswick launch is the best 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 Friarís Crag which offers beautiful views down 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.

Distance: 1.4 miles         Location: Calfclose Bay, Great Wood car park          Coordinates: N 54.58325, W 3.12902

Centenary Stone, Calfclose Bay
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
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

Derwent Water from Surprise View
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         Location: Watendlath          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.

Distance: 8.6 miles         Location: Kettlewell car park and Lodore Falls          Coordinates: N 54.56537, W 3.13476

Lodore Falls
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, shortly pass the Lodore Falls Hotel on the left and just beyond are seasonal public toilets on the right with a convenient layby. A little further on, the Borrowdale Hotel is another elegant hotel, also on the left. 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.

Distance: 10.2 miles         Location: Grange in Borrowdale          Coordinates: N 54.54705, W 3.15544

Grange in Borrowdale
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 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.

Distance: 10.9 miles         Location: The Bowder Stone car park          Coordinates: N 54.54158, W 3.15620

The Bowder Stone
A very impressive and famous glacial erratic stone which seems to defy gravity 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 500m walk from the car park along a reasonably well made path with some ups and downs. 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 road follows the river and the 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. The road continues to the four adjacent settlements of Rosthwaite, Stonethwaite, Seathwaite and Seatoller at the head of the Borrowdale valley.

Borrowdale from Castle Crag
Seathwaite valley
Seatoller village

Distance: 12.4 miles         Location: Rosthwaite
Coordinates: N 54.52358, W 3.14818

Rosthwaite village straddles the main road and there is a small National Trust pay and display car park if you take the minor right turn in the village. 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. Toilet facilities at the car park.


Back on the B5289 through Rosthwaite, continue approx 0.5 miles to a left turn for Stonethwaite which is a short way down the minor dead end road.

Distance: 13.5 miles         Location: Stonethwaite
Coordinates: N 54.51367, W 3.14061

This quaint small village is in a lovely setting and although there isnít much here, there are some good walks along the valley and up the hills. The Langstrath Country Inn can provide refreshments. There is very limited free parking in the village adjacent to the telephone box or some roadside parking further back down the road. No other facilities.


Return to the B5289 and turn left. After approx 1 mile there is a left turn to the hamlet of Seathwaite which can be found approx 1 mile along the dead end road.

Distance: 16.1 miles         Location: Seathwaite
Coordinates: N 54.49940, W 3.18209

A tiny hamlet enclosed by some impressive peaks. Not much to see apart from the scenery, but this is a popular starting point for many epic walks towards Scafell Pike and Great Gable. The raingauge in the hamlet shows this to be the wettest inhabited place in England, during the November 2009 flood, 316mm of rain was recorded here in 24hrs, a UK record at the time (beaten in 2015, see Honister Pass below). Graphite was discovered in the valley in the 16th century and this was eventually mined and used at the original Pencil Factory in Keswick. Roadside parking is free but can be very busy. No facilities.


Retrace your steps back to the B5289 and turn left. Almost immediately enter the village of Seatoller, the main car park is first on the right.

Distance: 17.4 miles         Location: Seatoller
Coordinates: N 54.51354, W 3.16710

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.


Continuing on along the B5289, 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: 18.9 miles         Location: Honister Pass          Coordinates: N 54.51165, W 3.19697

Honister slate mine from Honister Pass summit
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 has plenty to offer 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: 21.3 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. The car park is pay and display and is often busy. 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: 23.3 miles         Location: Buttermere Village car park          Coordinates: N 54.54097, W 3.27756

Buttermere lake
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 Fish Inn 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: 24.8 miles         Location: Crummock Water, Rannerdale car park          Coordinates: N 54.55376, W 3.29549

Crummock Water road
Rannerdale bluebells
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: 33.7 miles         Location: Whinlatter Forest          Coordinates: N 54.60939, W 3.23012

Whinlatter Forest
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 and a Go Ape experience through the tree tops. Many walking and cycling trails lead from the visitor centre up the surrounding hills. More information can be found at the visitor centre where there is also a cafe, 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: 38.5 miles         Location: Keswick, Central car park          Coordinates: N 54.59936, W 3.13758

Hope Park, Keswick
Return to start point.