We travelled up to Cumbria on Monday 13 February with our caravan to stay at Kiln Hill Barn, a Caravan Club CL near the village of Bassenthwaite.
We are frequent visitors to the Keswick area which we love. When caravanning in the area we usually stay at the Camping and Caravanning Club’s Keswick site but we left our booking attempt too late and as it was Half Term it was full.
We travelled via the M6. We stopped at Tebay services for a toilet break but were frustrated to find many of the long-vehicle parking spots occupied by single cars. We like the services at Tebay with its farm shop and independent restaurant it sets an example other motorway services would do well to emulate. It was a beautiful sunny day and we enjoyed the lovely views as we drove through the Eden Valley with its backdrop of snow-capped mountains to the west and east. We left the M6 at J40 and took the A66 towards Keswick. On the outskirts of Keswick, we turned onto the A591 for the final 8 miles to Kiln Hill Barn CL. The CL is situated on a working farm on the left of the A591 just past the turning to Bassenthwaite village.
Kiln Hill is a working farm but the farm barn has been converted into a guesthouse and some of the other outbuildings into self-catering cottages. On arrival, we stopped outside the barn and Cary booked in with Ken, the owner, who then came out to direct us to the CL.
The CL is in the field behind the farm buildings and approached by a lane with good access. The CL field is quite a large one with plenty of space between pitches. There are 5 pitches all with EHU and hardstanding. The hard standings are hardcore and could do with topping up as the hardcore has sunk leaving the pitches rather muddy in wet weather. There are 2 separate single pitches at the rear of the CL, nearest to the farm and 3 other pitches on a large strip of hard standing furthest from the farm buildings – these 3 have unobscured views down the valley. We chose the centre one of these front pitches. The CL field gently slopes away from the farm and we had to use several levelling blocks to achieve a level van.
All of the pitches give lovely mountain views towards Keswick with some glimpses of Bassenthwaite Lake through the trees. There are lots of well-mown grass areas surrounding the caravan pitches but these are not very well-drained and tend to be rather boggy. There is a freshwater point in the CL field near to the house and a CDP on the other side of the field. The CDP consists of a manhole with an extended handle which makes lifting the cover easy. There is an adjacent tap and hosepipe for tank rinsing.
There is a hen house in the CL field and the hens roam around the field but they did not bother us. There is, also, a large barn where the farmer had penned a herd of sheep and so there was some animal noise from there during both the day and night.
Digital Freeview television reception was quite good using our ‘van’s status 530 aerial and we, also, set up our Maxview satellite dish as I wanted to test out some new components. The open aspect to the south down the valley gave excellent satellite reception. We had quite a good mobile phone reception, “O2” and “Virgin” and on a “3” internet dongle
It cost £13.75 a night which I thought was plenty considering the limited facilities. The owner and his wife were both friendly and helpful and were able to accept payment by cash, cheque or credit or debit card.
Kiln Hill is a little remote. Bassenthwaite Village is a little over a mile away. There are 2 pubs local to Kiln Hill “The Sun Inn” in Bassenthwaite Village and the more upmarket “Castle Inn” Hotel and Restaurant which is only about one hundred yards from the CL’s entrance, but we didn’t try either.
There is easy access to Keswick from Kiln Hill. Keswick can be reached either by the A591 or by driving the short distance around the northern end of Bassenthwaite Lake on the B5291 and then taking the A66, which is mainly dual carriageway. The latter route runs alongside the western shoreline of Bassenthwaite Lake with lovely views across the water to the fells beyond. The A591 is a bus route with service from Carlisle to Keswick and there are bus stops near to Kiln Hill.
On Tuesday we spent a relaxing day at the ‘van recovering from our journey and planning the rest of our stay. Wednesday dawned bright and sunny and so we took advantage of the sunny weather to visit Dodd Wood an area of woodland owned by the Forestry Commission on the A591 between Kiln Hill and Keswick. There is a Pay and Display car park and a pleasant cafe in the adjacent converted Saw Mill. From the car park there are a number of way-marked woodland walks of varying length and challenge. There is a nearby observation point for viewing the ospreys which nest in the area.
We undertook the most challenging of these walks to the summit of Dodd Fell (502m). The path is initially a woodland track before joining a tarred forestry road near to the summit and includes some rough and steep sections. The views from the summit over Bassenthwaite Lake, Keswick and Derwent Water and beyond are said to be stupendous but we stopped a little short of the summit as my arthritic knee was beginning to trouble me. We still managed to reach a vantage point which gave wonderful views over Keswick and Derwent Water.
Thursday was a rather wet and cloudy day so we spent the day relaxing in the ‘van and recovering from the previous, energetic, day. On Friday we tried to follow part of the Allerdale Ramble around the eastern shore of Bassenthwaite Lake, commencing from a lay-by on the B5291 at the northern end of the Lake. However, we struggled to find the route and were defeated by a deep stream with no bridge. As an alternative activity, we drove down to Keswick and spent a pleasant afternoon strolling around the main streets window shopping. When rain brought this activity to an end we bought fish and chips and then drove along the eastern shore of Derwent Water stopping to eat these at a favourite spot of ours the car park overlooking the lake at Low Crag Wood.
On Friday we relaxed in the caravan reading and watching some TV. Friday night was very windy with gusts which rocked the ‘van quite scarily. The winds dropped considerably with the dawn but we decided it would be safer to delay our departure until the winds had dropped completely, this was forecast for Sunday.
On the Saturday the weather was again fine and we drove down to Keswick parking at the Lakeside car park near the theatre. We parked near the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team Headquarters and took the opportunity to pay a debt of honour.
When staying at the Camping and Caravanning Club Keswick site last spring we went walking on Walla Crag above the eastern shores of Derwent Water with our collie Max. Max was then 17 years old and suffering from doggie dementia. He unfortunately wandered off the path and fell 40 metres into the ravine of Cat Gill. We had to call the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team on my mobile phone and they sent out a team of 4 men. Two of the team climbed the path to where had been told to wait while their 2 colleagues walked up the stream below. To our great surprise they found Max sitting shocked and bruised, but otherwise uninjured, in the plunge pool at the foot of the waterfall. The KMR men carried Max down to the car park and then took us back to their HQ where they booked an appointment for Max at a local vet.
Max made a full recovery from his adventure but his increasing infirmities meant that we had to have him put down in late January. We, therefore, took the opportunity to visit the KMR HQ to make a financial contribution in memory of Max. We were made very welcome and actually met one of the men from Max’s rescue. He took us into the HQ control room, which in itself was very interesting, whilst we wrote a cheque. The men, women and dogs of the KMRT are to be highly praised. All unpaid volunteers go out onto the fells in all weathers to help those in need of their help. KMR receives no public financial support and relies completely upon voluntary donations.
After our visit to KMR, we walked along the footpath along the shores of Derwent Water to Friar’s Crag. This is a favourite walk of ours giving stupendous views across lake to Catbells and along the lake to the Jaws of Borrowdale. We then continued through Cockshutt Wood and crossed the Borrowdale road before climbing to the top of the wooded Castle Head. It is quite a steep pathway through the wood and the final rocky scramble was rather slippery after recent rain. Although only 162 metres high Castle Head gives stupendous views along the length of Derwent Water in one direction or back over Keswick to Bassenthwaite Lake in the other direction. We then returned to the ‘van for a quiet final evening.
Sunday morning was beautifully sunny which made packing up the car and ‘van a more pleasant task. We took things slowly and finally left a little before 1.00pm.
We retraced our route home to St Helens via the A591, A66 and M6. We stopped at Killington Lake Services for a late lunch before arriving home in the late afternoon. All in all a very welcome and enjoyable Half Term break.