“ Address: Barrow House / Borrowdale / Beswick / Cumbria / CA12 5UR / England „
Barrow House, now YHA Derwentwater, was built in the 1790s by the eccentric and wealthy Joseph Pocklington. Coincidentally, tourist numbers were also going up in the Keswick area at that time and the owner wanted to encourage this, but he also wanted to maintain the "Oldy Worldy Charm" that tourists come to love (and expect evidently).
So, further up the road from the house he had a hermitage built and advertised for a resident hermit - purely for the tourists' sake, you understand. The job description, however, was quite demanding stating that the incumbent could not, under any circumstances, cut his hair or fingernails and if he spoke to any one it would mean instant dismissal. The contract was for a number of years. It's still advertised in the Keswick job centre, apparently, as no-one went for it, surprise surprise.
But what's the place like today, you ask.
I have to say that the Georgian building is still as gloriously imposing as it would have been when first built. Standing in impressively spacious grounds it boasts its own waterfall, generating enough electricity to power the place even when packed to the rafters. This isn't a natural water feature though. Yes, you guessed it; Joe Pocklington wanted an additional attraction to his home, so sent his navvies out with all manner of gardening weaponry to conquer the hillside behind the house to create one!
Inside, the building lacks some of the grandeur you might expect after being so impressed by the facade. The décor and carpeting are showing signs of wear and tear but it's functional and as the YHA only class the hostel as a three star, you aren't going to get anything spectacular in that area. It is clean and well run however and that's the main thing we look for in a hostel.
A storm porch is provided for you to get rid of your wet gear and boots and as long as you don't meet a crowd, you'll be OK as it is a bit of a squeeze with more than five people.
At reception, which is open 8.30 am to 10.30 pm, you are greeted by very friendly wardens who can actually remember you when your visits are six months apart as ours were. Or does that say more about us? Were we so badly behaved the first time around I wonder?
Check in is very smoothly dealt with and general advice was offered about the hostel and meal routines. We ordered our breakfasts, packed lunches and evening meals from here - the blackboard has all the choices for the day, so no fiddly bits of paper to have to share.
We've stayed here twice now; once in January and once in July. The first time was in a room for 5 in the annexe with a rear view room (functional but a bit gloomy) and the second was a room for 8 at the front of the house with a truly outstanding view of Derwentwater. We couldn't have asked for more.
All rooms are comfortable, with bunks, individual reading lamps, a sink, shaver point and electrical socket. There are plenty shelves and hooks for your rucksacks and clothing. All light bulbs are low energy in line with YHA policy for reducing electricity usage.
===Toilets and Showers===
These are private and clean and offer refreshingly powerful showers making the pain of a long fell walk melt away. They also give you a few precious minutes of peace - if you're anything like me that is! Enough space to swing a small cat, I'd say.
This is a cavernous room that was a bit cold in January, mainly due to so few people staying there but busy and loud in July. Food is collected from a separate serving room and all of it was delicious as Youth Hostels go.
Breakfasts are buffet style and offer a great choice, including porridge for those who can't live without getting their oats every day.
We could have had a range of fruit including prunes and apricots (probably not advisable with a long walk ahead), yoghurts, cereals, muesli, cheese, meat, freshly cut bread, toast, croissants, and four or five cooked items - bacon, sausage, tomatoes, beans and mushrooms. Fair trade coffee and tea and fresh juices are also available.
Really, I couldn't complain for about £4 and no-one walked away hungry.
There are two sizes of packed lunches and the hostel offers several fillings between your white or brown bread, including veggie options. We were more than satisfied with the seven items in our larger, bumper pack (2 sarnies, fruit, carton of juice, crisps, flapjack or similar and small pack of 3 biscuits or a fruesli bar). In fact we had items to spare when we arrived at our next port of call. A bargain at £4.80.
We booked our table in the dining room and enjoyed three courses of very tasty, locally sourced food. The average cost was about £11 for a three course meal. I thought the soup, chilli and bread and butter pudding was perfect for January. In July, I enjoyed a tasty pate, Borrowdale trout (just can't resist this) and a fruit salad with ice cream. All this was washed down with a bottle of organic, fair trade wine for about £9. After the last spoonful of icecream I discovered I couldn't move. Well, not until the coffee and mints that is.
This is more of a games room really as there's a pool table and table football hogging centre stage, so not very relaxing to be honest. OK if you don't mind the noise.
Not really a room, more a space in a large hallway. I'm not a telly fan I have to say, especially when pushed for time or after a tiring day out. But the kids enjoyed an hour of mindless gratuitous violence which kept them out of my hair, so all was right with the world.
This is a fantastic communal space and obviously well used at Derwentwater. One evening we brought a take away meal back - mainly on account of intense badgering by the kids- and really enjoyed the atmosphere, getting to know a few of our fellow Wainwright fanatics. There's plenty of everything you might need to store, prepare, cook and eat your own food. No bringing your own alcohol though, you naughty people, as the hostel has a table licence, so you must hand your cash over at reception for a decent bottle of local beer (by all accounts).
There is a cosy room with a washer, spinner and large sink/drainer for all you domestic obsessive types. There are also plenty of racks and rails for boots and coats if the hostel isn't full that is. If it is full, I think you might struggle to find your stuff.
Well table tennis room actually. Many a laugh was had in here, especially following a glass or two of the falling down water! Great for a family tournament; bats and balls available at reception.
A front lawn big enough for a family game of football or rounders, woodland trails at the back of the hostel and its own waterfall mean there's plenty to do outside. Or, sit on a picnic bench and watch everyone else run round like idiots, while you take in the scenery and read about wandering lonely as a cloud.
Staying in January is cheaper than July, Saturdays and Sundays are more expensive than staying midweek. Currently individual charges are from £15.95 for adults while children under 18 start at £11.95. A family of five, like ours, would pay about £68 per night in a room for 6, so in theory we could take an extra body. Room allocations for the 88 beds are as follows
1 room with 4 beds
2 rooms with 5 beds
3 rooms with 6 beds
3 rooms with 8 beds
1 room with 10 beds
1 large dormitory for the rest - I've lost count by now.
This is a comfortable, welcoming hostel with all the facilities you could possibly need for a couple of nights. I wouldn't stay longer than that however. The food was amazingly good quality and I felt that the wardens were outstanding in their friendliness and can do attitude.
The hostel offers winter walking courses, providing all the necessary equipment such as ice-picks and crampons and this was something that we are considering in the future.
I would say that Borrowdale YHA would be a better bet for those with mobility difficulties as there are no rooms on the ground floor at this hostel and I noticed no particularly helpful adaptations either.
Derwentwater Youth Hostel is situated in an idyllic lakeside location, on the B5289 from Keswick to Borrowdale, leading to the infamous Honister Pass ( see my YHA Buttermere review).
It's about 100m from a ferry landing stage at Ashness Bridge, where you can catch a cruiser around the Lake, stopping off in Keswick, a bustling market town with Booth's supermarket (a bit more upmarket than Tesco I'd say). Lots of cafes, restaurants, a cinema and the theatre on the lake as well as the legendary pencil museum, cars of the stars and the climbing wall await you, not to mention a leisure centre with waves and a slide!
If you are a keen walker you are surrounded by some wonderful peaks, including Catbells, Skiddaw, Blencathra, Glaramara and the Newlands Round. Lower level walks are also available and you can easily walk to the other YHAs in the locality. We walked from Buttermere to here 9 miles away and then onto Borrowdale 5 miles away and the modern hostel in Keswick is only 2 miles away. Walks from the door, in all directions are suited to all abilities.
National Express buses regularly arrive and depart from Keswick although I'm not sure where to/from.
A local Stagecoach bus runs to and from Keswick town centre (Booth's) to the end of the driveway.
The nearest railway stations are in Penrith and Windermere which are both about 20 miles away. Then it would have to be a bus to Keswick and another from Booth's to the hostel.
Whatever your transport arrangements, Derwentwater is fab for families, groups or independent travellers and there's not a hermit in sight!
===Address and contact details===
Tel: 0845 371 9314
Fax no: (+44) 17687 77396
Ordnance Survey Map Number: OS 89
Grid Reference: NY268200
For more information on the hostel see www.yha.org.uk
For information about Keswick see: http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/keswick.htm
For more info on Derwentwater see http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/derwent.htm
Borrowdale info: http://www.keswick.org/borrowdale.asp
Skiddaw, see: http://www.lake-district-keswick.co.uk/thirlmere.html
Thanks for reading.
Come enjoy your get-a-way in this wonderful 200 year old mansion. Its on the shore of Derwentwater, one of Britain's most picturesque lakes. It also has a waterfall on the grounds which powers YHA Derwentwater's hydro-generator.