Keswick – Latrigg – Old Railway Line round
Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.
The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District. It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.
Keswick is a market town in the Lake District in the county of Cumbria and lies within the Lake District National Park. Derwent Water is about 3 miles long by 1 mile wide and sits on the south edge of Keswick town and is fed and drained by the River Derwent. The river also connects Derwent Water to Bassenthwaite Lake which is north of Keswick. There are several islands in Derwent Water the largest being Derwent Island on which stands the inhabited 18th century Derwent Island House. The house is a tenanted National Trust property open to the public on five days each year. Lords Island was also home to a grand looking house and a drawbridge but in the late 18th century the house fell into disrepair and only the foundations remain now. The stone from the house was used to build Moot Hall in 1813. Moot Hall in the centre of Keswick was once the town hall but is now a tourist information centre and it is here in the square where the market is held every Saturday. During the 16th century Keswick was home to copper and lead mining on a small scale and the town was also the source of the world’s first graphite pencils. The pencil industry continued in the town until 2008 when it then moved to Workington. The Cumberland Pencil Museum and the Mining Museum are both close to the centre and are excellent places to visit on rainy days. Keswick is now mainly tourist orientated due to the many thousands of tourists visiting every year and the majority of side streets are abundant with B&B’s.
Latrigg at 368m (1207ft) is one of the lowest fells in the Lake District but very popular due to its location overlooking Keswick and its views down the valley of Borrowdale from the summit. The southern slopes of Latrigg are partially wooded but one prominent lone tree just to the south of the summit can be seen in silhouette when approaching Keswick from the west on the A66. The stumps at the top of the southern slope are evidence of deforestation and along with the summit has now become sheep pasture. Skiddaw is Latrigg’s parent peak which rises northwards to 931 metres. The car park at the end of Gale Road is mostly used as the starting point for the ascent of Skiddaw but a recently constructed path from the car park allows disabled access to the summit of Latrigg.
The Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway line which opened on 2nd January 1865 was 31½ miles long and had eight intermediate stations. The 18 miles of the line between Penrith and Keswick included 78 bridges. The line full closed in June 1972 and now many sections of the route have been made into a cycle and walking route. The Keswick Railway Footpath between Keswick and Threlkeld was created by the Lake District National Park Authority. The 3 mile scenic route through the Greta Gorge from Keswick Station to Threlkeld Station has a series of eight impressive bridges crossing over the River Greta. It is well maintained and mostly level apart from a short stretch underneath the A66 viaduct where the line used to go through a tunnel and there are information plaques at various points along the route. It is an easy trail through lovely countryside and combined with a wide variety of natural and man-made features it makes an attractive and stimulating walk with something of interest for everyone.
The caterpillars we found on a tree near the old railway line develop into Ermine Moths. The moths lay their eggs on plants, shrubs and trees that their caterpillars can feed on when they hatch. Thousands of caterpillars then weave a thick white silk web over the entire plants, shrubs and trees and also over themselves for protection from predators and parasites. The caterpillars then gorge themselves on the plants and trees under their cocoon before pupating into moths. There are many species of Ermine Moths most of them in the tropics.
From the Leisure Centre car park we walk forwards to the small roundabout and turn left up Brundholme Road. At the junction on the brow we turn right and almost immediately left to take the path following the road with the field on our right. When we reach the road (Briar Rigg) we turn right and walk on the pavement. Just past the post box we turn right onto the Cumbria Way sign posted Public Bridle Way Skiddaw 4 miles. We cross over the A66 via the bridge and keep heading forwards following the track uphill through a gate, past an information board and into the trees. We eventually cross a stream and through a gate and bear right past another information board. When we reach the signpost, Public Footpath Latrigg Summit ¾ mile, we turn right going back on ourselves. We follow the track zigzagging uphill until we arrive at a seat. The views of Keswick, Derwent Water and into the Borrowdale valley are amazing. We turn left still going uphill to the top and then head downhill through a gate and keep heading downhill bearing slightly left towards the trees and a fence. We turn right along the track following the fence on our left and then head downhill on a track between some trees and bushes until we come to a gate. We go through the gate and turn left through a gateway and follow the tarmac track going through another gateway and past a house on the right. We just keep following the track down to the bottom then turn right through a gate and make our way to the old railway line. At the railway line there is an information hut we turn right and follow the old line which is a cycle and walking route alongside the River Greta. We cross over three bridges over the river then through an archway under the road and keep heading forwards to a wall and a picnic table and then follow the walkway to the right. We go under the A66 and then through another archway under the road. We head forwards to cross over the road and river bridge and keep heading forwards passing the old railway station back to the car park.
This is a moderate walk on good well walked paths and tracks with steep inclines to Latrigg but a steady decline to the old railway line.
Elevation: Approx lowest point 89.80m (294.62ft) approx highest point 366.70m (1203.08ft).
Approx 5.7 miles allow 2½ – 3 hours using OS Explorer Map OL4, The English Lakes North – Western area.
Start Point: Car park at the Leisure Centre.
Keswick is in the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 take the A591 sign posted Keswick then at the t-junction turn right onto the A5271 which will take you into the centre of Keswick.
Parking: There are six pay and display car parks, the car park at the Leisure Centre (soon to become a pay and display) and some free back street parking.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets at the Leisure Centre and in the car park at the back of the Market Place near the centre of Keswick and also at the Theatre by the Lake. For refreshments there are ample shops, bakeries, cafes, take-away and pubs to choose from in Keswick1.