Keswick’s quirky town museum explores the area’s history, from ancient archaeology through to the arrival of industry in the Lakes. It’s a diverse collection, taking in everything from neolithic axe heads mined in the Langdale valley to a huge collection of taxidermied butterflies.
Its best-known exhibits are a 700-year-old mummified cat and the Musical Stones of Skiddaw, a weird instrument made from hornsfel rock that was once played for Queen Victoria.
The first craft distillery in the Lake District has made a big splash since opening in 2014. It’s located on a ‘model farm’ built during the 1850s and was founded by a team of master distillers.
So far its range includes a gin, a vodka and a flagship whisky, plus liqueurs flavoured with damson plum, elderflower, rhubarb and rosehip, and salted caramel.
Whinlatter Forest Park
Encompassing 4.6 sq miles of pine, larch and spruce, Whinlatter is England’s only true mountain forest, rising sharply to 790m about 5 miles from Keswick.
The forest is a designated red squirrel reserve; you can check out live video feeds from squirrel cams at the visitor centre.
It’s also home to two exciting mountain-bike trails and the Go Ape treetop assault course. You can hire bikes from Cyclewise, next to the visitor centre.
Derwent Pencil Museum
Keswick’s oddest museum is devoted to the charms of the humble pencil – with exhibits including a pencil made for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, wartime spy pencils that were hollowed out for secret maps, and the world’s largest pencil (a mighty 8m long).
It all stems from the discovery of graphite in the Borrowdale valley during the 17th century, after which Keswick became a major pencil manufacturer.