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Scenic Lake District Drive : Keswick - Buttermere - Keswick

Scenic Lake District Drive

We love road trips - miles and miles of beautiful natural landscapes with small and picturesque villages intermittently dotting the route. Two scenic drives (from the recent past) that we enjoyed a lot were the Grossglockner Alpine road and driving in the Azores. Closer home, the Lake District is stunning. Wherever you go, you will be greeted with breathtaking scenery. The mountains (fells), forests, valleys, and the numerous lakes make for a stunning landscape. And the best way to savour all of this is by driving through the Lake District. If you want to see the best of the Lake District, a self-drive road journey is the best way to do it. While there are a number of beautiful driving routes, connecting the main lakes and towns within the Lake District, one of our favourites is the Keswick-Buttermere-Keswick route which is around 30-35 miles depending on the route and the diversions you take.

The route that we took was Keswick - Surprise View - Watendlath - Borrowdale - Honister Pass - Buttermere - Whinlatter Forest/Pass - Braithwaite - Keswick.

Keswick


Our journey began from Keswick, a beautiful market town located just north of Derwentwater. Derwentwater is one of the main water bodies in the Lake District and is very scenic. It is surrounded by hills and there are a number of lakeside marinas from where you can hire boats. There are also a number of footpaths in the wooded areas and hills surrounding the lakes. We decided to explore the area around the lake at the end of the drive as our finishing point was going to be Keswick.

Keswick's popular attractions include the Theatre by the Lake (a purpose-built, 400 seat theatre), the town market, St Johns Church and Keswick Museum & Art Gallery. Outdoor activities like walking, water sports and paragliding are also quite popular.

Ashness Bridge


Our first stop was Ashness Bridge. There is a National Trust car park nearby and having parked our car there, we walked back to the bridge. The view down to Derwentwater from the bridge is stunning. It is one of the most photographed and finest views in the Lakes and you must have seen it featured in calendars and magazines or referenced to in poems. We loved it. It was so tranquil and peaceful. With such gorgeous views right at the start of our road journey, we knew this was going to be a wonderful drive.

Ashness Bridge - Lake District

Ashness Bridge - Lake District

Surprise View


And the next stop confirmed it. Around 10 minutes drive (on a steep, narrow road with cars coming down from the opposite direction) from Ashness Bridge is Surprise View. There is a National Trust operated car park here as well. And after parking, we set out to explore the area. What a wonderful viewing point Surprise View turned out to be. Outstanding views of Derwentwater! Truly breathtaking! The weather was good and there were benches to sit down and take in the views. If you visit on a clear day, you will not be disappointed. Just be careful, especially if you are travelling with kids, as there are no barriers on the cliff edge.

Surprise View - Lake District

Surprise View - Lake District

Surprise View - Lake District

Surprise View - Lake District

Watendlath


From Surprise View, we headed to Watendlath which is a little hamlet owned and managed by the National Trust. There are a few farm buildings, parking facilities and a small tea room at Watendlath. The setting is rugged and stunning. Similar to the stone bridge at Ashness, there is beautiful packhorse bridge at Watendlath. And there are some lovely walks around Watendlath. A beautiful place to enjoy nature and get some fresh air!

Watendlath - Lake District

Watendlath - Lake District

Watendlath - Lake District

Watendlath - Lake District

Watendlath - Lake District

Watendlath - Lake District

Watendlath - Lake District

From Watendlath, we drove back the way we arrived and rejoined the B5289 heading towards Borrowdale. En-route there was a short stop in the beautiful village of Grange, crossing an ancient (built in 1675), narrow, double-arched bridge. There is a little cafe overlooking the river which serves lovely homemade food. After the quick pit stop, we continued on our journey driving through Rosthwaite, Borrowdale, finally entering Honister Pass. As you drive along, the scenery begins to change and you will find yourself surrounded by mountains on both sides.

Honister Pass / Honister Slate Mine


Honister Pass is possibly one of the most well-known and beautiful of mountain passes in the Lake District. It is narrow, perilously steep in some sections (25% gradient) and is one of Cumbria’s highest mountain passes. And what a spectacular drive it was! Amazing landscapes and so many photo opportunities. Hills on both sides, stunning scenery all along, sheep grazing on the hills, some scary bends but nothing that we couldn't manage. It was a real treat. It was one of our best scenic driving experiences in the UK. If you visiting the Lakes, this drive is not to be missed.

Honister Pass - Lake District

Honister Pass - Lake District

Honister Pass - Lake District

Honister Pass - Lake District

Honister Pass - Lake District

Honister Pass - Lake District

Honister Pass - Lake District

In addition to the scenic drive, another highlight of this section was the Honister Slate Mine. It is the last working slate mine in England and is home to the iconic Westmoorland slate which is a striking green colour. Guided tours of the mine are offered and there are also some adventure activities for adrenaline junkies. There is a small cafe on site which was nice - plenty of seating & good food.

Buttermere


After spending some time at Honister Slate Mine, we started the descent towards Buttermere. Again some sections of the pass were narrow and steep but offered impressive views. Once we reached Gatesgarth, the road though narrow was more or less levelled. There are a number of free laybys along the route. We continued until we reached the shores of Buttermere.

Buttermere is located in a picture-postcard location. There is a footpath running around the perimeter of the lake and it would take roughly two and a half to three hours to get around depending on your walking speed and how many photo stops you take. The path is relatively easy and makes for a pleasant family stroll. It is much quieter and peaceful than most other lakes in the region and we liked that aspect. Beautiful scenery, wonderful setting!

Buttermere - Lake District

Buttermere - Lake District

There is a National Trust car park in Buttermere village in addition to a Pay and Display near the Fish Hotel. There are no toilet facilities near the lake but you will find them in the village.

Crummock Water


From Buttermere, we continued to Crummock Water. It is not as popular as Buttermere but it is stunning nonetheless and one of the quieter lakes like Buttermere. The scenery is beautiful and we liked the quietness and solitude. Parking is available near the access to Rannerdale.

Crummock Water

Whilatter Pass


From Crummock Water, we continued our journey on the B5289 heading towards Lorton village from where we turned towards Keswick. The route took us through the Whinlatter Pass - beautiful but not as stunning as the Honister Pass, in my opinion. At the top of the pass is the Whilatter Forest Visitor centre where one can hire mountain bikes to explore the surrounding areas. There are many paths for walkers as well. We continued our drive to Keswick arriving back at the central car park in Keswick. A short pit stop and we headed back to Macdonald Leeming House, our holiday base in Ullswater.

The Keswick-Buttermere-Keswick route offers spectacular Lakeland scenery. Driving through the narrow mountain roads with plenty of sights to see along the way, it was a fun drive. Highly recommended if you are planning to drive in the Lake District.

18 comments:

  1. Ooh this drive sounds absolutely delightful, especially as part of a larger road trip! I can't believe I haven't heard of any of these places (with the exception of the Lake District). The views are insanely gorgeous - especially Surprise View (an apt name haha).

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    1. The views are stunning all through the route and yes, the Surprise View is aptly named :)

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  2. I absolutely love going on scenic road trips. I've never heard of this area and the drive through Honister Pass looks spectacular. I really enjoy driving through mountain passes.

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    1. Honister Pass is truly stunning! There is another pass, the Kirkstone Pass which was also very stunning. Will be sharing pics soon.

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  3. This looks like such a peaceful road trip! And magical - I just absolutely love that stone bridge at Watendlath!!!

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  4. What a beautiful drive and at 35 miles, a totally manageable day trip. I would love to see this area in the spring and summer time. I bet it is so green and beautiful. I'm not sure if I will get to England soon, at least not to the countryside. But, I would love to see this part of England.

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    1. It is a very beautiful part of England. Yes, it would be lovely and much greener in Spring/Summer although I personally that it is an area that looks beautiful in all seasons.

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  5. The Lake District is awesome at any time of year. I love the statues at the Honister Slate Mine. They are cute!

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  6. Whoa! That is a beautiful place indeed. My partner and I would love to hike here. :) Is camping allowed somewhere there?

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    1. Yes, you can go camping. There are a wide range of campsites - from the ones that offer just the basics to those that offer a little more luxury to very remote ones. You can check the Lake District National Park website for list of camps.

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  7. Wow what a beautiful part of the UK! I also enjoy road trips, and seem to do them everywhere else, aside from the UK! The Surprise View is truly a wonderful surprise, and all your photos show off the remote beauty of this part of the UK. I'll be sure to remember this if we ever do a road trip.

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    1. For lovers of road trips, this will be a lot of fun. There are many vantage viewing points and the scenery is stunning.

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  8. I have heard of the Lake District but had no idea it is so beautiful! If I ever visit England again I will try to take some time for this scenic road trip.

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    1. It's very beautiful. It is England's largest National Park with lakes, forests and mountains and stunning beauty all around.

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  9. I love a good road trip and the Lake District is perfect for that, so beautiful! The views are simply magical and visiting the last working slate mine in England must be really interesting. Oh, and then that Surprise View...the name says it all!!

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  10. I hear about The Lake District all the time but actually have little clue where it is despite living in England for so many years (shame on me haha). It looks so rustic and peaceful. Thanks for the informative piece.

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  11. The Lake District is such a beautiful part of the UK isn't it! I stayed in Gosforth when I visited last summer - and even though the weather wasn't amazing, we still had a great time (and managed to get some beautiful photos) x

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  12. Wow, who knew the Lake District had such diversity?! This has been added to my bucket list for the next time I get back to the UK! Thanks for sharing?!

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