Lake Districts best road-trips: Keswick to Buttermere, via Honister pass & Newlands Valley

This circular road trip from Keswick to Buttermere via Borrowdale/Honister Pass and back via Newlands Valley is one of my favourite drives in the Lakes and you will go  through some of Lakelands most unspoilt locations, get some stunning views and navigate 2 of the Lakes famous road passes. Read on to learn more...

Lakes Road-trip route - Keswick to Buttermere, via Borrowdale, Honister Pass and returning to Keswick via Newlands valley

Total driving distance: 28 miles
Time: 1hr 20mins without stops

Although you can do this in just over an hour without stopping, you will want to give much longer to stop at plenty of places and take in some simply stunning views and places, so the total time depends on exactly what you wish to do when you stop, but I recommend a full day. You could even spread this out over more than one day and stay the night enroute in a hotel, b&b, tent or camper van!

Here is the full driving route, which can be done clockwise or anti-clockwise. There are 2 passes to navigate in the car at Honsiter Pass (02) and Newlands Pass (04) - which are steep in parts and at times the roads are narrow (with periodical passing places). You'll need to be a confident driver to do this route but it's well worth it! I like to do it clockwise and I've highlighted some key places to stop below: 

Keswick - the start of the road trip 

Keswick is my favourite place to stay in the Lakes as whilst it's busy, with plenty of pubs and shops, it still retains it's Lake District charm and isn't overly touristy like Windermere. It's a great place to base yourself in the Lakes and this is where this Lake District road trip begins and ends.

If you love your Lake District views like me, then a good one to start with whilst in Keswick is Friars Crag on the shores of Derwent Water, looking towards Borrowdale It's only a 10 min walk from the car park near The Theatre on The Lake. John Ruskin, the leading art critic of the 19th century, said Friars Crag is "one of the three or four most beautiful in Europe" and it's unchanged since his day - so make sure you visit this spot if your in Keswick!

Castlehead viewpoint Derwent Water walk from keswick
Another viewpoint I love which is maybe a 30 min walk from Friars Crag is this one from Castlehead viewpoint, which is one of my all time favourites! (Find out more about a walk to Castlehead, and even beyond to Wall Crag if you have time here) This road-trips driving route from Keswick will take you to the left of Derwent Water's edge as pictured here and right up into the jaws of Borrowdale in the far distance to Honister Pass and actually eventually return from Butteremere down Newlands Valley which you can just about make out to the far right edge of the photo behind Catbells)

Lakes Roadtrip Stop 1: 


So after departing from Keswick you will track the waters edge of Derwent Water and head towards Borrowdale. In this area - you'll want to seek out the iconic and easy to get to Ashness Bridge view, and another accessible viewpoint you can drive pretty close to is called Surprise View. You may also want to have a short walk to Lodore Falls, and if you have lots of time Lodore Falls Spa is a stunning spa with infinity pool views over Derwent Water. (You can also stay over at Lodore Falls hotel if you have plenty of time!)

A little further on, if you are into wild swimming (and have a few hours to spare for a walk, a great place to stop and park is at Rosthwaite and then walk along Langstrath Beck, which has some of the Lake Districts best wild swimming locations.

The classic Lake District view from Ashness Bridge - to drive here will be a short few mins detour off the main route.

'Surprise View' is another great little place to drive up to off the main route and you can get really close to here in the car for these stunning views!

The outdoor Spa & pool as the Lodore Falls Spa is set in a stunning spot - and they even do morning or twilight spas so you don't have to stay the full day.

You can stay over at Lodore Falls Spa in ultimate luxury!

Black Moss Pot Wild swimming Lake District spots map route location best Langstrath Beck Black Moss pot angle tarn
If wild swimming is more your thing over spa's then park up at Rostwaite and head up Langstrath Beck where you can swim in spots such as Black Moss Pot pictured here (about 1 hour walk) Find out more here on a Langstarth Beck walk 

Lakes Roadtrip Stop 2: 

Honsiter Pass & Honister Slate Mine

The drive up Honister Pass can be a little precarious - but once you are at the top you will find Honsiter Slate Mine, where you can park up and visit the cosy cafe which serves some delicious food, You could visit the slate mine itself (booking needed) or even do the hair raising Honister via-Ferrata.

Honister slate mine
Looking down on Honsiter Slate Mine from the path above, where there is ample parking. There's a cafe here for a little pit-stop or if you have more time check out Honister Slate Mine or Honister via-Ferrata. 

Honister via ferrata - Lake district - best Outdoor Activity Insurance Public Liability
The outdoor activities at Honister via Ferrata are perhaps one of the most extreme outdoor activities you can do in the Lake District. The award winning Honister Via Ferrata at Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District is an adrenaline-pumping activity that consists of a series of exposed scrambles along the mountainside linked by metal ladders, wire bridges and cargo nets that lets you climb sheer cliff faces. You’ll need a head for heights on this outdoor activity but it’s definitely one to add to your Lake District must-do list! Find out more here www.honister.com

Fleetwith Pike walk view route map Lake District Buttermere Honister Slate Mine Warnscale Bothy
A relatively quick walk to do from Honister Pass is to Fleetwith Pike, where you will see some classic Lake District views. As you have already gained 300m of elevation in the car, then it's only another 300m of height you need to gain. The full walk can be done in 1.5 hours. Visit my blog post here to find out more:

Lakes Roadtrip Stop 3: 


Buttermere is one of my favourite areas of the Lakes as it's very unspoilt. The village is small with 1 pub and a couple of cafes. The walk around Buttermere lake itself is a lovely low level and easy walk of around 4.5 miles and can be done in 2 hours. Another more strenuous walk to do would be to Haystacks (Alfred Wainwrights favourite mountain), check out blog post on these 2 walks below:

BLOG POST: Buttermere low level Lake Walk

BLOG POST: Haystacks Walk from Gatesgarth Farm

A classic Lake District view, looking over Buttermere towards Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. The walk around Buttermere is one of the best leisurely walks you can do in the Lakes

If you want to extend your road-trip, then the Buttermere area is a good place to stay whether in a camper van, hotel/b&b/cottage or camping! I've stayed in Buttermere lot's of times - absolutely love the place 

Lakes Roadtrip Stop 4: 

Moss Force Waterfall & Newlands Valley

After heading out of Buttermere this road-trip will take you back to Keswick up the steep road to Newlands Pass where you'd again want to stop to admire the views down Newlands Valley and even to take. short walk to Moss Force Waterfall, which will only take you 15 mins or so. 

The views down Newlands Valley are pretty special and it's worth the quackish walk to Moss Force at Newlands Pass. From here it's a really nice leisurely drive back to Keswick

I hope this little write-up on a really superb Lake District driving route gives you some ideas in planning your trip to the Lakes!

Happy Travels!

Post by Stuart Hodgson 
'The Hiking Photographer'

I share my adventures as I love the outdoors and it's spectacular natural landscapes. Being outside can also bring many benefits to us, including improvements to our physical & mental health and I want to help others reap these benefits too. I hope you enjoy the blog and it inspires you to plan a trip or two!

You can subscribe to my email newsletter to stay up to date with all my recent outdoor adventures, including my latest photos & blog posts, just click the link below!


No comments

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking an interest in my blog, all comments and questions are welcome! Best, Stuart

Blog Design Created by pipdig