Lakeland’s newly-crowned holiday park of the year in the Cumbria Tourism Awards 2019 can also claim a more historic title, according to recently discovered documents and publications.
They reveal that Castlerigg Hall Caravan and Camping Park in Keswick was possibly the location of Britain’s first ever permanent holiday park.
Park owner David Jackson said he was amazed when he found that the site had been providing holidays to Lake District lovers for at least 110 years.
He already knew that an enterprise called Derwent Holiday Camp had previously existed on land now owned by his park, but only recently learned of its long history.
It came about after he was contacted by a relative of the camp’s original owner, William Pattie, who was tracing his family tree and had unearthed a number of papers and photographs.
They showed that in 1909 the camp was offering stays in canvas bell tents, and provided toilets and a pavilion where guests could enjoy “recreation and dining with a liberal table”.
“This was clearly a permanent site offering holidays with accommodation, amenities and meals, and I know of no evidence that anything similar around or before that time,” said David.
“The camp was clearly very popular, but was forced by the government to close for one summer in 1917 for fear that German Zeppelin bombers would mistake it for an army camp.
“Sometime after its creation, the site went on to build small wooden dormitories in which guests could stay, and it’s been suggested that these were most likely groups of children.
“There was also a railway carriage offered for holidays, so we might also have claim to being the first park in Britain with glamping accommodation!” added David.
The Jacksons originally moved to Castlerigg Hall farm in 1938 when David’s grandfather, William, became its tenant, raising sheep and cattle.
He was succeeded by David’s parents, John and Betty, who purchased the land and began moving away from agriculture in favour of tourism.
In the early 1950s, the couple started to welcome campers, and as the park grew and developed they acquired – at the start of the 1970s – the adjacent Derwent Holiday Camp.
The bells tents were still in operation, and David says he recalls playing among their wooden flooring bases while the tents were being erected for the coming season.
His father went on to build three large wooden dormitories in the mid-1970s which eventually replaced the previous long-serving bell tents.
Today, David and his wife Jill have helped to make Castlerigg Hall one of the Lake District’s most highly regarded parks attracting visitors from across the UK and overseas.
Their achievements have been recognised by a raft of accolades, including now the prestigious 2019 park of the year award from Cumbria Tourism.
Its facilities include a first-class amenity building, a large shop with local specialities, the popular Gallery cafe, and plenty for children to enjoy.