places to visit
The last working slate mine in England. Fully guided mine tours and Via Ferrata. Browse the visitor centre. Our Sky Hi cafe serves freshly prepared, locally sourced, paninis, and soups.
Providing half and full activity days for residential and non residential groups, families and individuals. National Governing Body courses available
The Buttermere Valley is a picture postcard of blue ribbon lakes, Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater, ‘knotted' together at the small villages of Buttermere and Loweswater, like ‘a string of pearls each connected to the next'. Between these lakes, flat verdant fields radiate outwards until contained by the encircling buttresses of Red Pike, High Stile, Fleetwith Pike, Robinson, Whiteless Pike, Grasmoor and Melbreak.
The tiny village of Buttermere comprises two inns, a few farms, a small chapel and some isolated houses - its name meaning ‘lake by the dairy pastures'. A scattering of farms and houses make up Loweswater, a community held together by the twin magnets of its church and adjacent hostelry. The traditional character of Buttermere and Loweswater is largely due to The National Trust, which owns much of the land and preserves its special qualities. The only vehicular access into this valley is from Cockermouth to the north or via the snaking passes over Honister and Newlands Hause.
map of the area
where to stay
Country House Hotel with 25 rooms, £63-£105 pppnb, Keswick
Our country house hotel is the best-kept secret in the Borrowdale Valley, with log fires, wonderful Lakeland-inspired cooking and warm, comfortable bedrooms updated in classic, modern style - a real home-from-home.
Self-catering with 1 unit, £995-£3000 pupw sleeps 12-14, Ennerdale
Beautiful Victorian farmhouse in a stunning rural location with stunning views of Ennerdale Water. Spacious luxurious accommodation for 12, beautifully furnished and with all modcons. Children and dog welcome, no smoking.
Farmhouse with 2 rooms, £30 pppnb, Keswick
A 17thC farm house on a working fell farm in the heart of Newlands Valley. Situated 5 miles from Keswick and 3 miles from Buttermere with unspoilt views across the valley to Catbells, Bullcrags and Scope End.
Self-catering with 7 units, £360-£1025 pupw sleeps 2-8, Borrowdale
Authentic rural Lakeland farmstead standing in well-maintained grounds beside small wood sheltering wildlife. Peaceful setting, beautiful outlook over Borrowdale with walks from the door to lake, river, woodland and fells. Owner operated.
Self-catering with 1 unit, £950-£2270 pupw sleeps 10, Keswick
Luxury country house with superb views. Excellent walking area 15 minutes from Keswick. Five bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, large lounge, open fire, garden room, large kitchen/dining room, utility, CH, double-glazing and cycle storage.
history of buttermere
Huge glaciers gouged out tons of material to form the classic U-shaped valley and ribbon lakes that are evident today. Buttermere and Crummock Water may once have formed one long lake until fluvial deposits from Sour Milk Gill and Sail Beck silted up the central section and created the rich grazing pastures that first attracted human settlement into the area.
Early settlers colonised land near the lakes. Ancient remains can be found at Lanthwaite Green and at the northern end of Melbreak. A pele tower once looked out over Crummock Water (its earthworks still visible on the ground), while the small medieval hamlet and chapel at Rannerdale has all but disappeared. This hidden valley is believed to have been a seat of resistance against the Norman conquerors and witnessed one of the last battles against the invaders, but is now better known for its spectacular display of bluebells in the spring.
Historically, it was cows rather than sheep that were the dominant grazing animals. Gatesgarth Farm, at the foot of Fleetwith Pike, was once a medieval ‘vaccary' or dairy farm. Nowadays, it is one of the largest sheep farms in the area, raising flocks of Herdwicks and Swaledales on the vast acres of common land. Barley, oats and corn were also grown in the valley, with a corn mill (now the Bridge Hotel, Buttermere) crushing the grain to make flour.
Aside from farming and fishing, the local inhabitants made a living from mining and smelting iron ore. Cinderdale (on the eastern shore of Crummock Water) is pitted with numerous depressions in the ground where iron ore was smelted in bloomeries (primitive furnaces).
The discovery of bands of attractive green slate at Honister opened up a new source of income for the local inhabitants. Unusually, the slate at Honister was mined from within the mountain (as well as opencast quarried), and to such an extent that Fleetwith Pike is honeycombed with old workings accessed at different levels and linked by vertical shafts. The roughly finished slates were once sledged down the scree slope, but in the 1880s inclined tramways were introduced to bring the slate out more safely. Honister was mined up to 1986 and, after a period of inactivity, re-opened in 1997. Alongside commercial extraction for roofing and building materials, the mine has since become an award-winning tourist attraction in its own right, offering guided excursions into the subterranean mine workings and the option of an exhilarating Via Ferrata following the old miners' route to work.
Tourism arrived in Buttermere in the late 18th century, with visitors coming to marvel at the majestic peaks and quiet calm of the lakes. Some large houses were built near the lakes, but the overall scale of development was much less than at Windermere or Ullswater, and the beautiful lakes of Buttermere and Loweswater remain idyllic locations for hill walking or gentle lakeshore strolls rounded off by sampling the locally produced ales and ice creams.
local natural environment
Verdant woodlands, gushing ghylls, cascading waterfalls and a scene of stupendous awe and beauty cannot fail to impinge on the senses.
Buttermere may be a corruption of ‘Boethar's lake' (named after a Norse settler) or it might mean ‘lake where butter was made'. The 4.5 mile/7 km circuit of the lake is an easy and attractive walk, with a dash of excitement when the path briefly enters a rock-hewn tunnel. To the north is Crummock Water (‘crooked lake') and beyond is Loweswater, all owned by The National Trust. The lakes are noted for their populations of Arctic Char - a relic fish from the last Ice Age - once caught and potted as a local delicacy. Since 2007 Loweswater has been the subject of a study by Lancaster University to improve the water quality by working in association with local landowners and the wider community. All the lakes are protected for their wildlife interest.
Scale Force, on the western side of Crummock Water, is the highest waterfall in the Lake District at 200 ft (61 m) and easily reached by footpath from Buttermere village. Opposite Buttermere, the silver thread of Sour Milk Gill cascades down from Bleaberry Tarn on the flanks of Red Pike. On the highest point of Newlands Pass, a parking layby provides a good view of Moss Force - its waters plunging several metres down a steep fellside.
Many of the ancient woodlands around Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater were formerly managed for their coppice timber, and most are now protected by The National Trust. Burtness Wood, on the steep eastern slopes of Red Pike has several paths running through the wood and a permissive footpath along the shore of Buttermere. Long How, between Buttermere and Crummock Water, is a small wooded knoll with its own car park access. From the car park (pay & display) at Lanthwaite Wood, several paths lead to Crummock Water, where it is possible to walk around the western shore to Buttermere. Finally, Holme Wood, on the shores of Loweswater, is an extensive tract of ancient woodland accessed by bridleways and forest tracks.