Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

Keswick, Cumbria a Town for all my Seasons


These days a visit to my dad, who lives in Kendal in the English Lake District, is a case of some gentle strolls and if I hire a car a “run out” somewhere. Top of the places to run to is Keswick.  It’s a lovely drive, cutting right through the heart of the Lake District, though to be avoided on bank holidays, when there is gridlock from Ambleside to Windermere. Keswick, has, as you can imagine, changed a lot in my lifetime.

It was, in a way, one of my first “travel” destinations. It was where the 17-year-old me was headed with my boyfriend the first time I hitchhiked – now there’s a long-lost mode of travel in most countries … simply sticking out our thumbs and trying to look innocent enough that someone would take pity on us. It worked too.  We got there safely, although I have no memories of how we got back, and the only vehicle I vaguely remember picking us up was an old truck with pigs in the back – honestly…..sounds like a scene from some movie set in Alabama doesn’t it!  After a sinful (I was under age) night in a real country pub we slept in a farmer’s barn – gets more like that movie all the time, doesn’t it!  So for a long time after that the town was associated in my mind with sin and being a rebel.  Oh, and also…… cow pats ……as we gingerly made our way out of the farmer’s field the next morning!

Fast forward 30 years or so, and Derwent Water, on whose shores Keswick nestles, was the scene of duck feeding and boating with my own kids. By then the town had grown considerably, of course, and there were interesting outdoor shops and craft shops, and on busy summer days (which it always was because of school holidays) it was a bit packed. There is now a Theater by the Lake too, and they always seem to be offering something terrific, but I never have the opportunity to go :=(

And now it’s another 20 years or so on, and my dad is only up for gentle walks down to the waterfront, a sit for a while and a walk back into the town square.  I like to go on a Saturday because it’s market day, and this time I was delighted to discover a cheese stall I hadn’t seen before! Cartmell Cheeses make, simply, the best cheese I’ve ever tasted in England, and the guy was so friendly and full of helpful tips about keeping cheese (which unfortunately won’t work in this climate i.e. cheese should not be kept in a fridge), and about their products and ethos.  Next visit I intend to go to Cartmell, which is a fair way from Keswick, and take a closer look.  My dad wasn’t up for it this time, but if you come across them – buy!!! Silly me came all over shy and didn’t ask him if I could take his photo!

Like so many places in the Lake District now Keswick is a tourist magnet, and isn’t the sleepy village I remember from my teens. However, one of the good things about that is that there are plenty of excellent cafés and eateries around. We ate in the lovely café above – spicy lentil soup, sandwiches just oozing fillings, elderflower water and long, tall, milky coffees.  Now, much as I appreciate Canarian cuisine, that’s the sort of snackery I miss!

The famous place to eat is Brysons Tea Rooms, which surprises me by not having a website – despite some bad reviews on Tripadvisor evidently – although considering you always have to queue for a table maybe they aren’t bothered, the service is pretty average too, but the traditional afternoon teas may just be worth it, and the price! There are no complaints that I saw about the food, just the service and the prices.  The service we received in the Wild Strawberry Coffee Shop on the other hand was much pleasanter, even though it was packed, on account of it being market day.

The place in Keswick you must not fail to visit, however, is Friar’s Chocolate Heaven Shop.  I always go and indulge, and my dad sends me regular care packages!  It’s kind of like DisneyWorld for chocoholics!

Even before I’d been to Keswick or the Lake District I used to be fascinated by a picture on my aunt and uncle’s sideboard.  It showed an idyllic country scene with a lake, mountains, bracken and trees on the cusp of Autumn.  It was a photo taken at Friar’s Crag on the shore of Derwent Water, and I ached to go there.  When I made it eventually it wasn’t quite so bucolic as the photo, in the infancy of mass tourism it had been smartened up a bit, but it’s still a nice place to pause and gaze a while. We strolled down to Derwent Water, but the clouds rolled in and it was getting a bit nippy for my dad, so I didn’t get time to snap much. These days it always seems to be winter or autumn when I go, but at least I don’t miss the summer holiday crowds!


Author: IslandMomma

Exploring island life and the freedoms of Third Age: Challenging myself every day: writing, traveling, snapping pix, running & teaching ESL

5 thoughts on “Keswick, Cumbria a Town for all my Seasons

  1. just back from the Lakes and was in both Keswick and Grasmere today. very stormy weather made both quite windsept. Whatever the season the drive from Windermere to Keswick is beautiful and the colours in the winter scenery are more vibrant than in summer.
    having now joined you in the 65 club I have to say so far it seems just the same as the 64 club eh?

    • you are close, the 3rd. and really in my head I’m mostly 18 but with more worldly wisdom and much less likely to be embarassed by just about anything. (just wait – something will happen now I’ve said that)

  2. I read that there were exceptionally high winds in NW England and Scotland yesterday, so you certainly chose a challenging day to go!! I agree about the colors, so long as there is also a decent light, winter photos of the Lakes are much more dramatic.

    I was actually thinking earlier on that it is your birthday day today, no? Hope you’re having a most excellent day IMHO it’s more like the same as, say 44! In my head at least!

  3. Looks like a lovely place to visit. I love that you hitchedhiked with your boyfriend! When Bob and I were headed to our college graduation our car broke down and we had to hitchhike there! The only time I have, but I’ve always thought about what it would be like to travel that way.

    • The English Lake District is lovely throughout. Most international visitors are surprised at its beauty. I’ve heard people say that they prefer it to Switzerland. I’m not sure I agree with that, not sure that I disagree either, mind,but it is tranquil (for the most part – avoid bank holidays if you go!). I am often surprised by how peaceful it can be, even in summertime, still, once you get away from the spots where folk tend to go for “a run out” i.e. walk for 15 minutes in any direction and although these days you may not be alone, you will be with like-minded people at least!

      I tremble at the thought of hitching now! My dad would have killed me if he’d known I’d done it back then in fact! When I first got a car I used to pick up hitchhikers, but of course, you can’t do that these days. Isn’t it sad. When I first moved to the Canary Islands in 1987 it was still widely done, but even here now you don’t see it so often. Shame.

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