SANDY KITCHING explores the western Lake District, a place of drama and contrasts, where the iconic Herwick sheep appear to effortlessly defy the laws of gravity as they cling to the hillside.

This region offers magnificent mountain climbing and a rugged landscape where awesome waterfalls tumble down the steep fellside, as they have done for centuries.


Lying in close proximity to an impressive array of mountains, including the Langdales, Keswick is one of Cumbria's proactive Fair Trade Towns. It has plenty of mountain and outdoors shops, and it’s mecca for contemporary art with its many modern art and craft galleries.

There is no more beautiful setting for an arts and cultural venue than beside Derwent Water, and Theatre by the Lake in Keswick does not disappoint. With a reputation for staging nationally acclaimed theatre productions and concerts, the varied programme includes opera, comedy, music and wonderful festivals (

Derwent Water is only a short stroll from the town centre, from where you can hire a rowing or motor boat or take a trip on a lake cruiser. Walk a little further and you will find Friar's Crag, which offers tremendous views across the water to Borrowdale.

At Derwent Water Marina you can join in taster sessions in sailing and windsurfing or prepare to get wet canoeing, kayaking, ghyll scrambling and rock climbing (

Black lead mined at Borrowdale gave rise to the Cumberland Pencil Company, which is also a popular attraction in Keswick. With workshops in creative crafts from animation, cartoons and illustrations to model making, there is something for all the family to get creative on those wetter summer days (

At the nearby Lake District Wildlife Park you can watch Grants zebras roaming the fells and Lars gibbons swinging through the trees! Wander around the 24 acre parkland and you can see an eclectic mix of over 100 species. The magical Bird of Prey flying displays have been a regular feature since the park opened and are popular will all ages, who enjoy getting up close and personal to the birds (


Mirehouse historic house offers woodland walks down to the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake. The rooms contain collections relating to the Spedding family’s many literary links to Francis Bacon, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Southey, Thomas Carlyle and John Constable. Enjoy the tranquility of the gardens that offer stunning views of the dramatic Lakeland landscape and you may even catch sight of the red squirrels that have made a come-back to the area. And when you need a rest, the Old Sawmill tearoom is always popular (

The south end of Bassenthwaite Lake is an important conservation area, home for parts of the year to a wide range of birds. Most famously, Ospreys have returned to nest in this valley at Dodd Wood, and this year they have hatched three chicks. You can follow the fortunes of the nesting ospreys and watch the antics of this season’s chicks before you visit at:


Above Keswick is the 4,000 year old Castlerigg stone circle from where you have a 360 degree views of Blencathra, Skiddaw and Helvellyn.

A rickety ladder allows you to climb to the top of the 2000 ton Bowder Stone. Some 30 feet high, fifty feet across and ninety feet in circumference the stone sits in a state of delicate defying balance. Most visitors assume it had topple down from the mountain side, but it is not a local rock. It was most likely carried here from Scotland by the glaciers of the Ice Age.

The Buttermere valley is the only valley that boasts three waters - Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater. Take a scenic drive along the Newlands path to see Ashness bridge, which is one of the most photographed and painted places in the Lake District.


Since Roman times, and earlier, the confluence of the rivers Derwent and Cocker have presented Cockemouth with its valuable source of energy that served to power numerous successions of mills during the Industrial Revolution.

Cockermouth has lots of independent retailers, antiques shops and art galleries. At Kirkgate, with its cobbled streets, you’ll discover some of the oldest properties in town and the old centre is full of ancient stone town houses, cottages and terraces, with a mix of medieval, Georgian and Victorian facades.

No visit to Cockemouth is complete without stopping at the National Trust property, Wordsworth House. Families of all ages can participate in hands-on activities and costumed living history. The rooms are imaginatively presented as they would have been in the 1770s, when it was the childhood home of William Wordsworth. There’s a working 18th-century kitchen where you can sample food made to traditional recipes (

Jennings Brewery is situated at the point where the rivers Cocker and Derwent merge. Pure Lakeland water is still drawn from the brewery’s own well, and only the finest natural ingredients are added to their traditional beers. You can find out more, and do some tasting on one of the informative Brewery tours (


This Georgian naval port was once heavily linked to trade with the USA, exporting coal from the nearby mines whilst importing rum and slaves. In spite of its dubious past Whitehaven today is a charming coastal town. Sitting on the harbourside the Beacon heritage attraction has a viewing gallery out to sea and a weather station (


Ravenglass is a delightful coastal hamlet, which served as an important naval base for the Romans in the 2nd century. The narrow gauge railway line has been preserved as the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, or ‘La’al Ratty’ as it affectionately known (

Muncaster Castle, with its imposing facade and splendid gardens offers a great day out for all the family (

Not for the faint hearted, the Via Ferrata at Honister has you suspended from a series of metal cables, rungs, ladders and bridges to ascend and descend over the precipitous mountain scenery. The activity gives participants the sensation of ascending into spaces where eagles fly (


Maryport is a delightfully unspoilt fishing village with a small harbour offering views out to the Solway coast.

Evidence of Roman occupation can be seen at the Senhouse Roman Museum, which displays the largest group of Roman military altar stones and inscriptions from any site in Britain (

Families will enjoy observing the marine life of the Irish Sea and a huge variety of invertebrates including starfish, shrimps and lobsters at the Lake Coast Aquarium by Maryport harbour (