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Derwent Water – Some fact about the lake to impress your friends

I know you’ll be coming up to the lakes during the holidays and obviously you’ll be coming to Keswick, and then you’ll nip down to the lakes to feed the ducks and maybe have a stroll or roll up the bottom of your Craghoppers for a paddle. When you get down there, remember a few of these Derwent Water facts and your friends and family might finally think you’re clever. It didn’t work for me – but I won’t stop trying.

Why is it called Derwent Water? First chance to be impressive


First thing you can do, while wiggling your toes in the water, is point out how clear the lake is. Derwent Water gets its name from a Celtic word for ‘Clear Water’ or alternatively from an Old English term meaning a region abundant with oak trees. So I recommend combining the two and informing everyone how the name was derived from a combination of Celtic and Old English meaning ‘Clear water surrounded by oak trees’. Do this while pointing out the clarity of the water and the density of oaks around the perimeter. Very impressive.

Derwent Isle – competitively priced for quick rent


Next, you can relate a few facts about the Islands. The one directly in front being Derwent Isle. If you’re loaded and a bit of a show off, you can rent out the house on Derwent Isle for £36,000 per year, but before you whip out your wallet and dive into the crystal clear depths, remember that the most famous man of the Lake District, Wordsworth, didn’t like the house that much and said ‘it was a bit naff.’ We all know I made that quote up. But Wordsworth not liking it is a good excuse to put your Visa away. Mentioning Wordsworth here is a good thing, because once you drag your party along to Friar’s Crag you get to quote some poetry.

Friar’s Crag

Friar’s Crag is gorgeous, as we all know. John Ruskin remembered being taken to Friar’s Crag as his first ever memory. Its beauty inspired him throughout his life, in fact he described the incident as ‘the creation of the world for me’. A similar feeling was invoked in me when my parents took me to Basil Brush at the Carnegie Theatre in Workington.

Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons) used this location as the children’s look out spot and renamed it Darien. And good old Wordsworth spouted magnificently about this place as he look out over St Herbert’s Island, commit this to memory:

. . . then wilt thou reverence
This quiet spot; and, Stranger! not unmoved
Wilt thou behold this shapeless heap of stones,
The desolate ruins of St. Herbert’s Cell. . .

St Herbert

St Herbert’s Island is the reason it is called Friar’s Crag. Pilgrims and monks once gathered here to honour the saint. I don’t know why they would do that because St Herbert didn’t really like anyone, all he wanted was ‘to love and die unknown’ and then someone had the nerve to make him a saint and spoil all that. Anyway, the remains of the hermitage are still visible, as Wordsworth said a little better than me.

Beatrix Potter was also inspired to write her first story while gazing over at St Herbert’s Island. In The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, Beatrix’s illustrations show the cheeky squirrels paddling across Derwent Water to reach Owl Island which is based on St Herbert’s Island. So there’s a fact that’ll lift your kid’s eyes up from their PSPs for 3 seconds ‘Yeah… lake… Squirrel Nutkin…whatever…’

Enjoy your walk round Derwent Water.

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young

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