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Bassenthwaite Lake, a finger of water lying tranquilly under the lofty bulk of Skiddaw, is indelibly linked with the spectacular sight of ospreys swooping over the lake and diving for fish in its waters. This national nature reserve, fringed with a mosaic of reed beds, fen marshland, woodlands and wild flower meadows, is rich in wildlife. A new lottery-funded scheme, Bassenthwaite Reflections, is helping to protect the lake’s vulnerable plant and animal life through community involvement.

The peaceful village of Bassenthwaite, centred on its old inn, nestles in a quiet valley at the north end of the lake. To the south is Mirehouse, an 18th century house and garden with literary links to Tennyson, Coleridge and Wordsworth.

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Things to do

Adventure & Outdoor Activities

And so the adventure begins. Add some thrills to your holiday by fully experiencing everything Cumbria has to offer. Walk, run, climb, swim, get muddy, have fun!

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What's on

 June 2020>
There are a variety of different events happening at Bassenthwaite and the surrounding towns including the Keswick Mountain Festival & the fascinating Blencathra:Life of a mountain.

Click the button below to see what's on during your stay.

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Surrounding Areas

Cycling Whinlatter
Keswick Town

Culture and Heritage

Bassenthwaite lake
The earliest known settlement is at Castle How – an Iron Age hill fort on the western shore of Bassenthwaite Lake.

Christianity arrived early in this area. Saint Kentigern is believed to have preached at Crosthwaite (east of Keswick) in AD 556 and, less than a hundred years later, Saint Bega may have founded the church that bears her name on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake (although the present church only dates to c. 950 AD).

The village of Bassenthwaite is probably named after the Viking family who settled here after clearing the land of its tree cover. After the Norman Conquest, the Manor of Bassenthwaite became part of the barony of Allerdale administered by the Earls of Egremont. The local inhabitants made a living from farming, fishing, some mining, spinning yarn and weaving cloth. The area was known for the production of a rough-spun, undyed cloth known as ‘Skiddaw Grey’, woven from the fleeces of Herdwick sheep. Over time the processes of cloth production were mechanised in mills – the main one being at Millbeck on the flanks of Skiddaw, where an industrial woollen mill produced large quantities of caps, blankets and flannels for export to slave plantations in the Americas.

Nearby Mirehouse has been owned by the Spedding family since 1802. During the early 19th century, the house became a literary centre for notable poets and writers of the age, including William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas Carlyle. Alfred Tennyson stayed here in 1835 and composed the lines on Excalibur for Morte d’Arthur whilst sitting on the lakeshore.

The arrival of the railway between Penrith and Cockermouth in 1864 heralded the growth of tourism to the area. Victorians came in their droves to admire the wild scenery around Keswick and Bassenthwaite, which had been poetically described by Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets. It was during this era that many hotels and guesthouses were built to accommodate the new visitors.

Glacial waters

The glacial waters of Bassenthwaite and Derwentwater were once joined together as one long lake until river-borne deposits from the rivers Derwent, Greta and Pow Beck silted up the central section to form two separate bodies of water. Both lakes are the shallowest in the Lake District, with an average depth of only 5.5 m (18 ft).

The Bishop of Barf

In 1783 the newly appointed Bishop of Derry was on his way to Whitehaven to take a boat to Ireland. He stopped for the night at an inn beside Bassenthwaite Lake and, after consuming several drinks, wagered that he could ride his pony to the top of Barf, a nearby hill. Halfway up the pony stumbled at a large rock and fell, killing both horse and rider. The large rock (known as Bishop Rock) is painted white in remembrance of this futile act, while at the foot of the slope is another white-painted rock known as The Clerk where the bishop and his pony were buried.

Celtic swords

In the early 1800s, one of the finest Celtic swords ever found in Britain was discovered in a field near Wythop Mill. The sword and its highly decorated sheath are now on display in the British Museum.

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