St Bega's church, Bassenthwaite - what a location!
St Bega's Church, Bassenthwaite - what a location!

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully situated church that St Bega's, on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake. The church is dedicated to St Bega, a 7th-century Irish princess who fled her native land to avoid an unwelcome marriage. She landed on the Cumbrian coast at St Bees, where a priory was later founded in her name.

Legends tell that St Bega settled here at Bassenthwaite, and may indeed have been buried in this spot. There is no evidence to support the tale, but it certainly adds to the romance of what is already a very romantic spot!

The architectural history of the church offers more mystery. There are large, uneven stones in the north and east walls, which suggest a Roman building. In the interior, a simple, rounded chancel arch supported on thick pillars certainly suggests a pre-Norman date. The most likely foundation of the current building, then, is about AD 950, but it is possible that the current church was created on the foundations of a much earlier building.

The church interior
The church interior

The large arch between the chancel and north aisle is 12th century, and a later 14th-century arch is located in the nave. Sadly, Victorian restoration has done away with any earlier evidence that might illuminate the history of the church.

The simple font at the west end of the nave dates to about 1300. Above the south doorway hangs a royal coat of arms dating to 1745. It was erected, we are told, after the rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and was meant to remind citizens of where their loyalties should lie!

Both Tennyson and Wordsworth were known to have visited St Bega's. The church featured in Wordsworth's 'A Guide to the English Lakes'. It is very likely that the opening of Tennyson's 'Morte d'Arthur' took inspiration from St Bega's church as well.

1745 royal coat of arms
1745 royal coat of arms

Medieval grave slab
A medieval grave slab

To visit St Bega's, park at Dodd Wood parking area on the A591. A signposted path leads from opposite the car park, to the left of the Lodge. Alternatively, combine a visit to Mirehouse historic house and Garden with a visit to the church. There is an attractive footpath from the grounds of Mirehouse to St Bega's, and this can be combined with an enjoyable walk along the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake.

About St Begas, Bassenthwaite
Address: Bassenthwaite, Lake District, Cumbria, England, CA12 4QY
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Easy access from the Dodd Wood parking lot on the A591. Footpath is mostly level.
Location map
OS: NY236289
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Mirehouse - 0.4 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Dodd Wood - 1.2 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Bassenthwaite Lake - 1.4 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Lake District Wildlife Park - 2.2 miles (Family Attraction) Heritage Rating

Crosthwaite, St Kentigern's Church - 3.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Whinlatter Pass - 3.5 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Keswick Museum - 3.8 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Spout Force Waterfall - 4 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

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