Birkness is the FRCC property, consisting of the Barn, Cottage and Coach House, on the shore of Buttermere.
Grid Ref: NY 186160
Address: Birkness, Buttermere, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 9XA
(or click a marker to set)
Most visitors will arrive via the M6 and they should turn onto the A66 (West) at Penrith, junction 40 and head for Keswick and the North Lakes. There are 3 options for the final leg to Buttermere.
- The shortest and quickest route should be avoided if there is snow or ice about (the road is narrow, exposed and not maintained in winter). Continue along the A66 past Keswick and turn left into Braithwaite. Go along past the campsite then take the first left. At the end, turn left over the bridge looking out for signs for Buttermere via Newlands Pass. After half a mile bear right at the fork, then wend your way above Newlands through the fine scenery of Keskadale to Newlands Hause. After a vertiginous descent, you reach Buttermere village and turn left at the T junction to head up the valley towards Honister Pass. After 3/4 mile, Birkness will be seen to your right down a steepish track. If you miss this, keep going until the large entrance to Hassness appears on your right. Turn in and take the first right. Birkness is just along the track.
- An alternative, which is several miles longer but which goes over a lower pass on a road which is normally kept open in winter, is to follow Route 1 as far as Braithwaite but, instead of turning left in the village, go straight on. This leads over Whinlatter Pass into Lorton Vale. Turn left in High Lorton and continue down to turn left again onto the B5289 which leads along to Buttermere village. Go through Buttermere then follow the description above.
- The third route also goes over a high pass, which can be difficult in winter. Turn off the A66 into Keswick, and head down Borrowdale on the B5289 to Seatoller. Then up the steep road over Honister Pass. Continue down the other side to the first group of buildings, Gatesgarth farm. Continue along the lake side for about 3/4 mile until, at the top of a short hill, the large entrance to Hassness and Dalegarth will be found on the left. Turn in and take the first right. Birkness is just along the track.
Finally, for anyone coming from the West, go through Cockermouth and pick up the B5292 towards Lorton. Bear right just before Lorton onto the B5289 to Buttermere where you will join the Whinlatter route above.
Nearest Telephone/Mobile Connection
Mobile phone reception is poor to non-existent in Buttermere valley. The nearest public phone is behind the Fish Hotel in Buttermere village. The Fish also has a payphone.
Facilities in the area
The nearest shop is in Lorton (a small but useful shop, open 9 – 12 & 1.30 to 4.30 Mon, Tues, Fri and Sat, mornings only Wed & Thurs) about 6 miles down the valley. There are plenty of shops, including a Sainsbury supermarket, in Cockermouth (about 11 miles). Milk can sometimes be bought from Syke farm in Buttermere, where there is also an excellent ice-cream shop. The campsite shop in Braithwaite is also pretty good and opens long hours in summer.
There are two pubs in Buttermere, The Fish and The Bridge. These tend to close for up to two months in January and February. Both do meals. There is also a reasonable cafe during the daytime in summer.
From March to October, the little Honister Rambler bus (77/77A) does a circular route from Keswick via Portinscale over Honister, on to Lorton and back over Whinlatter. There are 4 buses each way during the day. Timetable here. Times may also be checked on the Traveline or Stage Coach websites.
Climbing and Walking
Buttermere is a valley somewhat hidden from the mainstream buzz of the Lakes with a few gems of crags. There are some easily reached crags (Yew Crags, Buckstone Howe), higher crags in fine positions (High Crag) and the high mountain crags in Birkness Combe (Eagle Crag and Grey Crag). For those days when only the coast has fair weather, St Bees Head is within easy reach.
Both Borrowdale and Newlands are a very short drive away and the Gable and Pillar crags are accessible with a longish hike.
The Birkness buildings, which were purchased in 1951, were once the cottage, barn and stables of the Hassness Estate. As with the earlier huts the purchase and conversion were financed by loans and donations from members and there was no electricity. However the barn and cottage were made ready for basic use and the two buildings were officially opened in June 1952.
The barn needed extensive conversion but the arrival of electricity in 1962 speeded up the work. The outside stairway, which was the only means of access to the upper floor was demolished and the doorway replaced by a window into the ladies’ dormitory. On the ground floor the space was divided to create an entrance hall with indoor access to the men’s washroom, a staircase to the dormitories, a drying room and a separate common room. The old black stove was replaced by a fireplace in the dividing wall.
The old stables continued to be used for storage but a derelict portion of the building above the stables was not used until much later when it was converted into a separate cottage. In keeping with the spirit of the property this was named the Coach House and was officially opened in November 1993.