Full day photography tour of the English Lake District | Derwent Water and Buttermere Loop

09th September 2013
The same question comes up on many photography forums throughout the year - "I've got a day to spend in the Lake District, where shall I go?" The answers to this question are endless as there is so much to see and do in the Lake District, photography in the Lake District can be very rewarding due to the relative ease of access and good roads which run close by to some of the famous Lake District photo viewpoints. When trying to answer this question I tend to suggest a loop where you can find a wide variety of Lake District photography locations including lakes, waterfalls, fells, mountain views, stone circles, rivers, becks and wildlife. This trip can easily be done in a full exiting photography day trip. The loop I would suggest is based in Keswick and travels over the fells to Buttermere, back around past Honister through Borrowdale and back into Keswick to the shores of Derwentwater.

This loop from Derwentwaterer including some of the small detours is possible in a full day starting and finishing in Keswick on the shores of Derwent Water for a sunrise and sunset. The detours to the local waterfalls and fells can add a little time to the driving but are worth the visit depending on your schedule. I have done a similar trip to this in one afternoon as a detour on the way back up the M6 from Birmingham travelling to Keswick past Kendal, Rydale Water up past Thirlmere and starting in Keswick.

View A Photographic day in the Lake District in a larger map

Starting at sunrise around Keswick there are a few obvious location from which to shoot, the most popular location for sunrise on the shores of Derwent Water is by the Theatre by the Lake at the Derwent Piers. From the jettys and shoreline here have great view across Derwent Water over to the Catbells and further down the valley to the jaws of Borrowdale. The pathway runs around the shores to Friars Crag which offers similar views with more rugged foreground details. If you are here during the day you can hire one of the rowing boats and get a few shots from the boat from a different viewpoint.

Derwent Water & the Skiddaw Mountains

The whole length of the shoreline of Derwentwater offers good opportunities at all times of day, I once visited on a misty mysterious afternoon and found a swimmer perfectly positioned to add a little interest to the landscape photo.

Derwentwater Afternoon Swimmer

There are four spots very close together which can be visited to either start or finish off your day, these being the derwent piers at Barrow Bay, Ladore Falls, Ashness Bridge and Surprise View. The famous viewpoints on the road up past Ashness Bridge offers a few great opportunities for photos, the boat pier at Barrow Bay can be popular with photographers and have become along with Ashness one of the classic views of the Lake District. The piers offer great views across the lake towards the Catbells and further round towards the Skiddaw Mountains.

Barrow Bay Derwent Pier at Sunset

Further up from Ashness Bridge on the road to Watendlath is the amazing viewpoint at Surprise View, the steep drop offers a great birds eye view of Derwent Water and offers endless possibilities both with wide angle and telephone lenses.

Derwentwater from Surprise View

If you fancy a walk into relatively quiet fells there is a great path from Watendlath up to one of the other Blea Tarn’s all the way over to Harrop Tarn to Thirlmere. When we did this walk we didn’t see anybody all day, the peace and quite was unbelievable.

Other Blea Tarn high above Watendlath

From Barrow Bay the road winds its way down the lake into Borrowdale where you have the chance to visit the Bowder Stone which is estimated at 2,000 tons and around 9m high. There are photo opportunities here on days with good weather but can be dark due to the trees.

The view from the bridge at the village of Grange is a popular spot and depending on river levels can be stunning with the village in front of the impressive mountains behind.

One of my favourite parts of the Lake District, the end of Borrowdale running down to was the destination of my first visit to the Lake District as an adult on a University field trip back in 2003. On that trip we spent a week surveying parts of the hillside of the valley to make a topographical map, I remember it being a very wet week but hugely enjoyable. The end of the road can get very busy for parking as it's one of the main bases for a walk up to Scafell via Stockley Bridge and Styhead Tarn.

Stockley Bridge in Borrowdale

Upper Borrowdale Valley from Stockley Bridge

From Borrowdale the road winds up to the Honsiter Pass past the Honister Slate mine which is well worth the visit if you have time. The winding you then drops down to Buttermere Lake which is one of the most beautiful lakes to visit and the circular walk can be done in around an hour. You can park at this end of the lake for walks up to Haystacks and the popular view of the pines or you can carry on down the side of the Lake to Buttermere Village.

Ashness Bridge overlooking Derwent Water and Skiddaw Trees on the shores of Buttermere

On the road from Buttermere to the Newlands Valley is a waterfall known as Moss Force, this is near the peak of the road where there is a small parking area with great views up to Robinson and further round down into the Newlands Valley.

Moss Force Waterfall in the Lake District

As you make your approach back to Derwent Water you can stop and park at the bottom of the Catbells which is a popular walk for tourist staying in Keswick.

Catbells Walk from Latrigg

The western shore of Derwent Water is a little less visited so will be quieter at peak times, I’ve only visited this shore at sunset but I believe this is just as good at Sunrise. You may recognise the pier at Brandelhow from one of the mass produced Ikea Canvas Prints that you see in many living rooms.

Derwent from Above Brandelhow Bay

Brandelhow bay with Blencathra in the distance

One the way back to Keswick you can visit the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake, compositions can be a little more difficult here compared to other lakes due to the position of the mountains and access to the lake shore. There is a lay bay around half way the lake which leads into a small nature reserve and a stone beach which I found to be one of the better spots to position yourself with views down the lake and across to Dodd Wood.

Bassenthwaite Lake

Slightly off the circular route but well worth a visit is Castlerigg Stone Circle, being so close to the popular lake district town of Keswick the stone circle attracts many visitors throughout the year. The stone circle is located on a hill top meaning it is perfect for catching the Late afternoon/evening sun light. There may be a queue for the best photographs here as this is a popular spot for groups and photography tuition parties, last time I was at Castlerigg I counted 15 photographers all with tripods and white lenses set up around the stones with one of the pro's running around trying to help everybody.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

On the way back to the M6 motorway at Penrith there is a possible diversion if you have some spare time and light left in the sky. The first port of call would be Aira Force, there is a national trust car park giving easy access up the wooden path to this spectacular waterfall. There is an option by turning right out from the car park to visit the end of Ullswater which has lovely views up past Glenridding towards brothers water and the Kirkstone Pass. Turning left will take you along the shore of Ullswater towards the beautiful boat house on the shores of Ullswater at Pooley Bridge.

Aria Force Waterfall near to Ullswater in the Lake District Afterdark at Ullswater near to Glencoyne Bridge looking towards Glenridding and the Kirkstone Pass

Pooley Bridge Boat House

You can view more of my landscape photography from the Cumbria in my Lake District Gallery >>

About Nick
Nick Cockman is a digital photographer from Sheffield specialising in UK Landscape and Seascape photography.

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Photo comment By Barry Goble: Great landscapes Nick.
Photo comment By Andy Norman: Very helpful. Thank you.
Photo comment By John Emery: Thanks Nick very helpful and professional guide. I am visiting again in September so will have lots to shoot!

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