Wild swimming in the lake district

The Best Places for Wild Swimming in the Lake District: A Swimmer’s Paradise

The Lake District National Park is well known as a wild swimmer’s dream. With its amazing array of lakes, tarns, rivers, and even coastal waters, it offers a diverse range of swimming experiences. This blog explores the best spots for wild swimming in this region, highlighting the unique conditions and scenic beauty of each location. Not in the lakes? Check our UK wide article here. Or wondering what the fuss is about wild swimming, check out our overview here.

Lakes and Tarns: The Jewels of the Lake District

Windermere

As the largest natural lake in England, Windermere is a popular spot for swimmers seeking both adventure and accessibility. The lake offers numerous entry points, with the area around Ambleside providing particularly inviting waters. The southern end of the lake is a bit busier, with ferry crossings and watersports. If your keen for a more peaceful swim then northern shores offer more secluded spots.

Swimming Here: Swimming in Windermere is great for both beginners and experienced swimmers. The water near Ambleside is calm, making it a good place for a relaxed swim. If you like longer swims, the middle and southern parts of the lake have more space to explore.

  • Rayrigg Meadow: Near Windermere town, offering easy lake access and views towards the central fells. It’s a popular spot, so early arrival is recommended. Rayrigg Meadow Car Park is Close to the meadow.
  • Millerground Landing: This spot has a nice beach area and is one of the quieter places to enter Windermere. It’s great for families. A small car park is located off Rayrigg Road, a short walk from the lake.
Wild swimming in  Windermere

Coniston Water

Famed for its association with Donald Campbell and his water speed records. The lake is surrounded by peaks, providing sheltered waters that are ideal for swimming. The western shore, accessible from the village of Coniston, offers some of the best swimming spots, with clear waters and stunning views of the Coniston Fells.

Swimming Here: When you swim in Coniston Water, you’re surrounded by stunning views of the mountains. The water is very clear, making it enjoyable for both short dips and longer swims. It’s a special place because of its history with speedboats, adding an interesting background to your swim.

  • Coniston Boating Centre: Offers a gentle shore that’s perfect for swimmers. It’s a good spot to start a longer swim. The car park is located right by the boating centre.
  • Brantwood: Across the lake from Coniston village, offering quieter access to the water. It’s ideal for those looking to swim with stunning views of the Coniston Fells. Brantwood Visitor Car Park is primarily for visitors to Brantwood; it’s also a good spot for swimmers. A short walk leads down to the lake.

Buttermere

For those seeking tranquility, Buttermere is a hidden gem. Surrounded by fells, its waters are calm and clear, making it a perfect spot for a reflective swim. The lake is easily accessible via a path that runs around its perimeter, offering various entry points. The scenery here, with the dramatic backdrop of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks, is unmatched.

Swimming Here: The water is so clear that you can see the bottom, and the surrounding hills make it a beautiful place to relax. It’s perfect for anyone looking to swim in a quiet, scenic spot.

  • Buttermere Village: The path around the lake is accessible from here, offering several spots to enter the water. A car park is located near the Fish Hotel.
  • Gatesgarth Farm: At the southern end of the lake, providing access to some quieter swimming spots. A convenient option for those starting their swim at the southern end of Buttermere.
Wild swimming in Buttermere

Grasmere and Rydal Water

These two smaller lakes are close to each other and have a lot of natural beauty. Both are easily accessible and provide a serene setting for swimmers, with Grasmere offering stunning views of Helm Crag and the Fairfield Horseshoe. Rydal Water, with its connections to Wordsworth, adds a literary charm to its clear, inviting waters.

Swimming Here: These smaller lakes offer a more intimate swimming experience. The water is gentle, and the views of the hills are lovely.

Starting Points for Grasmere:

  • Faeryland Tea Garden: Offers a quaint and charming entry point to the lake. It’s a bit of a hidden gem.
  • Dove Cottage: While primarily known as Wordsworth’s home, there are accessible spots near the cottage along the lake.

Starting Points for Rydal Water:

  • Rydal Mount: Near Wordsworth’s later home, offering access to the lake via a short walk.
  • White Moss Walks: A series of paths that lead to various entry points along Rydal Water.
Wild swimming in  Rydal Water

Wastwater

England’s deepest lake, Wastwater, is framed by the dramatic screes and the peaks of the Scafell range, providing a wild setting for swimmers. Its remote location in the Wasdale Valley ensures a peaceful swim away from the crowds. The lake’s clear, deep waters reflect the surrounding fells, creating a serene and somewhat mystical swimming experience.

Swimming Experience: The depth of the lake can make the water quite cold, even in summer, but its clarity and dramatic scenery make it a favourite among more adventurous swimmers. The rocky shores offer several entry points, with the western shore being particularly accessible.

Wasdale Head: Offers a dramatic starting point for swims with views of England’s highest mountains. Parking is available at Wasdale Head car park, providing direct access to the lake’s western end.

Derwentwater

Surrounded by wooded fells and with four main islands, Derwentwater offers a variety of swimming experiences. The lake is easily accessible from Keswick and is popular for both swimming and boating, providing a lively atmosphere. The views towards Skiddaw and the Borrowdale Valley are spectacular, making it a picturesque spot for a swim.

Swimming Experience: The lake has several accessible beaches and jetties, making entry and exit straightforward. The waters are generally calm, with the bays around the islands offering sheltered spots for a leisurely swim. Morning swims are particularly magical, with the water often mirror-calm and the surrounding landscape bathed in soft light.

  • Keswick Landing Stages: Ideal for swimmers looking to explore the northern part of Derwentwater. You can park at the Lakeside Car Park in Keswick, which is a short walk from the water.
  • Brandelhow Bay: Offers a quieter entry point on the lake’s western shore. Park at the National Trust car park at Brandelhow Park and follow the path down to the bay.

Crummock Water

Lying between Buttermere and Loweswater, Crummock Water offers a quieter alternative to its more famous neighbours. The lake is flanked by steep fells, notably Mellbreak to the west and Grasmoor to the north, creating a secluded feel. The water is exceptionally clear, and the lack of motorboats preserves its tranquility.

Swimming Experience: The lake’s length and relatively straight shape make it ideal for longer swims. The pebble beaches along the shore provide easy access, and the water is refreshingly clean. Swimmers can enjoy uninterrupted views of the surrounding fells, with Scale Force, the Lake District’s highest waterfall, a notable nearby feature.

  • Lanthwaite Wood: A popular spot for entering Crummock Water, with parking available at Lanthwaite Wood Car Park. It’s a short walk from the car park to the lake.
  • Scale Hill: Provides access to the northern end of the lake, with parking at Scale Hill Car Park. From here, paths lead down to several quiet swimming spots.

Ullswater

As the second-largest lake in the Lake District, Ullswater boasts a beauty that rivals that of Windermere but with fewer visitors. The lake winds through the mountains, offering varied scenery including wooded shores and rugged peaks. It’s famous for its steamers, which have been cruising the lake since 1859.

Swimming Experience: Ullswater’s shape and the surrounding topography create different conditions along its length, from sheltered bays to more open waters. The area around Glenridding provides a good starting point, with clear waters and stunning views, especially towards Helvellyn. The eastern shore, accessible from the Howtown ferry stop, offers more secluded spots for those looking to escape the crowds.

  • Glenridding: A good starting point for swimming in Ullswater, with parking available at Glenridding Car Park. The village offers easy access to the lake and stunning views.
  • Howtown: For a quieter swim, park at Howtown car park and walk down to the lake. The eastern shore here is less crowded and offers peaceful swimming conditions.
Wild swimming in Ullswater

Blea Tarn

Description: For those seeking the tranquility of a mountain tarn, Blea Tarn is a jewel. Situated between Great Langdale and Little Langdale, this small tarn offers peace and solitude with breathtaking views of the Langdale Pikes. The tarn is easily accessible by a short walk from the car park, making it ideal for a spontaneous dip.

Swimming Experience: The tarn’s relatively small size and sheltered position make its waters warmer than those of the larger lakes, providing a more comfortable swimming experience. The grassy shores offer a pleasant spot for picnics and relaxation after a swim, making Blea Tarn a perfect destination for a day out.

Blea Tarn Car Park: Directly overlooks the tarn, offering easy access for swimmers. It’s a small area, so arriving early is recommended to secure a spot.

Rivers: The Flowing Veins of the Lake District

The River Rothay

Linking Grasmere and Rydal Water, the Rothay offers delightful spots for wild swimming, especially near the stepping stones at Rydal Hall. The water flow is gentle, making it suitable for a leisurely swim amidst the enchanting woodland scenery.

  • Rothay Park, Ambleside: Start your river swim here, with parking available at Rothay Park Car Park. The park offers a gentle entry into the river.
  • Pelter Bridge: Another popular starting point for swimming in the Rothay, with parking available at Pelter Bridge Car Park. It’s a short walk to the river, offering a serene swimming experience.

The Duddon Valley

For those looking to swim in a river setting, the Duddon Valley provides a series of deep pools and smooth runs, set in a less frequented part of the Lake District. The water is crystal clear, and the surrounding scenery is spectacular, offering a sense of solitude and adventure.

  • Seathwaite: Park at the small car park in Seathwaite to access the Duddon Valley’s swimming spots. The river here has several deep pools ideal for swimming.
  • Ulpha Bridge: Offers another entry point into the River Duddon, with roadside parking near Ulpha Bridge. It’s a beautiful spot for a dip in the river.
Wild swimming in  The Duddon Valley

Coast: The Lake District’s Salty Edge

St Bees Head

While the Lake District is famed for its freshwater swims, the Cumbrian coast offers its own wild swimming experiences. St Bees Head, with its dramatic cliffs and pebble beaches, provides a refreshing sea swim. The water quality is excellent, and on a clear day, swimmers can enjoy views across to the Isle of Man.

St Bees Beach: The main starting point for sea swimming, with parking available at St Bees Beach Car Park. The beach offers easy access to the sea and views of the Isle of Man on clear days.

Different Conditions and Considerations

Swimming in the Lake District varies greatly depending on location. Lakes and tarns generally offer calmer conditions, though water temperatures can be chilly, especially outside of summer. Rivers provide a dynamic swimming experience but require caution regarding water flow and potential obstacles.

Regardless of where you choose to swim, always respect the natural environment and consider your safety and that of others. The Lake District offers an unparalleled wild swimming experience, combining the thrill of open-water swimming with the peace and beauty of some of Britain’s most stunning landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned wild swimmer or looking to dip your toes into the world of outdoor swimming, the Lake District’s waters welcome you to a world of adventure and tranquillity.

Access to the water

In the Lake District, the right of access to open water for swimming is generally supported under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which allows the public to access most lakes, rivers, and tarns for recreational activities. While specific bylaws or local restrictions may apply to certain areas, especially concerning boat traffic or protected wildlife habitats, swimmers are widely welcomed.

It’s important to note that while access to the water is permitted, the land surrounding these bodies of water, including lake shores and riverbanks, may be privately owned, and respect for private property should be adhered to! Public rights of way or designated access points should be used to enter the water. The Lake District National Park Authority provides information on accessible spots for swimming, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the natural beauty of the area while respecting the environment and local communities.

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Max
Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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