Bassenthwaite Lake is the most northerly of all the major lakes in the Lake District, and at 4 miles long is one of the largest. It is the also the only body of water in the area to include the word lake in its name. Situated just 3 miles north of Keswick, it is fed by and outflows into the River Derwent.
The western shoreline is flanked by the A66, with the village of Dubwath at the northern end and Whinlatter Forest Park to the south. Dodd Wood, Mirehouse and the Ravenstone Hotel are situated on the eastern side of the lake. Trotters World of Animals and the Armathwaite Hall Hotel lie to the north. The tiny village of Bassenthwaite is around 1 mile north east of the lake. Skiddaw, the fourth highest mountain in England, dominates the area.
Whinlatter Forest Park bills itself as England’s only true mountain forest. It was planted shortly after the First World War and is managed by the Forestry Commission. In recent years significant investment has been made to turn the forest into an important area for outdoor recreation.
The forest offers two excellent mountain bike trails; Altura and Quercus. The Altura Trail is almost 12 miles long and is the longest purpose-built mountain bike trail in the Lake District. The single track, red-graded route takes riders to an altitude of 1600 feet above Keswick and offers views of Derwent Water, Bassenthwaite, Helvellyn and Skiddaw as well as offering challenging features such as berms and jumps. Quercus is a shorter, blue-graded route suitable for less experienced riders.
Go Ape is a military-style assault course that takes visitors through the forest via series of rope bridges and zip slides while the WildPlay Trail is an adventure trail for young children featuring a water play area, basket swing, tyre swing and more.
Whinlatter Forest Park is also a great spot for walking and is home to a wealth of wildlife including deer, badgers, and red squirrels. Various routes are available and maps can be obtained from the Whinlatter Visitor Centre. Siskins Café is also here and boasts a pleasant outdoor seating area.
Many visitors to Bassenthwaite are birdwatchers. The big attraction here is the pair of ospreys which arrived here in 2001 and have returned every year since. They usually arrive in late March or early April and leave for Africa in August or September. Two viewpoints offer spectacular views of the ospreys flying to and from their nest and catching fish from the lake. Both are located in Dodd Wood, part of Whinlatter Forest Park but located on the eastern side of the lake.
Parking for Dodd Wood is opposite the entrance to Mirehouse, the magnificent 17th century home of the Spedding family. Throughout the summer the house and gardens are open to the public. The Old Sawmill Tearoom is also here and specialises in freshly prepared Cumbrian dishes.
Trotters World of Animals is a small zoo at Coalbeck Farm, just north of Bassenthwaite Lake. It is home to a range of animals that includes exotic species, birds of prey and reptiles. Handling of the animals is actively encouraged and there are displays and demonstrations held throughout the day.
Hotels and places to stay in and around Bassenthwaite Lake include:
- The Pheasant
- The Castle Inn Hotel
- Ravenstone Manor