Standing on the shores of scenic Derwent Water, the small market town of KESWICK makes a good base for exploring the northern Lake District, particularly delightful Borrowdale to the south of town or the heights of Skiddaw (3053ft) and Blencathra (2847ft), which loom over Keswick to the north.
Granted its market charter by Edward I in 1276 – market day is Saturday – Keswick was an important wool and leather centre until around 1500, when these trades were supplanted by the discovery of local graphite. Keswick became an important pencil-making town, and the entertaining Cumberland Pencil Museum at Greta Bridge (daily 9.30am–5pm; £3; Web: www.pencilmuseum.co.uk ) tells the story.
Keswick's most mysterious landmark is Castlerigg Stone Circle, where 38 hunks of volcanic stone, the largest almost eight feet tall, form a circle a hundred feet in diameter, set against a magnificent mountain backdrop.
There's a fair amount going on in Keswick throughout the year, including the jazz festival and mountain festival (Web: www.keswickmountainfestival.co.uk ), both in May; beer festival in June; and the traditional Keswick Agricultural Show on August bank holiday. The Theatre by the Lake on Lake Road (Tel:017687/74411, Web: www.theatrebythelake.com ) hosts drama, concerts and exhibitions, as well as a renowned annual literature festival, Words By The Water in March (Web: www.wayswithwords.co.uk ).