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Learning programmes for schools
and youth groups.

"Thanks again for the hostel facilities and early breakfast provision. Hopefully see you again next year."

Keswick to Barrow Walk Group, May 2019.


Vikings began to settle in Borrowdale in the 10th century. You can still find many Scandinavian place names in the valley. These usually end in ‘thwaite’ meaning ‘clearing’, or ‘keld’ meaning ‘spring’. The Vikings are also said to have introduced Herdwick sheep to the valley. This hardy breed of sheep is able to live on the high fells throughout the year.

By exploring the place names and landscape features of Borrowdale, we can find evidence of what life was like during Viking times.

To help bring this history alive, you can be a Viking for a day on Derwent Water. You can sail a Viking-style Longboat, try on Viking clothes and armour, and learn about their settlements and daily lifestyle. We can also explore the different theories about Viking life, presented by different historians.

We will compare Viking life with that of today: for instance, are the Herdwick sheep farms and local markets using similar practices to the Vikings?

From the valley of Borrowdale we can explore our connections to other parts of the world: how have these changed throughout time? 

Sample activities

  • Spend a day as a Viking with Platty+ (20 minute walk from the hostel)
  • Explore the textures of Viking times: use Herdwick wool to create felt pieces.
  • Write an advert for Viking ‘radio’, describing the farm produce.
  • Take sides! Be a Viking or a local, and present and discuss stories and opinions about the Viking settlement in Cumbria.
  • Use map work to investigate the influence of the Vikings on the landscape.
  • Investigate the farming methods introduced by the Vikings.
  • Have a hands-on session with Classrooms in the Forest, either at the hostel or at Whinlatter Forest Park, to learn about Viking lifestyles and practices (dying wool etc).
  • Learn how to write in Viking runes and adopt a Viking name.
Derwentwater Independent Hostel
Barrow House
CA12 5UR
Telephone: 017687 77246

Thank you to Geoff Williams, Rebecca Laff, Fiona McCarthy, John and Sam Snyder, and KTA for generously providing inspiring photographs.
Thank you to Lisa Bamford at Stoats and Weasels for designing our website, and to Sam Snyder for building it.
© 2013 Derwentwater Independent Hostel. All rights reserved. Registered charity: 1145368