John Traynor has a wealth of knowledge about all things outdoor, he's a contributor to our magazine website and an experienced tent camper.
For many years, it was the lure of the high fells, ridges and summits that drew me to the Lake District. Over time, my curiosity led me to explore the lakes and valleys. Soon, the towns and villages became firm friends rather than just convenient places to park.
Of all the wonderful communities, it’s the market town of Keswick
that has me in its thrall. Though at the northern end, it still feels at the heart of the Lakes. Busy, bustling, noisy, it should be a place to avoid but I’ve come to love it and its many faces. I’ve never seen myself as a ‘townie’, but it’s impossible really to dodge the label as the shops, pubs, cafes and attractions are so familiar.
For me, the Club Site
is one of the finest in the country. Not only for its superb context of hills and lake but also because it’s only a few minutes’ walk to the centre of Keswick and a great supermarket. It’s an ideal base for a thorough exploration of the Lake District over a couple of weeks – at least.
Unlike other Lakeland venues, I’ve always felt that its outdoor shops have a different character. There’s no shouting about discounts, deals and ‘Buy it now’. Rather, in George Fisher
, Rathbones and Needle Sports, to name but three, there’s a quiet sense of confidence and camaraderie that draws me time and again.
For other reasons, the Oxfam and Barnardo’s charity shops are a regular haunt with plenty of outdoor-related bargains. My top prize was a perfectly serviceable Vaude daysack with years and years of life left in it for under a tenner. Unlike so many UK towns, Keswick isn’t plagued with charity shops but has a wide selection of independent stores to explore.
When exploring from the town, there are two top walks to enjoy – the Derwentwater circuit
and the summit of Catbells
, where the ‘steamer’ can ferry you at start and/or finish. For walks further afield, the bus station is just a stone’s throw from the site but buses fill up fast each morning in high season and most weekends.
After rambling the length of the town, renting a rowing boat on a summer day is great fun and good exercise. By contrast, a modest motorboat can feel like a powerboat as you bimble about. At the Theatre by the Lake
, I’ve enjoyed hearing about the outdoor adventures of such luminaries as Sir Chris Bonington.
On the way back from the lake, it’s rare that the Dog and Gun pub
doesn’t exert its magnetic powers. Sitting outside, virtually in the street, is a proper taste of Keswick café culture. Tucked away at the top Fishers is the Abraham’s café where a bowl of soup and chunk of bread will set you up for life.
The annual Keswick Mountain Festival
is a fascinating combination of competitive outdoor events, exhibitors, music and a programme of talks. Even if you don’t take part, it’s fun to people-watch. Fjallraven, main sponsor of the 2020 Keswick Mountain Festival, has introduced the Walla Crag Family Hike Challenge. Ideal for families and walkers of all ages, it will also include a variety of fun scavenger-hunt style activities to add even more fun to the event.
As yet, I’ve managed to dodge visiting the world-famous Pencil Museum and hold the world record (probably
) for the longest time a slab of Kendal Mint Cake has been carried in a rucksack – ‘in case of emergency’. I’m amazed that Keswick hasn’t come up with a rival, healthy confection – Keswick Krumble, perhaps?