As a child, Beatrix Potter spent a number of summers on family holidays in the Borrowdale Valley. She used these holidays to gain inspiration for some of her famous “little books”.
Eden Outdoor Adventures can help you explore this beautiful area, discovering many of the scenes used in Beatrix Potter’s books, as well as having some adventures along the way.
The famous market town of Keswick guards the entrance to the Borrowdale valley. It offers a great place to base yourself with self-catering, camping, YHA, B&B and hotel accommodation. There are a variety of specialist shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs to explore after a day out in the area.
Keswick is at the foot of Derwentwater, considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the Lake District. With fantastic views, islands and secluded bays, the best way to explore this lake is by canoe. Head out and stop off to explore the bays and islands Beatrix Potter used for her book, Squirrel Nutkin. From the lake you also get glimpses of Lingholm and good views of Fawe Park, with its glass houses and walled garden which were her inspiration for Mr McGregor’s garden and Peter Rabbit – these were the houses she stayed at during her long summer holidays.
For the less adventurous you can take the Keswick launch which makes its way round the lake stopping off at various points to allow you to walk along the lakeshore path. Alighting at Nicol End allows you to take a public path behind Fawe Park and Lingholme and it is possible to have a peep through the fence and see a few scenes from Beatrix’ little books.
The view from the lake is dominated by many mountain peaks. On the western shore you will find the shapely peak of Cat Bells. This peak can be climbed by a number of routes. By combining it with a canoe trip or launch ride you can start from the landing stage at Hawes End.
Ascend its north ridge on a mainly good path with some short rocky scrambles along the way. The summit offers 360 degree views of the fells and down on to Derwentwater and over to Bassenthwaite Lake. From the summit continue along the ridge south to the coll known as Hause Gate.
It is possible to descend back down to Derwentwater from here and follow the path along the lake shore to one of the jetties to catch the launch back to Keswick. Or head to the village of Grange for ice cream and cake before catching the open top bus back.
From Hause Gate head west down past the old lead mine workings. If you know where to look you might find the cave entrance featured in Beatrix Potters sketch book. This may of been the inspiration for Mrs Tiggywinkle’s home. As you get down to the valley ahead of you is the hamlet of Little Town. This was the home of the vicar’s daughter called Lucy who is featured in Mrs Tiggywinkle.
Close to Little Town are a number of scenes seen in Mrs Tiggywinkle. In the Newlands Valley is also a fantastic example of mining history. Here you can find examples of Elizabethan and Victorian mining which made this and other parts of Cumbria such an important part of industrial Britain.
A walk back out of this valley takes you to Skelgill and yet another backdrop for Beatrix Potter. From here a short walk takes you back to Hawes End where you could return by canoe or launch back to Keswick.
Keswick and the Borrowdale valley have also been home to other people of interest. Samuel Taylor-Coleridge, Robert Southey, John Ruskin and Canon Rawnsley all spent time in Keswick. A wander along the shore from the launches in Keswick will bring you to the monument celebrating John Ruskin as well taking you to a fantastic view from Friar’s Crag looking out over the lake.
A short drive down the valley will bring you to two of the classic view points in the valley: Ashness Bridge, an old pack horse bridge gives views down on to the lake and across to Skiddaw. “Surprise View” certainly lives up to its name with extensive views down on to the lake, down to Bassenthwaite and across to Cat Bells.
Start in Grange or Rosthwaite and climb to the top of Castle Crag, which might have been an old hill fort. This peak provided walling slate for the valley and evidence of this can be found all over it. It was also the home of Millican Dalton, who called himself the “professor of adventure” and lived in one of the caves in the hill side.
Borrowdale has lots of rock outcrops and one of its most famous is Shepherds Crag. For those looking to rock climb this is a great place to head. If you can find space there is free parking at the farm below the crag. This is also a great place to sit and drink tea and eat home made cake at their cafe, with beautiful views across Derwentwater and the Borrowdale fells. The climbing here is suitable for all abilities and so is justifiably the most popular crag in the valley.
Further down the valley is the peculiar Bowder Stone – a large boulder estimated to weigh 2000 tons and sat on a point. It was a Victorian tourist attraction and it is still worth a visit. See if you can shake hands with a friend through the small gap under the rock or climb the steps to stand on the top.
For those looking to get wet you could tackle one of the areas ghyll scrambles. For families with young children it is possible to ascend up the stream, wade through pools and climb short waterfalls. For those looking for a little more adventure, head down a ghyll, taking advantage of rock slides and pools to jump in off waterfalls.
Whatever your reason for coming to the Borrowdale Valley there is something for everyone. Discover why it was an inspiration for Beatrix Potter and be inspired yourself!