Derwentwater, ENG
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Derwentwater, England, United Kingdom

Also known as: Derwent Water, Derwentwater Lake, The Lake District

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Map: Derwentwater, England, United Kingdom

Cumbria, in northwest England, is home to Lake District National Park, established in 1951. All of the land in England that exceeds an elevation of 3,000 feet (914.4 meters) can be found in this national park, which is the country's largest. Derwentwater, also sometimes called Derwent Water or Derwentwater Lake, is the third largest lake in England's Lake District. This natural freshwater lake may not be the biggest, but it's the widest of the district lakes and some claim that its natural beauty is second to none. Windermere is the biggest Lake District body of water, but Derwentwater is 30 percent wider; and Derwentwater is twice as wide as Ullswater.

Mountains cradle Derwentwater on three sides: to the north are the Skiddaw mountains, to the west are the Newlands and to the south are the Borrowdales. Derwentwater has a shoreline length of 9.6 miles (15.4 kilometers) and is surrounded by forested hillsides. It has a surface area of 1,285 acres (5.2 square kilometers) and rests at an elevation of 245 feet (74.6 meters) above sea level. Derwentwater has been designated a Site of Scientific Interest in the United Kingdom. Its lands and waters are afforded protection due to the unique habitats that exist in the area. Four species of the fish known as vendace were once known and populous; only one species remains, according to scientists, and the only natural habitat of that single species is Derwentwater. Wetlands close to the lake are home to sandpipers and other water birds; the red squirrel is also present in the area.

The River Derwent feeds Derwentwater from the south and exits at its northwest corner. The lake's largest marina is located at the northwestern foot. To the west is Crummock Water, to the southwest is Buttermere, to the east is Ullswater and to the north is Bassenthwaite Lake; Derwentwater is centrally located in this northern Lake District area. Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake may seem to be located fairly far apart when viewed on a map, but they are essentially one large lake that is divided in two by the presence of a low-level alluvial plain. The two lakes seem quite distinct--until the occasional flood connects them into their true identity of one body of water.

On the northeastern side of Derwentwater, situated about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from lakeside, is the area's hub of tourism and activity. The town of Keswick is filled with restaurants that serve regional fare, as well as specialty establishments that feature Italian, Thai, Mexican, Chinese and Mediterranean foods. Coffee bars and tearooms are popular, as are bakeries, delis and other take-out food shops for those who enjoy light meals lakeside or plan to picnic during their stay. Shops and boutiques feature locally made arts, crafts, and clothing. There is a great choice of cultural activity as well, with parks, museums, theatres and other opportunities for recreation and entertainment. For those who are interested in this particular pop culture phenomenon, the Bond Museum is a beloved attraction. This shrine to Ian Fleming's famous fictional English spy, James Bond, displays props from many of the most famous and well-loved movies, which are based on Fleming's books and stories. Movies on view are part of this museum's draw, as are the displays of the unique vehicles that were created specifically for Bond films.

Two parks in Keswick are of note: Hope Park is a serene location that features manicured lawns to promote golf activities on site. The well-kept blooming flower gardens are beautiful in their own right, but they become more meaningful when it's known that they were once the personal gardens of the former owners, the Hopes, who entrusted the park to Keswick in 1974. Fife Park is a more activity-based gathering spot. It is located a short walk from downtown Keswick and is considered to be one of the most popular urban parks. Much of the park lies on the Derwent River, but the 28-plus acres allow many forms of recreation to happen there. From bowling and tennis and cricket to the new children's play area that just debuted in 2010, there are formal games areas in the upper part of the park and more wide-open play spaces in the lower areas. On the grounds are an art galley and museum, built during the Victorian era. These are functional and being maintained to showcase the park's history. Renovations are underway, and additional greening is planned through tree-planting efforts.

The area around Derwentwater is a favorite for sports-minded travelers. Recreational walking is very popular here and can accommodate most anyone interested in a trek--from short level-terrain walks to challenging mountain climbs. Trails exist in a large network, and they meander from lakeside to deciduous forest to hilly summit and back again. Cats Bells is a challenging climb to the west of Keswick; Walla Crag is 4.5-mile (7.2-kilometer) walk that moves through many elevations but can be done by most generally fit travelers.

Water sports are always an attraction for lakes this lovely. Derwentwater, at 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) long and 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, as well as 72 feet (22 meters) deep, is a haven for boating of all kinds--sailing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, ghyll scrambling, motor boating, paddle boating and more. Swimming is enjoyed, and campsites and caravanning locations dot the perimeter of the lake. For those who want a more relaxing holiday, lake cruises are available, and there are several marinas and ferry locations around Derwentwater that offer passenger service. Derwentwater contains 17 islands, several of which are fairly large at four to six acres, including Lord's Island, Vicar's Island, Rampsholme and St. Herbert's Island. Derwent Island has an inhabited residence that was built in the Italianate style in the 18th century. This home dominates the island and is the property of the National Trust; for several days each year the unique structure is open to public tours.

From sprawling renovated private homes that have been modernized with today's conveniences to small one-person efficiency apartments to self-catering cottages and country homes, vacationers will find a wide array of lodging options for their stay near Derwentwater. Bed and breakfasts are available, as are hotels and guesthouses, resorts and spas, inns, hostels and more. Other draws to the area include local breweries that offer tours, annual summer beer festivals, the Keswick Mountain Festival, usually occurring in May, which features five days of outdoor recreation, including a triathlon, conservation workshops, photography classes, orienteering and navigation lessons and opportunities to listen to expert speakers. Another stop to add to any tour of the area includes the Castlerigg Stone Circle. This 4,000- to 5,000-year-old structure is thought to be one of the oldest stone circles in all of Europe; it makes a strong visual impact with its circular ring of 40 standing stones, some of which are more than 10 feet (3 meters) in height.

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Fish Species

  • Vendace
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