This is a fabulous walk around Bassenthwaite Lake, not least because it takes in a good pub halfway round!
We park near St Bega’s church which is a lovely little church, built on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake over 900 years ago. To get to St Bega’s, follow the A591 from Keswick (where you will find several Keswick cottages) towards Bassenthwaite. Carry on for about 4 miles and then turn left down a small single tracked road (signed Bassenthwaite Lake & Scarness). The parking for St Bega’s is just down here and then you will need to walk across a couple of fields and an avenue of ancient oaks to get to the church itself.
After checking out the church, where you’ll find Melvyn Bragg is a patron in recognition of his book ‘Credo’, retrace your steps back along the oak avenue until it starts to go uphill and then turn left across the pasture to a wood which is accessed via a stile. This wood is beautiful in Spring with primroses and bluebells. It’s a small wood, and once through, you cross another field and then into another wood beyond. The badger sets here are massive. In fact, my dog once had several hours of playtime underground checking out what was what.
Once through the second wood, go straight across two fields towards the large ash tree and through the kissing gate. Cross the farm track and into the field opposite. Head for the other side, towards the right hand corner (this is right of the woods) and there you will find a stile which accesses the small road just further down from where you originally parked.
Turn left and follow the road for about 200 yards. Take the public footpath which is signed to your left, down some wooden steps just before the bridge. If you’re lucky you might meet a horse in the field behind the fence here which is very friendly.
The path follows a little beck and there is an abundance of wildflowers depending on the time of year. You’ll cross a little bridge and eventually come to a gate which is some way left of the farm itself. This part of the walk is liable to be wet, so do wear strong shoes or boots. Go through the gate and then turn left towards Bassenthwaite Lake. This lovely stretch of water has a resident pair of swans all year, magnificent lily-pads in summer, and a variety of birds.
You then follow the lakeshore for about a mile and a half. It’s very pleasant and quiet, being away from the usual crowds in the more central lakes. If there has been a lot of rain, you may bless those stout shoes. If it is sunny, then take a towel and have a swim!
You will eventually come to some wooden lodges built on the shoreside. Before these is a landing stage. You’ll need to cross the strip of land with the ‘slipway’ and then through the gate at the far side. This brings you to a strip of woodland. Turn right up here keeping the wooden lodges to your left.
Now it depends on whether you want more footpaths or whether you want to get to the pub. I tend to lean towards the latter and so when you get to the end of the footpath (by the entrance drive to Bassenthwaite Lodges), I turn right along the road and then first left down another single track road – signed Bassenthwaite, helpfully. There are not many cars here and it is lovely with the hedgerows starting to bloom in the springtime.
After about a mile, you will reach the A591 again, go straight across the road here and follow the road opposite up to Bassenthwaite village itself. When you get to the village green, turn right through an avenue of lime trees and then follow the road past a small farm and the Sun Inn is just round the corner.
It is a lovely pub and serves good food and fine ales. It does get busy during the school holidays so you may need to book, the number is 017687 76439. It was originally built as a farmhouse in the 16th Century and has oak beams, squeaking floors and low ceilings. Dogs are also welcome at the pub and tend to love the open fires.
After you have been in a nice warm pub and consumed vast quantities of ale, pie and chips (or whatever else may have taken your fancy) you will either be feeling relaxed and sleepy or eager and ready to go. If it is the former, I would suggest retracing your route back to St Bega’s church as this is a flat walk. However, if you fancy working off some of those calories, then you can get back to the car via the lower slopes of Ullock Pike.
To do this, go back to the village green and then cut up left at the start of the green, (Back Green) towards Green Cottage and then left again past a few other cottages. At the end of the lane go through the gate, where the path is signed to Burthwaite, and walk to the opposite side of the field. Underneath the tall tree is another stile to go over and then you need to head towards the telegraph pole and the farm ahead. Before the farm, by the pole is a narrow gate on your right. Go through it, over the grass and to the single track road. On the road, turn left, go past the farm and carry on until you reach a wooded area on your right. Go over the stile beside a gate with a footpath sign and into the woods.
Opposite you is a small bridge over the river, go over this and up the hill beyond it. Then go left and follow the edge of the field to another gate. Cross the narrow road and head up the farm track directly opposite, signed ‘Hole House’. Here’s a fine view of Skiddaw directly in front of you. Follow the track past the front of Hole House, down before the barn, then right before the track goes down to the stream, up a path marked ‘Bridleway’. Follow this path up through an oak wood, keeping the fence on your right, to the gate at the top.
Through this, turn right onto another farm track, and walk 50 yards up to the farm. Over the stile, take the left hand track opposite the farm and follow it upwards keeping a fence and a line of larches on your left. When the track bears left through a gate, abandon it and instead turn 90 degrees right and head up through the saddle with ancient hawthorn trees on your right. As you breast the saddle in 100 yards a breath-taking view of Bassenthwaite Lake appears, along with a ladder stile and a gate. DON’T GO THROUGH OR OVER! Instead, turn hard left up a grassy track back towards Skiddaw. Follow this till you reach a gate and stile out onto the open fell.
Go through, then turn immediately right and follow the wall (on your right) up onto the brow of the hill above you. Say hello nicely to this wall, it will be on your right for the next mile or so. As you crest the hill fabulous views open up of Bassenthwaite Lake, Lord’s Seat, and off to the Cumbrian coast. Also, well off to the right, the wind farm at Bothel. If you’re not that attached to the wall, you can allow yourself to drift up the hill and follow any of the sheep tracks that contour round the end of the hill, or you can stick rigidly to your new friend. On the right day, you may well find paragliders taking off above you and soaring along Ullock Pike.
At the end of whatever path you’ve chosen you will come to the main footpath leading down, and you should make sure you’re back with your wall by the time it ends and becomes a fence surrounding a new plantation, and starts to descend rapidly. The path goes through a gate and into a mixed woodland via zig-zags that cross a forest track in 15 yards. Steeply down through another gate/stile right down to the A591.
Turn right and up through the grounds of the Ravenstone Hotel on their drive. Afternoon tea on their terrace is very inviting, if you’ve shaken down lunch. At the end of their drive you need to cross the A591 and pick up the path directly opposite, signed St Bega’s church, by the bus stop. It leads off down and left, over a stile/gate, past three magnificent Douglas Firs into the field below Ravenstone Lodge. Aim for the kissing gate, and through it across the obvious path towards the copse. Over the stile, through the copse, and onto Kissing Gate Alley. There are four in 300 yards, so make sure you’re directly behind someone you fancy! The last one leads straight to your car. There are several Lake District cottages which are in the area of Bassenthwaite which make a great base to explore this part of the Lake District.