Wild Swimming Lake District: Your Ultimate Guide for 2023

Wild Swimming in the Lake District: Your ultimate 2023 guide

Hey there, nature lovers!

Fancy a swim in a lake surrounded by the most beautiful scenery you can imagine?

Well, strap on your goggles because our 2023 Lake District Wild Swimming guide is here. We've done the splashing, the shivering, and the exploring, all to bring you the best of this wild swimming paradise.

Let's dive in, shall we?

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    But first: a word about safety

    Wild swimming safety
    Photo © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0)

    While the lakes and tarns of the Lake District are stunning, their beauty hides some potential hazards for the unprepared swimmer.

    But fear not, just follow these basic safety guidelines and you'll be slipping into the cool water in no time. We want your wild swimming adventure to be memorable for all the right reasons.

    Swimming prowess

    A friendly reminder. Even though it might seem obvious, it's important to be cautious around shallow water. It can get deep quite suddenly, especially in the Lake District. If you, or anyone you're with, aren't strong swimmers it's a good idea to scope out the area to determine how far the shallow water extends. Make sure to set some clear boundaries and keep a watchful eye on everyone.

    Don't forget that even shallow portions of fast-moving water can sweep you off your feet! And when it comes to inflatables, be aware that they can sometimes give a false sense of security. They might drift into deeper waters or even pop. Consider investing in a high-quality buoyancy aid for those who aren't confident swimmers.

    And hey, if you haven't already, learning to swim is a fantastic skill to pick up! It's important to know your own swimming abilities, especially when you're in colder water.

    Cold water and hypothermia

    When you're swimming outdoors in cold water, it can lower your body heat, affect your swimming abilities, and impact your judgment. If you start to shiver or your teeth chatter, it's a sign that you might be experiencing mild hypothermia. It's best to get out of the water and warm up with some dry clothes and a bit of movement. Try doing a few push-ups, star-jumps, or running up a hill nearby to get that warmth back!

    If you plan on spending more time in the water than a quick dip, wearing a wetsuit is a great idea. Cold water can alter your body's position in the water, making you more horizontal as you try to keep your head up. This can cause your muscles to contract and make your swimming strokes less efficient.

    Additionally, especially in the colder months, we heartily recommend wearing gloves and a woolly hat when out wild swimming in the colder temperatures.

    As a rule of thumb, remember that you might only be able to swim one-tenth of the distance in cold water compared to a warm pool. One of the main causes of drowning is reduced swimming capability. This is especially true in lakes where people might try to swim to the other side. Make sure to keep an eye on everyone in your group so that no one gets left behind, too far from shore, or out of sight.

    Cold Shock

    When you first plunge into very chilly water, your body can have an involuntary reaction known as "cold water shock." This means you gasp for air and your heart rate spikes. Nothing to worry about, but it's best to go slowly if it's your first time swimming in cold temperatures or you're not used to outdoor swimming.

    The water may feel quite different at the surface versus further down, especially in deep, still water like a lake. The lower layer can be frigid! If you enjoy jumping into water from up high, be aware that the temperature change can be a shock to your system. It's a good idea to do a quick temperature check and wade in first to help your body adjust. That way you'll be ready for the cooler layers below and avoid a dangerous cold shock reaction.

    The key is to acclimatize to the cold water gradually. Take your time and go at your own pace. Once your body adapts, you'll be able to enjoy a refreshing dip, jump, or swim. But when in doubt, it's always best to wade in rather than dive straight in. Your body will thank you!

    Jumping and diving

    Even if you've jumped at a spot before, always check the water depth first since it can change over time or even day to day. You never know if some rocks, logs or other debris may have ended up in the landing zone. The last thing anyone wants is to hit something under the water!

    Also, be very careful around the bases of large waterfalls or weirs. The currents there can be quite strong and pull you under, and it may be tough to swim away to safety. Always observe the water first to make sure the currents look calm and navigable before jumping in.

    One more thing—if the water is icy cold, think twice before jumping in, especially if you're not used to those temperatures. As mentioned above, Cold Water shock can be dangerous. Your body may not react fast enough to swim effectively. It's best to avoid waterfall jumping in those conditions altogether, or at least start with a smaller jump to get used to the temp.

    Slipping on rocks

    Be mindful of slippery rocks. Those smooth stones along the riverbed or rocky shore can get very slick when wet. The last thing you want is to take a tumble and bump your head. Our advice is to go slowly, without running. Even better, consider going barefoot or wearing rubber-soled shoes for better traction.

    If scrambling along river gorges is your thing, you might enjoy a guided gorge walking or canyoning tour. They can teach you some pro tips for navigating slippery and uneven terrain. And of course, safety first - if there’s a risk of hitting your head in or near the water, take it slow and be careful. An injury in a remote area can turn serious.

    Generally, don't let this worry you too much. Use common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and think about how to avoid slipping or stumbling.

    Cramps and solo-swimming

    Leg cramps while swimming are no fun, but the good news is they're usually nothing to worry about. Cramps often come from overdoing it a bit - swimming too long, kicking too hard, or not staying hydrated. The easiest way to avoid cramps is to take breaks when you're swimming. Stretch your legs from time to time, and make sure you're drinking plenty of water, especially on hot days.

    Cramps can happen to anyone, even strong swimmers, so don't feel bad if you get one. The most common places are in your calf or foot. If a cramp strikes, don't panic. Flip over onto your back, stretch your leg out straight, and massage the cramped muscle. Bend your knee slightly too, that can help. Paddle to the edge of the pool or shore using your arms and hands. The cramp will release after a few minutes.

    The risk of drowning while swimming alone is very low, but if you do get a bad cramp in deep water and feel unsafe, yell for help. Consider wearing a life jacket, especially if you're getting back into swimming. And having a pool noodle, float, or light cord tied around your waist is cheap insurance.

    Leg cramps are no cause for concern and shouldn't keep you out of the water. Remember to start slow, stay hydrated, stretch occasionally, and relax. Swimming should be an enjoyable activity! If cramps become frequent or severe, check with your doctor to be safe.


    A few tips about swimming in areas with aquatic plants. Riverweed and the like are usually pretty easy to spot, especially on those lazy summer days floating down a slow river or paddling around a lake. A few stray strands here and there are no big deal and easy enough to glide past. But thick patches of the stuff can be tricky to navigate since they have a habit of wrapping themselves around your legs.

    If you find yourself in a sea of green, stay calm and don't panic. Thrashing about will only make the situation worse. Slow your pace, avoid kicking, and gently paddle over the top using your hands. You can also slowly turn around and head back the way you came until you find a clearer path. The key is to remain relaxed. Aquatic plants themselves are harmless. It's the panic and splashing that can lead to dangerous situations.

    Blue-green algae

    When the weather's hot and humid, especially late in the summer, algae can multiply in calmer, lowland lakes. They form those green, powdery blooms you'll see clustered on one side of the lake, where the wind has blown them together.

    Not the most appealing sight, we know! Those algal blooms aren't usually dangerous, but they can irritate your skin and eyes, and may upset your stomach if swallowed. The algae are trying to thrive in the warm, nutrient-rich water. But for us humans it's better to find a clear part of the lake to swim in. Better yet, head to a different lake altogether if there are a lot of blooms.

    No need to panic, just use common sense - if the water looks like pea soup, it's best to keep swimming off the agenda for the day! There are still plenty of great lake days left in the season.

    "Swimmer's Itch" (cercarial dermatitis)

    "Swimmer's itch" can sometimes happen when swimming in lakes or ponds. It's caused by little larvae from snails that like to hang out in the reeds and plants around the water's edge. The good news is it's usually harmless, though it can cause an annoying itchy rash that lasts a couple of days.

    The rash happens when the larvae come in contact with your skin. They're usually exploring the water for a more suitable host, like birds or small mammals. The itching is an allergic reaction. The best way to avoid it is to not splash or wade around in stagnant, swampy areas where the snails tend to congregate. As long as you swim in open, flowing parts of the lake, the odds of run-ins with these little larvae are low.

    If you do end up with an itchy rash from swimmer's itch, try not to scratch too much. Take an oral antihistamine, use hydrocortisone cream and aloe vera to soothe the skin, and it should clear up in a couple of days.

    To summarise

    1. Caution around shallow water: Assess depth and set boundaries for those who aren't strong swimmers.
    2. Cold water and hypothermia: Be aware of symptoms and warm up quickly if needed. Consider wearing a wetsuit.
    3. Cold water shock: Acclimatise to cold water gradually to avoid involuntary reactions.
    4. Slippery rocks: Go slowly, avoid running, and wear appropriate footwear.
    5. Jumping and diving: Check water depth, currents, and water temperature before jumping.
    6. Cramps and solo-swimming: Stay hydrated, stretch, and take breaks to avoid cramps. Consider wearing a life jacket.
    7. Weeds: Remain calm when encountering aquatic plants. Panic can lead to dangerous situations.
    8. Blue-green algae: Avoid swimming in areas with algal blooms. Use common sense when assessing water quality.
    9. Swimmer's itch: Avoid stagnant, swampy areas and treat any resulting rash with antihistamines and soothing creams.

    For a detailed and inspiring guide to swimming in the Lake District, and how to do so safely, we heartily recommend Swimming Wild in the Lake District by Suzanna Cruickshank.

    Now that we've got all of that out of the way, let's explore where to swim, shall we?

    Wild swimming in the Lake District's main meres and waters

    Pull up a chair and grab a brew, let's talk about wild swimming in the beautiful meres and waters of the Lake District.

    Whether you're a seasoned swimmer or you're just dipping your toes in the water, you're bound to find a spot that makes your heart skip a beat.

    Though definitions can vary, and it is a long-debated topic, there are 16 main lakes in the Lake District. We're going to go through each one, which ones you're allowed to swim in, and where the best swimming spots are.

    If the prospect of swimming in one of the main lakes of the Lake District seems intimidating, fear not! This guide also includes wild swimming spots in the Lake Districts pots, dubs, tarns, and waterfalls.

    Wild swimming in Windermere, the Lake District

    A high view of Windermere from Orrest Head, showcasing the potential areas for wild swimming in Windermere, the Lake District.
    Photo by Abbasi1111, licensed CC-by-3.0

    Alright, let's plunge into Windermere, folks.

    As the longest lake in England, Windermere promises plenty of room for exploration and fun in the water.

    In this section, we'll spill the beans on our favourite wild swimming locations in and around this majestic lake. Keep reading, the water's lovely!

    Main swimming spots in Windermere lake

    Fell Foot

    • Location: ///bookings.grid.form (What3Words address)
    • Info: This is a National Trust site. Parking has to be paid for unless you're a National Trust member.

    Swimming in Windermere at Fell Foot

    Nestled along Windermere's southern shoreline, Fell Foot combines natural beauty with modern amenities. Let's explore what makes this spot special.

    First things first, keep an eye out for nearby boats, cruisers, and yachts to ensure a safe and enjoyable swimming experience. We recommend you increase your visibility in the water by equipping a Swim Secure Tow Float☍.

    After your refreshing swim, find convenience nearby. Fell Foot offers onsite changing rooms and hot showers upon purchase of a day pass. Recharge with a rejuvenating shower and relish in the post-swim glow.

    Afterwards, satisfy your appetite at the inviting Boathouse Café on site. From light snacks to comforting coffee and delicious treats, you can indulge whilst soaking in the lakeside ambiance.

    Finally, you can enhance your Fell Foot experience with additional equipment for hire. Rent rowboats, kayaks, or paddleboards and embark on a waterborne adventure, discovering hidden coves and scenic nooks. Unleash your inner explorer and embrace the wonders of the lake.


    Wild swimming lake Windermere at Millerground

    Situated north of Bowness-on-Windermere is the hidden gem of Millerground, a haven for wild swimming enthusiasts.

    The adventure starts with a peaceful stroll down through the verdant woods, tracing the course of the serene Wynlass Beck. You'll very quickly emerge from the small woodland out onto the shingle shore with expansive views of Windermere to your left and right. Entry into the water is gentle, and you tend to be away from various boats and watercraft here.

    Once you've basked in the refreshing waters near Millerground, nearby towns Bowness-on-Windermere and Windermere await you. Just a short distance away, these charming locations offer an array of post-swim refreshment options. Bowness-on-Windermere, located on the lake's edge, boasts picturesque eateries and traditional pubs, while Windermere town serves up a delightful mix of cozy cafes and gourmet restaurants.

    Low Wray

    • Location: ///zones.summer.economics (What3Words location)
    • Info: This is a National Trust site, at Wray Castle. Parking has to be paid for unless you're a National Trust member.

    Wild swimming Winderemere at Low Wray, near Wray Castle

    Once you're parked up at Wray Castle, find your way to the shore of Windermere is easy enough.

    From the car park, head south onto the path towards the shore of Windermere. Not even 5-minutes later you'll arrive at the shingle beach on Windermere's eastern shore, with cracking views towards Bowness-on-Windermere across the other side of the lake.

    You'll find the lake's various boats are usually vacant here, leaving you with a degree of peace of mind. Nevertheless, you should always ensure you're highly visible in the water.

    The shingle beach allows a gentle gradient into the water, ideal for those just starting out in the wonderful world of wild swimming.

    Once you've had your fill, merely head back the way you came towards Wray Castle. Post-swim refreshments are available via Joey's Castle Cafe and Bakery.

    Borran's Park

    Wild swimming in Windermere at Borran's Park, Waterhead

    Tucked in the picturesque surroundings of Windermere's northern shore, Borran's Park offers an inviting location for a refreshing dip.

    There are, however, a few things to keep in mind while planning your swim.

    Firstly, Windermere is a hub of boating activity, especially around Borran's Park and Waterhead area. The lake's natural beauty and calm waters draw sailors, rowers, and all sorts of aquatic enthusiasts. While this adds to the area's charm, it's crucial to keep an eye out while swimming. Always be aware of your surroundings, and if you see a boat coming your way, make sure you're visible or safely out of the path.

    If you're seeking a slightly more secluded experience, half a mile south from Borran's Park's car park, near the enchanting Stagshaw Gardens, you'll find another shingle beach area. This tucked-away spot is often further away from the bustle of boats and other watercraft, making it an ideal location for a peaceful swim.

    After your swim, you'll likely have worked up an appetite. A short stroll into Waterhead or Ambleside offers an array of food and drink options sure to satisfy any craving. Whether you're in the mood for a hearty post-swim meal, a refreshing pint, or a warming cup of tea, these welcoming towns have got you covered.

    Windermere lake facts

    Facts and figures about Windermere lake in the Lake District

    Windermere is the largest lake in England by length, area, and volume.

    • Length: 11.23 miles (18.07 km)
    • Maximum width: 0.93 miles (1.50 km)
    • Surface area: 5.69 square miles (14.73 km²)
    • Maximum depth: 219 feet (67 meters)

    Windermere's name has an intriguing history, originating from Old Norse Wīnandar mere, meaning "Vinand's lake." Prior to the 19th century, the lake was known as "Winander Mere" or "Winandermere," with alternative spellings such as "Wynhendermere" and "Wynenderme" also being used.

    Within Windermere are eighteen beautiful islands, the largest of which is Belle Isle. Previously known as Lang Holme, the island is a testament to the region's rich history. In fact, many of the other islands on the lake contain the word "holme" in their names, a term derived from Old Norse holmr, meaning a small island or islet.

    While exploring the waters of Windermere, wild swimmers may also encounter a variety of fish species, such as trout, char, pike, and perch, adding to the lake's natural beauty.

    Every year, Windermere becomes the site of the renowned Great North Swim, drawing swimmers from far and wide to take part in this thrilling event.

    Wild swimming in Coniston Water, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Coniston Water, the Lake District

    As we continue our wild swimming journey, let's introduce you to the enchanting Coniston Water.

    Surrounded by beautiful fells and forests, this peaceful lake provides an ideal getaway for those seeking refreshing wild swimming adventures. For swimmers of all levels, Coniston Water offers a memorable and rejuvenating experience.

    In this section, we'll guide you through the best spots to take the plunge in Coniston Water. So, grab your swimsuit and let's dive into the revitalising waters of Coniston.

    Main swimming spots in Coniston Water

    Monk Coniston

    Wild swimming in Coniston Water near Monk Coniston, northern shore
    Mike White / Coniston Water from Monk Coniston / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Looking for a great wild swimming spot in the Lake District? Head to the northern end of Coniston Water near Monk Coniston. It's a fantastic location that's less crowded with boats, giving you plenty of space to enjoy your swim.

    What's nice about this location is the small shingle beach you'll find there. It's an easy and comfortable place to get in and out of the water, whether you're a seasoned wild swimmer or starting out. The views of the surrounding hills and countryside are pretty amazing too. Don't forget to take a moment to soak it all in.

    Once you've had your fill of swimming, you'll be ready for a bite to eat or something to drink. The good news is that the village of Coniston is a short walk away. There, you'll find a selection of welcoming cafes, pubs, and restaurants where you can refuel and relax after your swim.

    Bailiff Wood

    Wild swimming at Coniston Water's eastern shore near Bailiff Wood

    If you're looking for a peaceful swim, head to the eastern shore of Coniston Water. It's less crowded, away from the boats, and perfect for a relaxing dip in the lake. Trust us, it's worth the trip!

    To get to this great swimming spot, you'll need to navigate a narrow and wooded road. Slow down, keep an eye out for other cars, and enjoy the scenic drive through the beautiful Lake District landscape.

    The good news is that parking is free at Bailiff Wood, but the bad news is that spaces are limited. Arrive early to snag a spot, and remember that your fellow wild swimmers are all vying for the same limited parking, so be courteous.

    One of the best things about this spot is the gentle slope into the water, making it easy for swimmers of all levels to enter the lake. Plus, you'll be treated to a lovely view of Coniston fells and the Old Man while you're enjoying your swim.

    Dodgson Wood

    • Location: ///faded.pinging.gateway (What3Words car park location)
    • Parking: Free National Trust parking, limited spaces
    Wild swimming near Dodgson Wood at Coniston Water

    Looking for a laid-back wild swimming experience away from the busy boat traffic on Coniston Water? Dodgson Wood, located on the eastern shore and further south from Bailiff Wood, is the perfect spot for you. It offers calm waters and an amazing view of the Coniston fells.

    Keep in mind that the road to Dodgson Wood is narrow and surrounded by trees, so you'll want to drive carefully. Don't worry, though – taking it slow gives you a chance to appreciate the beautiful scenery along the way. When you get there, you'll find that parking is free, but spaces are limited, so it's a good idea to arrive early to grab a spot.

    Once you've parked, you'll notice the gentle slope leading you into the water, which makes it easy to wade in and begin your wild swimming adventure. As you're swimming, don't forget to take a moment to enjoy the fantastic views of the Coniston fells and the Old Man. It's a sight that's sure to make your trip even more memorable.

    Brown Howe

    Wild swimming in Coniston Water near Brown Howe

    If wild swimming at Monk Coniston, Bailiff Wood, and Dodgson Wood don't appeal, it's worth checking out Brown Howe. Located on the southwestern shore, this spot is serene and accessible, suitable for wild swimmers of all abilities.

    Getting to Brown Howe is a breeze, thanks to the LDNPA paid car park nearby. With a dedicated parking space, you can start your wild swimming adventure worry-free. Plus, the parking fees help maintain the beautiful landscape, so you're also doing your part to support the area.

    When you arrive, you'll find clean and well-maintained toilet facilities close by. You can enjoy your wild swimming experience with all the necessary amenities at hand.

    The highlight of Brown Howe is its secluded pebble shore, surrounded by woodlands. This hidden gem offers a sense of privacy and tranquillity, making it feel like your very own secret spot. The pebbled beach also makes it easy to walk into the water, so you can take your time getting used to the refreshing temperature of Coniston Water.

    If you're very much new and/or are a beginner to wild swimming, we advise tackling Coniston Water from the eastern shore. It's more shallow and has a gradual downward shelf into the water. As the western shore is directly below the Coniston Fells, the drop from the shore into the water is steeper.

    Coniston Water facts

    Facts about Coniston Water in the Lake District

    Coniston Water is the 3rd largest lake in the Lake District by volume, and the fifth-largest by area.

    • Length: 5.5 mi/8.8 km
    • Maximum width: 0.49 miles/793 m
    • Surface area: 4.7km²/1.8 sq mi
    • Maximum depth: 184.1 ft/56.1 m

    The name "Coniston" comes from the Old Norse term konungs tun, meaning "[the] King's estate/village." It later became cyninges-tūn in Old English. Before the late 18th century, it was actually called Thurston Water, named after the Old Norse personal name Thursteinn.

    The lake is home to two islands, Peel Island and Oak Island. There is a third one, Fir Island, which becomes an island only when the water is high. These islands add a touch of charm to the area.

    People have been living around Coniston Water since the Bronze Age, with agricultural settlements dotting the shoreline. This shows how great the area's natural resources and soil are.

    Famous Victorian artist and philosopher John Ruskin once lived in Brantwood House on the eastern shore of Coniston Water, from 1872 until his death in 1900. The stunning views must have been a great source of inspiration for him.

    Author Arthur Ransome set his beloved children's novel Swallows and Amazons, as well as its sequels Swallowdale, Winter Holiday, Pigeon Post, and The Picts and the Martyrs, around a fictional lake inspired by both Coniston Water and Windermere. His books capture the spirit and wonder of the Lake District.

    Before the creation of Cumbria in 1974, Coniston Water was part of Lancashire North o' the Sands.

    Coniston Water also has a history of people trying to break the world water speed record. Sir Malcolm Campbell set a record of 141.74 miles per hour in 1939. His son, Donald Campbell, went on to set four more consecutive records on the lake between 1956 and 1959. Sadly, Donald Campbell died in 1967 during a record-breaking attempt, reaching a speed of over 320 miles per hour before the accident.

    Today, Coniston Water is a popular destination for boating enthusiasts. The calm waters and beautiful scenery make it perfect for sailing, kayaking, or canoeing.

    Wild swimming in Esthwaite Water, the Lake District

    Can you wild swim in Esthwaite Water, Lake District?
    Esthwaite Water by Ian Dick, licensed CC-by-2.0

    Sandwiched in between the popular lakes of Windermere and Coniston Water, one can find the oft-forgotten Esthwaite Water.

    Unlike Windermere and Coniston, Esthwaite Water is privately owned. That means no swimming or boating allowed unfortunately!

    But don't write off Esthwaite just yet. It's still a gorgeous spot, tucked away amongst rolling green hills. The shores are fringed with forests and home to some cool wildlife. Follow the walking trails to find hidden coves and get awesome views across the calm, peaceful waters.

    No splashing about here, but Esthwaite is perfect for a quiet stroll. With no boats churning up the water, it feels remote and tranquil. A lovely place to reflect and relax.

    So while you can't take a dip, we'd still recommend adding Esthwaite to your LD itinerary. The natural beauty here will captivate you, even from dry land.

    Esthwaite Water facts

    Esthwaite Water and its surroundings are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The diverse habitats around Esthwaite support a wide array of plant and animal species.

    In terms of size, Esthwaite Water is relatively small for a Lake District lake. It measures around 1 mile long by 0.5 miles wide.

    The maximum depth recorded is 50.9 feet (15.5 meters), and the total surface area covers approximately 280 acres (1.1 square km).

    There are a couple of ideas about the origins of the name "Esthwaite":

    1. One theory is that it comes from the Old Norse austr þveit, meaning "eastern clearing";
    2. Another idea is that it means "clearing where ash trees grow", from the Old Norse eski þveit.

    Wild swimming in Rydal Water, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Rydal Water, the Lake District
    Photo by Hoplite369, licensed CC-by-SA-3.0

    Alright, time to talk about another great option for wild swimming in the Lake District - the lovely Rydal Water.

    Now, Rydal isn't as huge as Windermere or Coniston, but it's got its own special charm. Fed by streams from the fells above Grasmere, the lake is surrounded by forests and cute little villages. The water is crystal clear and perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot day.

    In this section, we'll share some good spots to access the lake. Rydal Water is a real gem - the peaceful surroundings and gorgeous views make it a fantastic place to swim in nature.

    If you're looking for an invigorating and scenic swim, Rydal Water won't disappoint.

    Main swimming spots in Rydal Water

    Southern Shore

    Rydal Water isn’t big, so this is essentially the only area to access the lake from. You have a few parking options.

    • White Moss Lower car park: ///blanked.blown.eruptions (What3Words location)
      • This car park is owned by Lowther Estates, you can pay for parking when you leave.
    • White Moss Upper car park: ///loss.dorms.hips (What3Words location)
      • Same as above, this car park is paid parking, owned by Lowther Estates.
    • Pelter Bridge car park: ///contoured.increased.fever (What3Words location)
      • Owned and operated by the LDNPA, paid parking
    Parking options for swimming in Rydal Water

    One of the best things about Rydal Water is that there's a nice path running right along the southern and southeastern shores. This makes it super easy to pick your ideal swimming spot and just dive on in.

    You also don't have to worry about motorboats on this lake - it's peaceful and quiet. The lack of boats, along with the streams feeding the lake, make the water a little warmer than some of the other lakes in the area.

    After your swim, there are some great options nearby to refuel and relax. On the northern shore, you can hit up the Badger Bar for a tasty pub meal. Or head into the village of Rydal itself - it's charming, with some cafes and teashops.

    You could also drive east to Ambleside or west to Grasmere, both just a short jaunt away, for even more choices for food and drinks after your swim.

    Rydal Water is an awesome spot to spend a day wild swimming. With easy lake access, no boats to worry about, and plenty of great pubs and cafes nearby, you really can't go wrong.

    Rydal Water facts

    Rydal Water has a fascinating history and connection to English literature.

    This scenic lake was closely associated with the Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who both lived nearby and often wrote about the lake. In fact, Wordsworth owned property along the northern shores. It's easy to see why Rydal Water inspired them - the peaceful valley and glistening lake are picture perfect.

    Size facts

    In terms of size, Rydal Water stretches about 1,100 yards (1 km) long and 350 yards (350 m) wide. It reaches depths of around 55 feet (17 m) and covers an area of about 0.12 square miles (0.31 km2).

    The lake contains four small islands, with two of particular note. Heron Island near the western shore is aptly named for the herons that frequent it. Little Isle lies near the eastern shore.

    The name Rydal comes from Old English and Old Norse words, Old English ryge—meaning “rye”—and Old Norse dalr—meaning “valley”—to give “valley where the rye is grown”. It was formerly known as Routhmere or "the lake of the River Rothay," which flows out from the eastern end.

    Above the southern shores, a short steep walk takes you to Rydal Cave, a former quarry tunnel that makes for an interesting historical visit.

    Wild swimming in Grasmere, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Grasmere, the Lake District
    Photo by Antiquary, licensed CC-by-4.0

    Continuing our wild swimming tour of the Lake District, we're putting the spotlight on Grasmere next. You're in for a treat with this one—Grasmere is a favourite amongst many wild swimmers, and it's easy to see why.

    Grasmere offers clean, clear water that's often surprisingly warm. Surrounded by hills and the occasional flock of sheep, it's like your own private swimming pool in the midst of nature. It’s a relaxing, refreshing way to experience the Lake District, and an unbeatable way to cool off after a long hike.

    What makes Grasmere really special though is its welcoming atmosphere. It's an accessible spot for newcomers to wild swimming, but also has plenty to offer the more experienced among you. Whether you're here for a quick dip or a long swim, Grasmere is a spot where everyone can feel at home.

    In this section, we'll cover everything you need to know about wild swimming in Grasmere.

    Main swimming spots in Grasmere

    Like Rydal Water, Grasmere isn’t a big lake so there's only a few entry points to consider.

    First, where to park?

    • White Moss Lower car park: ///blanked.blown.eruptions (What3Words location)
      • This car park is owned by Lowther Estates, you can pay for parking when you leave.
    • White Moss Upper car park: ///loss.dorms.hips (What3Words location)
      • Same as above, this car park is paid parking, owned by Lowther Estates.
    • There’s also various parking available in Grasmere village itself, with a longer walk to the shore of the lake as a result.

    Down the path from Red Bank

    Accessing Grasmere lake off the path from Red Bank road

    There’s a good shingle beach area at ///bounty.searches.eternally that allows easy access to the water.

    From Grasmere village, locate Red Bank road and follow it beyond Faeryland Grasmere. After 20 minutes or so, you'll see a footpath sign to your left signalling the way down to the lake shore. Take this path. Soon enough, you'll be at the shore of Grasmere and your entry point into the lake is obvious enough.

    Grasmere "beach" beneath Loughrigg Terrace

    Wild swimming in Grasmere via Grasmere beach underneath Loughrigg Terrace

    Perhaps the best spot to access Grasmere for wild swimming is the large shingle beach underneath Loughrigg Terrace, found at ///slug.panics.forgotten (What3Words location link).

    It's easy enough to find. From the previous location mentioned above, simply the follow the path all the way to the beach, staying close to the shore. You'll pass through the National Trust's Deer Bolt Woods before emerging onto the open shingle beach.

    You won't have to worry about motorboats here, but keep an eye out for people in hired row boats or kayaks.

    The water tends to be warmer than some of the other Lake District lakes too, which is nice.

    After your swim, wander into Grasmere village for some refreshments. You'll be spoiled for choice - grab a pastry at one of the cute cafés, enjoy a pint at a local pub, or pack a picnic to munch on the shores of the lake. Refueling after a bracing swim is part of the fun.

    Grasmere facts

    Grasmere has a super strong connection to the poet William Wordsworth, who lived in the village for 14 years from 1799. So you'll see nods to him all over the place.

    Size facts

    • Length: 0.95 miles/1.5 km
    • Maximum width: 700 yds/640 m
    • Maximum depth: 70 ft/21 m
    • Surface area: 0.62km²/0.24 sq mi

    The lake is owned by the Lowther Estate but leased to the National Trust. It contains one island called Grasmere Island or just The Island. This was actually bequeathed to the National Trust in 2017, which is meaningful because the island has a unique history with the National Trust's origins.

    Back in 1893, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley was upset when the island was sold to a private buyer. He believed places like this should be protected for the public to enjoy. This conviction led him to establish the National Trust, together with Octavia Hill and Robert Hunter. So you could say this little island was the seed that grew into the whole National Trust!

    Finally, the name Grasmere comes from the Old Norse græs and mere meaning "grassy lake" or "lake flanked by grass"—a very fitting name when you see its lush green shores.

    Wild swimming in Elter Water, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Elter Water, the Lake District
    Elter Water by Sally, licensed CC-by-SA-2.0

    Let's talk about Elter Water, one of the Lake District's quieter but equally awesome spots for wild swimming. It's tucked away in the Langdale valleys and offers a refreshing experience.

    Elter Water is surrounded by the impressive Langdale Pikes and wide open meadows, giving you some pretty epic views. Its clear waters are inviting, and the setting is pretty relaxed - a perfect spot to unwind.

    If you're looking to try something different from the busier spots, like Windermere and Coniston, Elter Water is definitely worth a visit.

    It's a fantastic spot for wild swimming, with a stunning backdrop that's sure to impress.

    Main swimming spots in Elter Water

    Much of Elter Water is surrounded by woodland or bog, with access restricted to much of the lake's shoreline due to private farming land.

    As such the main, and basically only, area to access the waters of Elter Water is via a small shingle beach on the lake's eastern shore.

    Let's talk parking. There's a couple of options:

    • Layby parking near Chesters By The River at ///suave.easels.reform (link to What3Words location). Parking here is free but spaces are extremely limited.
    • Silverthwaite parking at ///segregate.homes.interview (link to What3Words location)
      • Owned by Lowther Estates and managed by Park With Ease. Paid parking.

    Start at Skelwith Bridge and follow the Cumbria Way along the River Brathay. You'll get to see the awesome Skelwith Force waterfall as you go. The trail continues through the pretty Birk Rigg park until you reach the eastern shore of Elter Water.

    When you arrive, you'll find a small shingle beach which makes getting into the water super easy. Just be aware the reeds can be thick in spots around the edge. But otherwise, it's a great place for a refreshing dip on a nice day! The views towards the Langdale Pikes are particularly inspiring.

    The main access to Elter Water, at the lake's eastern shore

    After working up an appetite in Elter Water, you've got a couple of options to refuel.

    If you head back the way you came to Skelwith Bridge, be sure to stop at Chesters By The River. They're known for a fantastic selection of cakes, pastries, meals, and tasty coffee.

    Or, if you want to keep exploring, you can continue past the lake into the quaint village of Elterwater. We always enjoy grabbing a pint and a bite at the Britannia Inn↗ there. The cozy pub atmosphere and excellent food make it a great spot to unwind after a day outdoors.

    Elter Water facts

    One nice thing about Elter Water is that navigations is prohibited, so you don't have to worry about dodging any watercraft while swimming. It's a peaceful, boat-free zone.

    Size facts

    • Length: 1,030 yds/940 m
    • Maximum width: 350 yds/320 m
    • Maximum depth: 20 ft/6.1 m
    • Surface area: 0.16km²/0.06 sq mi

    The name Elter Water comes from the Old Norse words elptr or alpt, meaning "swan", plus vatn meaning "lake". So it translates to "lake of the swans" - very poetic!

    From the eastern shore you get phenomenal views west towards the famous Langdale Pikes. In fact, the lake's beautiful mountain vistas were captured in a painting by Thomas Frederick Worrall. It's a gorgeous spot to take in the scenery while drying off after your swim.

    Wild swimming in Thirlmere, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Thirlmere, the Lake District
    Photo by Mick Knapton, licensed CC-by-SA-3.0

    Thirlmere is a true Lake District icon but swimming is a big no-no in its waters.

    As a reservoir that provides drinking water to Manchester, the lake is off-limits to protect water quality.

    While we can't take a dip in Thirlmere itself, we do know a couple of secret swimming spots nearby. For adventurous swimmers, learn more about swimming Thirlmere's "Infinity Pool"☍.

    First, a little background on Thirlmere. Thanks to its prime spot between the fells, particularly underneath Helvellyn, Thirlmere gathers a lot of rainfall. After Manchester's demand exceeded its water supply in the 1800s, the UK government chose Thirlmere for a new reservoir. Despite opposition, dam construction began in 1886, raising the lake 50 feet.

    Today, Thirlmere retains its beauty, even with its engineered purpose. Lined with forests and wetlands, it provides great a wildlife habitat.

    While we can't swim in the lake, hikers can enjoy the lovely views from scenic trails along its shores. For a refreshing dip nearby, keep reading to uncover a couple of secluded pools known only to seasoned swimmers.

    Thirlmere facts

    Originally a natural lake, Thirlmere has been known by various names throughout history. These include Leathes Water, Wythburn Water, Thirle Water, and finally Thirlmere.

    Size facts

    • Length: 3.76 miles/6.05 km
    • Maximum width: 0.43 miles/0.7 km
    • Maximum depth: 131 ft/40 m
    • Surface area: 3.25km²/1.25 sq mi

    The name Thirlmere comes from Old Norse roots: þyrel meaning "aperture" or "narrow", and mere meaning "lake". So it translates to "the lake at the narrowing." Makes sense when you consider its shape!

    An interesting recent bit of history. The A591 road running along Thirlmere's eastern shore beneath Helvellyn was destroyed by Storm Desmond in December 2015. It was repaired and reopened just 5 months later in May 2016, restoring the vital transportation link.

    Wild swimming in Haweswater, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Haweswater, the Lake District
    Photo by Jim Walton, licensed CC-3.0

    We've splashed around in Windermere, paddled in Coniston Water, and even admired the serenity of Elter Water.

    But now, we're heading to Haweswater, and things are a bit different here.

    You see, Haweswater isn't your typical Lake District lake. It's actually a reservoir run by United Utilities, and it's pretty important because it provides a lot of fresh water to the North West of England.

    The catch? Well, unfortunately, we can't swim in it.

    But don't worry, there's still plenty of cool stuff to talk about when it comes to Haweswater. No, we can't go for a dip, but there's a lot more to this place than its water.

    Haweswater facts

    Let's start with a bit of trivia. Did you know that Haweswater wasn't always the impressive body of water we see today? In fact, it was a 2.5-mile-long lake, almost split in two by a narrow strip of land at Measand. Some old maps even show this division, with the larger body of water labeled as High Water and the smaller one known as Low Water.

    Size facts

    • Length: 4.2 miles/6.7 km
    • Maximum width: 3,000 ft/ 0.9 km
    • Maximum depth: 77 ft/23.4 m
    • Surface area: 3.9 km²/1.5 sq mi

    Things changed dramatically for this humble lake in 1935. Manchester dammed and transformed it into a reservoir to meet the city's growing demand for water. This project was a massive undertaking, and it wasn't without its sacrifices. As the waters rose, they submerged centuries-old farmsteads, villages, inns, and even churches. Workers demolished some of these structures, while they salvaged and repurposed others into parts of the dam.

    And here's a little eerie tidbit. When the water level in the reservoir drops, the ghostly remnants of the flooded village of Mardale Green sometimes surface. It's a poignant reminder of the reservoir's past, like something straight out of a history book.

    While we might not be able to swim in Haweswater, its rich history and impressive size make it a fascinating spot on our Lake District tour.

    Wild swimming in Ullswater, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Ullswater, the Lake District

    OK, we've had some great swims so far, right? Windermere, Coniston Water—each one a unique experience. And who can forget the quiet charm of Rydal Water, Grasmere, and Elter Water? But there's always more to explore, so let's get ready to dip our toes into Ullswater.

    Now, Ullswater is a bit different from the other lakes we've visited. It's a popular spot, and there are a few things to keep in mind if you're planning to swim there.

    First up, Ullswater is pretty busy. There are lots of motorised boats around, including the Ullswater Steamers that run regular tours. Make sure you're easy to spot when you're in the water and keep an eye on what's around you.

    Next, while there are plenty of places where you can ease yourself into the lake, don't be fooled—the bottom drops away pretty fast. A lot of people have been caught out by this, so be ready for it.

    Last but not least, Ullswater is one of the deepest lakes in the Lake District. That means it's colder than you might expect. If you're not prepared for it, the chill can be a bit of a shock.

    Swimming in Ullswater is a fantastic experience, but it's a bit more challenging than some of the other lakes. So, tighten those goggles and let's dive into our next wild swimming adventure together.

    Main swimming spots in Ullswater

    Glencoyne Bay

    • Parking: Glencoyne Bay National Trust car park ///surpasses.piglet.diggers (What3Word location link)
      • National Trust members park free, otherwise it's paid parking. Quite a sizeable parking space, right near the water.
    Wild swimming at Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater

    Glencoyne Bay is a real treat for wild swimmers. One of the best things about it is how easy it is to get started.

    The moment you step out of your car, you'll find yourself on a long shingle beach. It's a stone's throw away from the car park, so you can go from driver's seat to dipping your toes in the water in no time at all.

    Once you're on the beach, you'll find it's easy to get into the water. The gentle slope of the shingle beach provides a smooth entry point, which is perfect for both beginner and experienced swimmers. If you're wary of the motorised boats we talked about earlier, Glencoyne Bay is generally well away from their usual routes. You can enjoy your swim without having to constantly look over your shoulder.

    But let's not forget the icing on the cake—the scenery. Fells surround Ullswater on all sides, with Place Fell looming directly in front of you. As you swim, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the stunning Lake District landscape. It's the kind of view that makes every swim a memorable experience.

    Near Gowbarrow Bay

    • Parking: Layby parking off the A592 at ///marine.wash.tests (What3Words link location). Free, but there's limited spaces.
    Wild swimming near Gowbarrow Bay at Ullswater

    The shingle beach at Gowbarrow Bay lets you easily slip into Ullswater's clear waters. As you wade in, the views are just amazing. Rugged Place Fell towers in front, to the right are the Helvellyn fells, and the Kirkstone Pass Dodds are beyond in the distance.

    It's tempting from here to strike out across the lake. Ullswater's seven miles long, but this is one of its narrower stretches. Experienced swimmers can give crossing the lake a go.

    This is a prime spot to experience wild swimming at its best - the convenience of the beach, the challenge of crossing, and the jaw-dropping mountain scenery all combine to make Gowbarrow a top Ullswater swim location. The restorative powers of swimming here in the heart of the Lake District are hard to beat.


    • Parking: Layby car park, which is free but extremely limited in spaces, found at ///decking.wheels.closet (What3Words link location)
    Wild swimming at Howtown, Ullswater
    Photo by ARG_Flickr, licensed CC-by 2.0

    Ullswater's Howtown is definitely worth checking out. It's a bit off the beaten path, but that's part of its charm.

    First things first, getting there is half the fun. Hop on the Ullswater Steamer – it's a pretty cool way to travel. You can catch it from popular spots like Pooley Bridge or Glenridding. Take some time to enjoy the ride and check out the scenery.

    Once you get off at the Howtown landing, you'll find a couple of shingle beaches right nearby. They're perfect for easing into your swim, no matter your skill level. The water's usually nice and calm, so it's great for a relaxed swim.

    Just a heads up, though – keep your eyes peeled for the Steamer on its return trip. Make sure you're easy to spot when you're in the water. That could mean wearing a brightly coloured swim cap, or even towing a safety buoy.

    And while you're there, why not make a day of it? Hallin Fell is right nearby and it's a fantastic hike. When you get to the top, you'll get an amazing view of Ullswater and the surrounding countryside.

    Kailpot Crag

    • Parking: Same as for Howtown above
    Jump into Ullswater from Kailpot Crag

    If you're looking to spice up your wild swimming routine, Ullswater's Kailpot Crag is the place to be.

    Start off at Howtown, and head west. Follow the trail - you can't miss it. You'll come across a nice little shingle beach that's the perfect spot to chill before or after your swim. It's quiet, secluded, and offers some great views.

    But the real star of the show here is Kailpot Crag, a small cliff overlooking the beach. It's more than just a pretty view - it's also a launch pad for those looking to add a bit of a thrill to their swim.

    Wild swimmers love Kailpot Crag. Why, you ask? Well, it's got just the right height for a fun dive into the cool waters of Ullswater. It's a rush, but in a good way, and as long as you're sensible about it, it's pretty safe too.

    Once you've taken the plunge, the fun's not over. Swim back around to the beach, and take your time doing it. Enjoy the water, the views, and the calmness of it all. It's a nice, relaxing way to wrap up your adventure and appreciate the beauty of Ullswater.

    Pooley Bridge

    • Dunmallard car park: ///girder.monopoly.fruits (What3Words link location). This is an LDNPA car park you'll need to pay for.
    • Eusmere car park: ///accent.worldwide.mere (What3Words link location). Another LDNPA car park.
    • Car park opp. Church Croft: ///talkative.binder.soonest (What3Words link location). A private car park, but usually much cheaper than LDNPA or National Trust car parks.
    Wild swimming near Pooley Bridge, Ullswater, the Lake Districtq
    Photo by John H. Darch, licensed under CC-by-SA-2.0

    Kick off your day with a leisurely 10-15 minute stroll from Pooley Bridge.

    Head south along the Ullswater Way trail, and you'll soon find yourself walking past the boat landing and towards Gale Bay. This area boasts a long stretch of shingle beach that's perfect for getting into the lake. It's a nice, easy entry point for your swim, and the surrounding views are hard to beat.

    But before you dive in, there's one thing to keep in mind: this area is popular with boaters.

    That's great for adding a bit of lively atmosphere to the place, but it does mean you'll need to be cautious when you're in the water. Make sure you're visible - bright swim caps or safety buoys can be a big help. And of course, always keep an eye out for boats and give them plenty of space.

    Once you're done with your swim, why not head back to Pooley Bridge for a well-deserved refreshment? The village is known for its cosy cafes and welcoming pubs, so you'll have no problem finding a place to refuel. Whether you're in the mood for a hot drink, a hearty meal, or a sweet treat, Pooley Bridge has got you sorted.

    • Swim Secure Silicone Swimming Cap

      £9.99 £8.50

      The silicone Bubble Swim hat has been designed with open water swimmers in mind. The bubble design allows an added layer of insulation and the silicone material allows extra stretch for larger heads or lots of hair.

      View in the shop

    Ullswater facts

    Ullswater is no small pond. It's actually the second largest lake in the Lake District, both by area and volume, coming in second to Windermere.

    Size facts

    • Length: 7.3 miles/11.8 km
    • Maximum width: 0.63 miles/1.02 km
    • Maximum depth: 207 ft/63 m
    • Surface area: 8.9 km²/3.4 sq mi

    As for its name, Ullswater has a few possible origins that are as fascinating as the lake itself.

    One theory suggests it could mean "Ulf's lake", with "Ulf" being an Old Norse name and vatn meaning "water" or "lake". This could be referring to a Nordic chief named Ulf who might have lived in the area, or even to a Saxon Lord of Greystoke named Ulphus, whose land bordered the lake.

    Another interesting possibility is that "Ulfr" is an Old Norse word for wolf. It could also have Celtic roots, with ulle meaning "elbow-shaped" or "crooked", which kind of describes the shape of the lake if you look at it from above. Or it might even be named after the Norse god Ullr. Whatever the origin, it's clear that the name Ullswater is steeped in history.

    And speaking of history, let's not forget about the Ullswater Steamers. Today, they're a popular tourist attraction, offering leisurely cruises across the stunning lake. But back in the 1850s, these boats had a more practical purpose. They used to transport mail, workers, and goods to and from the Greenside mine at Glenridding.

    So, there you have it - Ullswater isn't just a great place for a swim, it's also a fascinating slice of the Lake District's history and culture. Next time you're taking a dip, why not take a moment to appreciate the rich story of the lake you're swimming in?

    Wild swimming in Derwentwater, the Lake District

    Wild swimming Derwentwater, the Lake District

    Derwentwater is one of the best lakes for wild swimming in the Lake District. Sitting in the lovely Borrowdale valley with steep hills and woods along the shores, it's just gorgeous.

    The lake is over a mile wide and 3 miles long - the third biggest in the district. Crystal clear water comes from streams running down the fells around it. When the sun's out, the water sparkles and you can see the peaks of Catbells, Walla Crag, and Skiddaw reflected in it.

    There are some top spots for swimming at Derwentwater. And with scenery this beautiful it's no wonder Derwentwater is a favourite for wild swimming. Stick with us as we check out the best swim spots at this gorgeous lake.

    Main swimming spots in Derwentwater

    Keswick Launch

    • Parking: Lakeside Car Park at ///lamppost.preparing.blocks (What3Words link location). A large car park very close to Derwentwater. Paid parking.
    Wild swimming at Derwentwater via Keswick Launch

    From the Lakeside car park, you'll find a straightforward path that takes you straight to the lake, right near the Keswick Boat Launch. As you wander down, you'll spot a few places where you can easily get into the water – it's your pick!

    One of the favourite spots among regulars is the shingle beach at Crow Park. It's a decent place to dip your toes in and take in the stunning lake view. Take your time to find a spot that feels right for you.

    Just a heads up, though – this area can get pretty busy with boats. So, it's a good idea to make sure you're easy to spot when you're in the water. Think swim gear in brighter shades, or a swim float. And always keep an eye out for the boats around you.

    If you're not a fan of the hustle and bustle, we've got a pro tip for you: Get there early in the morning, and you'll find the lake at its calmest.

    Few boats around, just the still water and maybe a bit of morning fog to set the mood. It's a pretty cool way to start the day.

    Strandshag Bay

    • Parking: Same as Keswick Boat Launch, above.
    Swimming at Strandshag Bay, Derwentwater
    Photo © Chris Morgan (cc-by-sa/2.0)

    Let's take a trip further south from the Keswick Boat Launch. Follow the path, and you'll soon find yourself at the breathtaking Friar’s Crag. Take a moment here to admire the view – it's worth it.

    Next, continue along the path and you'll stumble upon the long shingle beach at Strandshag Bay. This hidden gem is less crowded than some of the more popular spots, offering a peaceful setting for your wild swim.

    Now, a bit of local know-how for you: when you're swimming here, it's best to head more towards the open water from the bay.

    The reason for this is Lord's Island, which is located just off the shore. This island is home to a lively crowd of shags, as well as a mix of cormorants, geese, and other waterfowl. While they're great to watch from a distance, their presence does lead to a sulfurous silt build-up in the channel between the island and the shore.

    This can make for a less-than-pleasant swim, particularly when the water levels are low.

    Just like at Abbot's Bay, boats are advised to keep out of this area too. So, if you're looking for a quieter swim, Strandshag Bay is a pretty good bet.

    Calfclose Bay

    • Parking: If you want to make a big hike of the day, you can continue further south from Strandshag Bay until Lord’s Island is out of your field of view. You’ll eventually reach Calfclose Bay, with Walla Crag looming above.
    • Otherwise, park at Great Wood car park, located at ///repayment.library.empire (What3Words location link). This is a National Trust car park; members can park free, otherwise it's paid parking.
    Swimming at Calfclose Bay, Derwentwater
    Photo © Ian Capper (cc-by-sa/2.0)

    Fancy stretching your legs before taking the plunge? Then a hike to Calfclose Bay could be the ticket.

    If you're already at Strandshag Bay, carry on heading south until Lord’s Island is no longer in sight. Keep going, and you'll soon find yourself at Calfclose Bay, with the impressive Walla Crag watching over from above. It's a bit of a trek, but the views are worth every step.

    Not in the mood for a hike? No worries. You can also get to Calfclose Bay by parking up at Great Wood car park. From there, you'll need to carefully cross over Borrowdale Road. Once you've crossed, there's a path that leads you down through the woodland and straight to Calfclose Bay.

    Calfclose Bay boasts a long, sheltered shingle beach, making it an excellent spot for a wild swim.

    And, while you're there, don't miss the Hundred Year Stone sculpture at the northern end of the beach. It's not just a cool sight – it's also a great landmark to meet up with friends or family if you're swimming in a group.

    Ashness Jetty at Barrow Bay

    • Parking: Ashness Jetty car park just off Borrowdale Road, located at ///uproot.snowboard.thrashing (What3Words location link). This is free, public parking.
    Wild swimming at Ashness Jetty, Derwentwater

    If you're on the hunt for a swim spot with spectacular views, then Ashness Jetty should be on your radar. This location boasts some of the best vistas of Derwentwater. It provides an awe-inspiring backdrop to your wild swimming experience.

    Getting into the water here is a breeze thanks to a small area of shingle beach, allowing for a gradual entry. You can take your time, adjust to the temperature, and ease into your swim while soaking up those incredible views.

    But, since you're near the jetty, it's important to be mindful of boats in the area. While the Lake District is all about relaxation, you don't want to let your guard down entirely when you're in the water. Make sure you're easily noticeable – bright swim gear or a swim float can come in handy for this. And, as always, keep an eye out for any boat traffic, to ensure your swim is both enjoyable and safe.


    • Parking: Hawse End car park, found at ///vocal.catapult.lovely (What3Words location link). Free, but busy and extremely limited.
    Wild swimming at Brandelhow, Derwentwater
    Photo © Mike Harris (cc-by-sa/2.0)

    If you're after a quieter swim in Derwentwater, the western shore is where it's at.

    Unlike the eastern shore, which sits close to the busy Borrowdale Road, the western side of the lake offers a much more serene setting.

    And one spot on this side stands out for its tranquillity: Brandelhow Park.

    At Brandelhow Park, you'll find a couple of cosy bays - Victoria and Otterbield. They offer quiet shingle beaches, perfect for slipping into the lake for a peaceful swim. The water is just as inviting, but the atmosphere is a little more relaxed – ideal if you're looking to unwind.

    Getting there is straightforward. You could try parking at Hawse End car park, but be warned – it fills up pretty quickly. This is the main car park for folks heading up to Cat Bells, so it can get busy.

    But, here's a top tip: why not take to the water to get to your swim?

    Hop onto one of the boats from Keswick launch, and get off at Low Brandelhow Derwentwater landing. It's a more leisurely way to reach your swim spot, and you'll get to enjoy some lovely lake views along the way.


    • Parking: Kettlewell National Trust car park found at ///groups.cheaper.scream ↗ (What3Words location link). NT members park for free, otherwise it's paid parking.
    Wild swimming at Kettlewell, Derwentwater

    Now, if you're into kayaking, you'll love Kettlewell. It's a top pick for kayakers looking to start their journey.

    The access is easy, and the view? Absolutely stunning. You've got the lake in front of you and the fells all around - pretty much the perfect backdrop for a day on the water.

    But what if you're not into kayaking and just want a good splash? Well, Kettlewell is great for that too. It's a good spot for some fun in the water. Just watch out for the thick weeds near the shore. They're part and parcel of the lake's environment, but they can make swimming a bit tricky.

    Now, here's something unique about Kettlewell. It's a shallow part of the lake that tends to collect a bit of debris. So, the water here isn't always as pristine as in other parts of Derwentwater. So bear that in mind.

    Where to avoid swimming in Derwentwater

    Abbot's Bay

    As much as we love diving into all the fantastic swimming spots around the lake, we also want to make sure we're being responsible. Which brings us to Abbot's Bay.

    Abbot's Bay is a real gem in the Lake District, but not for the reasons you might think. It's actually a protected wildlife and nesting area, which means it's a no-go zone for swimming. The local authorities have asked boats to avoid the area voluntarily, and we swimmers should do the same.

    It might be tempting to dive in - after all, who doesn't love a secluded spot? But remember, this area is home to many creatures who depend on the tranquillity of the bay for their survival. By keeping our distance, we're helping to maintain the delicate balance of this unique ecosystem.

    So, while we're all for discovering new places and enjoying the beautiful waters of Derwentwater, let's give Abbot's Bay a miss and stick to the many other fantastic swimming spots the lake has to offer. Remember, responsible swimming helps keep the Lake District beautiful for everyone, including our feathered and finned friends.

    Derwentwater facts

    Facts about Derwentwater in the Lake District
    Photo by Antiquary, licensed CC-by-4.0

    We've been talking a lot about the fantastic swimming spots in Derwentwater, but let's take a step back and appreciate the lake itself. Ready for some fun facts?

    First up, did you know that Derwentwater is the third largest lake in the Lake District by area? Only beaten by Windermere and Ullswater.

    Size facts

    • Length: 2.9 miles/4.6 km
    • Maximum width: 1 mile/1.91 km
    • Maximum depth: 72 ft/22 m
    • Surface area: 5 km²/2 sq mi

    Next, let's talk names. The first part of Derwentwater, 'Derwent,' actually means “river with oak trees”. It likely comes from Brythonic Celtic or Old Welsh derwā, meaning “oak”. You might have heard the name in places like Darwen and Dart. Pretty cool, eh?

    Now, let's talk islands. Derwentwater is home to a handful of them. The most notable is Derwent Island, which is the only one inhabited. There's a house on it owned by the National Trust and rented out - talk about living the lake life!

    Then we've got Lord’s Island, St. Herbert’s Island, and Rampsholme Island. And let's not forget the smaller ones like Park Neb, Otter Island, and Otterbield Island. Each one adds its own charm to the landscape.

    Wild swimming in Bassenthwaite Lake, the Lake District

    Wild swimming at Bassenthwaite Lake, the Lake District

    Continuing our wild swimming journey through the Lake District, we're making a splash at Bassenthwaite Lake.

    Tucked under the towering Skiddaw mountains, Bassenthwaite isn't just another picturesque spot to swim. It holds the unique title of being the only official "lake" in the Lake District.

    Swimming here is a tranquil experience. The calm lake, with its soft waves and birds singing, is a relaxing getaway from everyday life. Plus, it’s not as crowded as some of the more well-known spots, meaning you can enjoy your swim in relative peace.

    But let's not forget about the post-swim festivities! If you find yourself swimming near Banks Point, a short jaunt will take you to the Lake Distillery’s Bistro. It's a great spot to refuel with some hearty grub and maybe even sample a little of their locally crafted spirits.

    But, if you're splashing around at Scarness Bay or Wooden Brow, it's easier to head back towards Keswick. This charming market town is brimming with cafes, pubs, and restaurants, giving you plenty of options to satisfy whatever you're craving.

    Main swimming spots at Bassenthwaite Lake

    Banks Points

    • Parking: Small, but free, layby off the B5291, found at ///stormy.poses.interacts (What3Words location link). Limited spaces and gets filled quickly.
    Wild swimming at Banks Point, Bassenthwaite Lake

    If you're looking for an easy and accessible wild swimming spot at Bassenthwaite Lake, Banks Point has got you covered.

    A stone's throw away from the car park, you'll find yourself meandering through a line of charming shoreline trees. Before you know it, you're met with a spacious shingle beach that's just begging you to lay down your towel and take in the tranquil surroundings.

    One of the things you'll love about Banks Point is the gentle gradation into the water. No sudden drops here! It's perfect for a slow wade into the lake, letting the cool water gradually rise around you. Feel free to take your time and adjust to the water temperature. It's all about enjoying the experience at your own pace.

    Now, let's talk about the view. As you float in the water or relax on the shore, you're treated to an incredible panorama of the Skiddaw fells. It's the kind of view that postcards are made of, and you've got a front-row seat. Don't forget to take a moment to appreciate it - it's not every day you get to swim with such a stunning backdrop.

    One more bonus of Banks Point? It's usually free from any boating activities. This means less disturbance and more peace for you to enjoy your swim or float. It's just you, the water, and the stunning Lakeland landscape.

    Scarness Bay

    • Parking: Layby before Bassenthwaite Lakeside Lodges, located at ///frowns.revamped.trim (What3Words location link). Small, free, layby just off the road, space only for about 5 cars.
    Wild swimming at Scarness Bay, Bassenthwaite Lake
    Photo © Philip Halling (cc-by-sa/2.0)

    Next up on our Bassenthwaite Lake swimming adventure is the serene Scarness Bay. Located just before the entrance to Bassenthwaite Lakeside Lodges Caravan Park.

    Once you're there, a well-marked footpath will guide you straight to the lakeside and into the welcoming views of Scarness Bay. Follow the path, let the anticipation build, and prepare yourself for a truly magnificent wild swimming spot.

    Scarness Bay boasts an expansive shingle beach, making for an easy and comfortable entry into the water. No need to navigate any slippery rocks or sudden drops. Just a smooth transition from the pebbly beach to the refreshing lake. Perfect for a quick dip or a full-on swim session.

    One of the best things about Scarness Bay is that it's a quieter area of access compared to spots off the A66. This means less noise, fewer crowds, and more tranquillity for your swim. It's the kind of place where you can truly unwind, forget about the world for a bit, and enjoy being in the moment.

    Woodend Brow

    Wild swimming at Woodend Brow, Bassenthwaite Lake

    For our next wild swimming spot, we're heading over to Woodend Brow, near Hursthole Point. What's great about this location is its convenience. Just off the A66 and close to the bustling town of Keswick, it's a breeze to get to, making it an ideal spot for a spontaneous swim or a planned day out.

    Once you arrive, you'll notice the expansive shingle beach that spreads out before you, with a cracking view of the Skiddaw fells. It's like having an open invitation from the lake to choose your perfect entry point.

    One thing to remember when swimming at Woodend Brow is to be mindful of boats and other vessels in the area. This is a popular spot, and it's important to ensure you're highly visible while enjoying your swim. Consider wearing a brightly coloured swim cap or using a tow float. This way, you can focus on the joy of swimming, secure in the knowledge that you're easily seen by others.

    Bassenthwaite Lake facts

    Bassenthwaite Lake facts

    Let's take a moment to appreciate some fascinating facts about Bassenthwaite Lake.

    For starters, did you know that it's often referred to as the only 'true' lake in the Lake District? While the rest are meres and waters, Bassenthwaite holds the "lake" title. A bit of a celebrity in the Lake District, one might say.

    Size facts

    • Length: 4 miles/6.4 km
    • Maximum width: 0.8 miles/1.3 km
    • Maximum depth: 70 ft/21 m
    • Surface area: 5.1 km²/1.98 sq mi

    Here's another interesting tidbit. Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwentwater may have once been connected, forming one massive lake. This can sometimes still happen after heavy rainfalls. So, if you're ever there after a downpour, you might get a glimpse of how things looked in the prehistoric times.

    The name "Bassenthwaite" comes from two language roots. "Bassen-" is derived from the Anglo-French nickname or surname Bastun, which originally meant "stick". The second part comes from the Old Norse þveit, meaning a clearing. So, you could say that Bassenthwaite means "Bastun's clearing". Early on, the lake was known as Bastun's Water, and some 18th-century maps even refer to it as Bassenwater or Broadwater.

    But Bassenthwaite isn't just a pretty face with an interesting history. It's also a hotspot for biodiversity. The lake is home to a variety of aquatic life, including salmon, trout, pike, perch, minnow, dace, ruffe, and eels, with a healthy population of roach. Above the water, cormorants and herons can be spotted fishing the lake.

    And let's not forget about the ospreys. After a hundred-year absence, these magnificent birds returned to nest in the Lake District in 2001 and have done so ever since. You can catch a glimpse of these ospreys from various points at Dodd Wood or via CCTV at Whinlatter Forest Visitor Centre.

    Wild swimming in Buttermere, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Buttermere, the Lake District
    Photo by Nessy-Pic, licensed CC-by-SA-3.0

    Tucked away in the northwest of the Lake District is Buttermere, a serene spot that's perfect for your wild swimming exploits. It's less crowded, and offers a swimming experience that's unique.

    Buttermere is known for its underwater ledges that descend into the deep. This makes the lake colder than most, an intriguing challenge for the stronger swimmer. However, due to the depth and underwater terrain, it might not be the best choice for children and less experienced swimmers.

    One of the great things about wild swimming in Buttermere is the freedom you get. No need to worry about dodging boats here. You can focus entirely on the joy of swimming. If you're feeling ambitious, why not try a full circuit swim or a back-and-forth across the lake?

    After you've had your fill of swimming, Buttermere village is just a stone's throw away. It's the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat or a refreshing drink.

    Let's delve deeper into the charm of Buttermere. Whether you're a seasoned wild swimmer or new to the scene, we're excited to introduce you to the delights of Buttermere - a top-notch wild swimming locale in the heart of the Lake District.

    Main swimming spots in Buttermere

    Hasness Crag Wood

    • Parking: Layby off B5289 near Hassness Country House, located at ///opponent.ringers.nuzzling (What3Words location link). Free, but small with limited spaces.
    Wild swimming at Hasness Crag Wood, Buttermere

    Let's talk about Hassness Crag Wood in Buttermere. It's a neat spot that has a lot going for it, especially if you're into wild swimming.

    Getting there is easy. From the layby parking mentioned above, follow a short path next to the beck. On your way, you'll pass Hassness Country House, a nice little landmark that adds a touch of charm to the trip. The walk itself is pretty enjoyable and gives you a feel for the peaceful Lake District vibe.

    At the end of your walk, you'll find a curved shingle beach. The best part? It faces the High Stile mountain range. The view is pretty special, making for an awesome backdrop while you're out swimming.

    The beach is tucked away in a woodland area, which offers a bit of shade and adds to the relaxed feel of the location. It's a nice touch that makes your swim even more enjoyable.

    Do be careful though: the water depth drops down very steeply around this part of Buttermere, and so it can also be very cold. If you're not confident, Buttermere's western shore is a better bet. Get yourself a good dry robe to warm up in once you've left the water.

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    Western shore

    • Parking: Near St. James’ Church, located at ///bronzes.officer.crackling (What3Words location link). This is a free long layby off the road. It's popular, so get there early.
    Wild swimming from Buttermere's western shore

    First things first, parking. It's not exactly next to the lake.

    You'll need to spend about 20-30 minutes walking down through the charming village. Just follow the main footpath signs pointing towards Sourmilk Gill. It might seem like a bit of a trek, but trust us, the walk is part of the adventure. Plus, it's a great chance to enjoy the picturesque village scenery.

    Once you reach your destination, you'll find your entry point is a shingle beach. And the view? Just perfect. As you wade into the water, you'll have a fantastic view towards Fleetwith Pike. It's a sight that's sure to make your swim even more memorable.

    One thing you'll love about this spot is the gentle gradation into the water. It's smooth and gradual, making for an easy and comfortable entry. It's a small detail that can make a big difference, especially if you're new to wild swimming or if you prefer a more relaxed start to your swim.

    Buttermere facts

    Facts about Buttermere

    When you visit Buttermere, you're not just stepping into a beautiful landscape. You're also stepping into a world of history and mythology. It's these stories and legends that give Buttermere its unique charm and character.

    Size facts

    • Length: 1.25 miles/2 km
    • Maximum width: 620 yards/0.57 km
    • Maximum depth: 75 ft/23 m
    • Surface area: 0.93 km²/0.36 sq mi

    One of the most intriguing tales from the area revolves around the semi-mythological figure of Jarl Buthar.

    According to legend, he led a resistance campaign against the Norman invaders for half a century, right around the time of William the Conqueror's Harrying of the North. His campaign is said to have concluded with a final battle at Rannerdale, a place you might want to visit for its historical significance.

    But what about the name 'Buttermere'? It's a question that has two answers, one more plausible than the other.

    The most likely explanation is that 'Buttermere' translates to "lake by the dairy pastures" or "lake with good pasture-land". This makes sense when you consider the Old English words: butere, meaning "butter", and mere, meaning "lake". This suggests a time when the area around Buttermere was rich in dairy pastures.

    The second, less probable explanation, suggests that 'Buttermere' is a corruption of the personal name, Buthar, from the aforementioned myth. In this interpretation, Buttermere becomes "Buthar's lake". Although this explanation is less likely, it does add an extra layer of intrigue and myth to the name.

    Wild swimming in Crummock Water, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Crummock Water, the Lake District
    Photo © Gareth Jones (cc-by-sa/2.0)

    Get ready to splash into a new wild swimming adventure in the Lake District, and this time it's all about Crummock Water.

    Crummock Water is one of the deeper lakes around, so you can expect it to be a bit chilly compared to others. But hey, that's part of the fun, right? Just make sure you're geared up for the cold and take your time getting used to the temperature.

    One of the best parts about Crummock Water? You won't have to worry about any motorised boats zooming past. It's you and the calm, open water. You can really get into the zone and enjoy your swim without any disturbances.

    When it comes to getting in the water, Crummock offers something for everyone. If you're new to wild swimming or prefer a gentle dip, there are plenty of easy entrances. For those of you who like a bit of a thrill, there are spots with sudden drops. As always, pick a spot that matches your comfort and abilities.

    After your swim, you're going to want to refuel. If you're near the eastern side of the lake, head back to Buttermere village. If you're closer to the western side, Loweswater village is your best bet. Don't miss out on a visit to the famous Kirkstile Inn while you're there.

    So, that's the lowdown on wild swimming at Crummock Water. It's time to grab your swimsuit, take a deep breath, and dive right in.

    Main swimming spots in Crummock Water

    Southeastern shore

    • Parking: Buttermere village LDNPA car park, found at ///junction.juicy.mammals (What3Words location link). A large car park, and you'll need to pay.
    Wild swimming in Crummock Water via its southeastern shore
    Photo © Karl and Ali (cc-by-sa/2.0)

    Ready to dive into the specifics of a wild swim in Crummock Water? Let's talk about starting your adventure from the southeastern shore.

    First things first, you'll want to park your car at Buttermere village. From there, it's a pleasant 10-15 minute walk to the shoreline at Nether How. Trust us, the anticipation of the swim makes the stroll even more enjoyable.

    The beauty of Nether How is that it offers the gentlest gradation into the water. No sudden drops or surprises here. It's perfect for those who like to take their time getting in, or if you're new to this whole wild swimming thing.

    The cherry on top? You'll be stepping off a shingle beach with a stunning backdrop. The views towards Mellbreak are simply breathtaking. There's nothing quite like swimming in the open water with such a picturesque scene around you.

    Scalehill Bridge/Lanthwaite Wood

    • Parking: Scalehill Bridge car park, found at ///pothole.unhappily.holidays (What3Words location link). National Trust car park, free for members, paid for non-members.
    Swimming at Lanthwaite Wood, Crummock Water

    Next up on our wild swimming tour of Crummock Water is the area near Lanthwaite Wood.

    Starting off, you'll be taking a peaceful 10-15 minute walk through the woods. This isn't your average trek, though. It leads you straight to a shingle beach that boasts one of the best panoramic views in the entire Lake District. Trust us, you'll want to take a moment to soak it all in.

    Now, let's talk about the water. The entry into the lake here is one of the more gradual ones, making it a breeze to swim around. Whether you're a seasoned wild swimmer or just starting out, you'll find it easy to navigate these waters.

    Underneath Mellbreak

    • Parking: Same as above, at Scalehill Bridge car park
    Wild swimming underneath Mellbreak, Crummock Water

    Alright, swimmers, let's move on to our final spot for wild swimming in Crummock Water: right beneath the impressive Mellbreak.

    You'll be using the same parking spot as for Lanthwaite Wood, which makes things easy and convenient. From there, it's a bit of a longer walk, about 30 minutes, towards Mellbreak. But hey, consider this a warm-up for your swim and a cool-down for your return.

    The beach at Mellbreak is shingle, just like at Lanthwaite Wood. It also offers a gentle entry into the water, which makes for an easier start to your swim. Especially helpful if you're planning a longer swim or if you're just getting your feet wet, so to speak, with this wild swimming business.

    But let's not forget one of the best parts of this location - the views. As you get into the water, you'll be greeted with an amazing sight: the imposing pyramidal face of Grasmoor. It's quite a sight to behold and makes your swim all the more memorable.

    So, same parking, a bit of a longer walk, easy access to the water, and views that'll take your breath away. Sounds like a recipe for another great wild swimming adventure.

    Crummock Water facts

    Facts about Crummock Water

    Let's take a little break from the swimming talk and dive into some interesting facts about Crummock Water.

    Here's something you might not know. The highest waterfall in the Lake District, Scale Force, drains right into Crummock Water. Next time you're there, try to imagine all that water cascading down from such great heights.

    Size facts

    • Length: 2.5 miles/4.0 km
    • Maximum width: 0.6 miles/0.97 km
    • Maximum depth: 140 ft/43 m
    • Surface area: 2.57 km²/0.99 sq mi

    Crummock Water isn't just for swimming and sightseeing, though. Up until October 2022, it used to supply water to various towns around Western Cumbria. People were cooking, cleaning, and bathing with water from Crummock! This stopped when United Utilities built pipelines to carry water from Thirlmere instead.

    Now, let's talk about the name “Crummock.” It comes from the Brythonic Celtic word crumbaco, which means “crooked”. It's believed to be related to the river that runs through the lake, the Cocker. So next time you're floating in the 'crooked' water, you'll know a bit more about its history.

    Wild swimming in Loweswater, the Lake District

    Wild swimming at Loweswater, the Lake District

    Ever heard of Loweswater? If you haven't, you're missing out.

    It's a bit of an unsung hero, often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours, Crummock Water and Buttermere. But trust us, Loweswater's got plenty to offer for wild swimming fans looking for a chilled out and scenic spot.

    Loweswater doesn't get as many visitors as some of the other lakes, which is actually a good thing. It's like having your very own private swimming spot. And the views? Top-notch. Especially from the southwestern shore, where you get an epic view of Grasmoor. It's like swimming in a postcard.

    One of the best things about Loweswater is that it's not as deep as Crummock or Buttermere. That makes it a great choice if you're new to wild swimming or if you're a bit nervous about getting in too deep. It's a nice, gentle introduction to swimming in open water.

    There is one thing to watch out for, though. During the summer, Loweswater can sometimes get a bloom of blue-green algae. It's a natural thing, but it can be toxic, so you need to keep an eye out for any local alerts or warnings.

    Here's some more good news: motorised boats aren't allowed on Loweswater. That means you've got more freedom to swim around without worrying about getting in anyone's way. It's just you, the water, and the stunning Lake District scenery.

    Main swimming spots in Loweswater

    Southwestern shore

    • Parking option 1: Layby parking near Loweswater Hall, found at ///noticing.graced.outs (What3Words location link). This is free layby parking off road, and there are limited spaces.
    • Parking option 2: Layby parking near Waterend, found at ///obstinate.estimate.fury (What3Words location link). This is a bigger layby off the road, but there's still limited spaces.
    Wild swimming at Loweswater's southwestern shore
    Photo by morebyless, licensed under CC-2.0

    Alright, so you've decided to take the plunge at Loweswater - good call! Now, let's talk about where to dip.

    The southwestern shore is your best bet, and getting there is part of the adventure.

    No matter where you park your car, you're in for a bit of a walk, but don't worry, it's totally worth it. You're looking at around a 30-45 minute stroll from the parking area. You'll take a scenic route around the western shore via Waterend, and then into Holme Wood on the southern shore.

    And let's be honest, in a place as beautiful as the Lake District, that's hardly a chore. Think of it as a warm-up before your swim.

    Once you're in Holme Wood, you'll find many spots where you can veer off the trail towards the lakeshore for a swim. There's no designated 'swim here' spot, which means you can find your own perfect patch of lake. And guess what? Shingle beaches galore! They're pretty common around here, providing easy access into the water and a great spot to lay out your towel and picnic.

    Loweswater facts

    Facts about Loweswater
    Photo by Colin Gregory, licensed under CC-2.0

    Now that you're all set to take the plunge, let's dive into some fun facts about Loweswater.

    Size facts

    • Length: 1.1 miles/1.8 km
    • Maximum width: 0.34 miles/550 m
    • Maximum depth: 52 ft/16 m
    • Surface area: 0.6 km²/0.23 sq mi

    First up, did you know that Loweswater is owned by the National Trust? Yep, that's right! This means it's cared for by a group that's all about preserving the nation's heritage and open spaces, which is pretty cool. They do a stellar job keeping Loweswater clean, safe, and beautiful for all of us to enjoy.

    And here's something that'll make you sound super smart next time you're chatting about your wild swimming adventures. The name 'Loweswater' isn't just pulled out of thin air. It comes from the Old Norse word laufsær. When you combine that with the word wæter, it translates to 'the leafy lake'. And if you've ever been there, you'll know that's a spot-on description.

    Wild swimming in Ennerdale Water, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Ennerdale Water, the Lake District
    Photo by generalising, licensed CC-by-SA-2.0

    Let's chat about Ennerdale Water.

    Hidden away in the far west of the Lake District, it's a pretty awesome spot with some great views. But before you pack your wetsuit and goggles, there's something you should know - swimming isn't currently allowed here.

    Why's that? Well, despite Ennerdale Water looking pretty natural (and it is), it also plays a big role as a reservoir. So, to keep that water as clean as possible, swimming is a no-go.

    But don't be too disappointed. There's a silver lining coming our way. United Utilities have plans to switch things up. They're looking at providing water to West Cumbria using a different reservoir - Thirlmere.

    If that happens, we might just get the green light to go wild swimming in Ennerdale Water. With Thirlmere taking over the reservoir responsibilities, Ennerdale could see its swimming ban lifted. How cool would that be?

    So, while we can't dive into Ennerdale Water just yet, there's still plenty to love about this place. And who knows? One day soon, this could turn into our next favourite wild swimming spot. Until then, we can enjoy its quiet beauty and look forward to what the future might bring.

    Ennerdale Water facts

    Facts about Ennerdale Water
    Photo by Simon, licensed CC-by-2.0

    There's more to Ennerdale Water than meets the eye. This place is brimming with history, unique characteristics, and even some Hollywood glamour.

    Size facts

    • Length: 2.59 miles/4.17 km
    • Maximum width: 0.80 miles/1.28 km
    • Maximum depth: 148 ft/45 m
    • Surface area: 3 km²/1.2 sq mi

    First off, did you know that Ennerdale Water is part of a pretty cool project called Wild Ennerdale? It kicked off back in 2003 with a mission to let nature run wild in the valley, and it's made a significant difference. So much so that in 2022, Wild Ennerdale was named a National Nature Reserve - the largest one in Cumbria.

    This rewilding project gives Ennerdale Water and its valley a unique vibe, different from the rest of the Lake District. Imagine you're strolling through Scotland or hiking in Scandinavia - that's the kind of feel we're talking about.

    Now, let's talk about movie magic. Remember the film "28 Days Later"? The closing sequences were shot around Ennerdale. So, if you're a movie buff, you've got another reason to appreciate this place.

    And speaking of famous faces, here's a romantic nugget for you. Former US President Bill Clinton actually proposed to his wife Hillary right here on the banks of Ennerdale Water back in 1973. Who knew this lake had a touch of presidential love?

    Finally, let's chat about names. The lake takes its name from the valley it's in. The term "Ennerdale" seems to come from an Old Norse personal name, Anundr, and the Old Norse word for valley, dalr. So, it's kind of like saying "the lake in Anundr’s valley". But it's been known by a few names throughout history, including Broadwater, Brodwater, and Ennerdale Lake.

    Wild swimming in Wastwater, the Lake District

    Wild swimming in Wastwater, the Lake District

    Ready to take on a new challenge? Because we're heading to Wastwater next.

    Located in the southwest of the Lake District, Wastwater isn't just another lake. It holds the title of the deepest lake in England. And with great depth comes The Great Cold, so let's dive a little deeper into what this means for wild swimming.

    Wastwater's depth isn't just a number on a page—it's a tangible, icy reality. You'll definitely feel a chill as you take the plunge. It's crucial to remember that this isn't your usual swim in the park. The cold can shock your system, so take care to acclimate yourself gradually to avoid a cold shock. When you leave the water you'll need to warm up too, so make sure you've got a good dry robe and towel.

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    The lake's geography is something to keep in mind too. A lot of the northeastern shore of Wastwater drops away pretty fast to the deepest parts of the lake. You're not going to find many shallow spots here. The head and foot of the lake are the only areas where the water's a bit shallower, so plan your swim accordingly.

    Now, let's chat about the traffic. Motorised boats aren’t allowed on the lake, which is great news for swimmers. But, you'll still need to keep an eye out for other water enthusiasts. Paddleboarders, rowers, and kayakers also love this lake, so be sure to give them a friendly nod as you share the water.

    After you've soaked up the thrill of a good, cold swim and perhaps stretched your legs with some extra hiking, it's time to refuel. Head over to Wasdale Head and pop into the Wasdale Head Inn. It's the perfect spot to warm up with some food and drink, and maybe share some tales of your wild swimming adventures.

    Main swimming spots in Wastwater

    Low Wood

    • Parking: Tiny layby halfway between YHA Wasdale Hall and Countess Beck, found at ///jelly.hunches.toothpick (What3Words location link). Free parking, but space for one or two cars only.
    Wild swimming at Low Wood, Wastwater

    If you've managed to snag a parking spot above (and we all know that's half the battle), you're in luck. Look for the footpath sign right next to you, signposted for Lund Bridge. That's your ticket to the shingle shores near Low Wood. Follow this footpath, and you'll soon find yourself at the water's edge.

    Ready for a breathtaking view? As you step onto the shores, you'll see The Screes towering right across the water. These steep mountain slopes provide a dramatic backdrop for your swim, making the experience all the more memorable.

    Now, let's talk about the water. This part of the lake is one of the shallowest, but don't let that fool you. The water's still cold enough to give you a shock if you're not careful. Remember, safety first! Ease yourself into the water gently to allow your body to adjust to the temperature.

    Countess Beck

    • Numerous parking spots:
      • ///fermented.imparting.craters (What3Words location link). Space for 4-5 cars. Immediate access to a small shingle beach to gently ease yourself into the cold and dark water
      • ///popped.starters.subplot (What3Words location link). 2-3 cars at most. Grassy slope down to a shingle beach dotted with boulders.
      • ///reheat.incurring.fairly (What3Words location link). 2-3 cars again.
      • ///digestion.gossiping.filer (What3Words location link). 2-3 cars worth. Shingle beach around here is a little bigger and not as rocky.
      • ///neckline.basically.placidly (What3Words location link). 4-5 cars. Access to the same part of the lakeshore as above.
      • ///investors.pickles.brain (What3Words location link). One of the bigger laybys off the road towards Wasdale Head. 7-8 car space here. Then down the grassy slope to the shingle beach to wade into the water.
    Swimming at Countess Beck in Wastwater

    This time, we're headed to Countess Beck in Wastwater. It's a fantastic spot that offers great access to the lake, but like any popular place, it's got its quirks.

    First up, parking. Countess Beck is a hit with visitors, partly because of the small layby parking spots that don't cost a penny. But, as you can imagine, these free spots fill up fast. If you're planning a trip, our advice is to set that alarm clock and get here early. The early bird catches the best parking spot.

    Now, let's talk about the shore. Wastwater can be a bit craggy in places, but Countess Beck has you covered. There are plenty of little shingle beaches here that make getting into the water a breeze. So, you can leave the rock climbing gear at home for this one.

    But, don't let the inviting beaches fool you. The water around here drops away quickly to the lake's deepest, darkest depths. It's a thrilling and humbling experience to swim above such profound depths, but always remember to be careful.

    Overbeck Bridge

    • Parking: National Trust car park, found at ///worth.message.ambushed (What3Words location link). Honesty/donation box available if you have the cash. Space for around 10 cars.
    Swimming at Overbeck Bridge in Wastwater

    Let's talk about another exciting spot in Wastwater - Overbeck Bridge. This location offers easy access and some stunning views, but as always, there are a few things you need to know before you dive in.

    Once you've parked up, you're just steps away from the water. But first, you've got a road to cross. Be sure to do so safely, and then head straight to the shingle beach shore. This spot offers a relatively easy entry into the lake, so you can save your energy for the swim.

    But remember, looks can be deceiving. Despite the inviting shore, the water around here drops away super quickly to Wastwater's deepest, coldest part. So, while you're enjoying the thrill of a wild swim, remember to go easy and be careful. And did we mention it's going to be cold? Well, it's going to be cold.

    Now, let's talk about the best part - the views. They're nothing short of tremendous. As you're floating in the deep blue, take a moment to look around and soak it all in. There's something pretty special about enjoying a swim surrounded by the stunning Lake District scenery.

    Wasdale National Trust Campsite

    • Parking: Campsite parking at ///stated.sediment.stumps (What3Words location link). Free for NT members, otherwise paid parking.
    Swimming near Wasdale Head Hall Farm

    We're now at a spot in Wastwater that's perfect for beginners or anyone looking for a more relaxed swim: Wasdale Head Hall Farm. Just follow these simple pointers and you'll be off to a great start.

    First off, let's get you to the water. If you're at the National Trust Wasdale campsite, you're already in the right place. From there, follow the path towards Wasdale Head Hall Farm, keeping close to the shore. It's a straightforward walk, and before you know it, you'll find yourself at the water's edge.

    Once you're there, you'll see a long shingle beach stretching out in front of you, with direct views towards Yewbarrow. It's a pretty awesome sight, so maybe take a moment to take it all in before you dive in.

    Now, let's talk about the water. This part of the lake is shallow, making it a great place for beginners or less experienced swimmers. You won't have to worry about sudden drops or getting out of your depth here, so you can focus on enjoying your swim and getting comfortable in the water.

    Wastwater facts

    Wastwater facts

    We've been talking a lot about wild swimming in Wastwater, but did you know this place is full of fascinating facts?

    Size facts

    • Length: 3.03 miles/4.88 km
    • Maximum width: 0.49 miles/788 m
    • Maximum depth: 243 ft/74 m
    • Surface area: 2.8 km²/1.08 sq mi

    First off, Wastwater isn't just a pretty place—it's "officially" beautiful. In 2007, the view from Wastwater towards Wasdale was voted "Britain's Favourite View" by ITV viewers. So, next time you're here, take a moment to soak in the scenery that won the hearts of the nation.

    Now, let's talk about depth. Holding the title of England's deepest lake, Wastwater plunges to a staggering 243 ft. As a result, it's one of the coldest lakes you can swim in. So, remember to brace yourself when you take the plunge! And speaking of heights and depths, did you know that Wastwater is surrounded by some of England’s highest mountains? This includes the top spot, Scafell Pike.

    The name "Wastwater" might seem simple, but it's got some history behind it. It comes from the Old Norse word vatn and Old English word wæter, both meaning water. So, essentially, it's called "water water".

    Finally, here's a quirky piece of Wastwater history. The lake was once home to a "gnome garden" at its depths, complete with a picket fence. It was placed there as a point of interest for divers. However, after it was linked to several diving accidents in the 1990s, the gnome garden was removed by the police.

    Wild swimming in the Lake District's pots and dubs

    Now that we've covered the top spots for a dip in the Lake District's main lakes, it's time for us to let you in on a little local secret.

    Dotted all around this gorgeous region are tons of magical little pools known as "dubs" and "pots."

    These secluded dubs and pots might be lesser known, but they offer some of the most special swimming experiences around. Their smaller size means way fewer crowds and a true sense of escape into nature. You'll feel a million miles from everything when you're paddling in one of these tranquil woodland pools or tucked away rocky tarns.

    We're excited to share some of our favourite hidden gems for wild swimming in the dubs and pots. Whether you're looking for utter serenity or a bit of adventure, there are endless little spots waiting to be discovered. So get ready to dive right in to the secret swimming holes of the Lake District.

    Wild swimming in Blackmoss Pot, Langstrath

    Wild swimming Blackmoss Pot, Langstrath

    The one and only Blackmoss Pot.

    This special spot hides in the rugged Langstrath valley, with craggy ledges on either side that are begging to be leapt in. These diving platforms let you plunge straight into the aqua waters of the beck below, which is about 6ft wide. Not gonna lie, it takes some guts to make the jump, but it's a total thrill!

    If cliff diving isn't your thing, no worries - head upstream and there's a small stony beach for a gentler entry into the water. Either way, once you're in you can enjoy swimming laps up and down Blackmoss Pot's beautiful beck. Make your way about 50 meters upstream toward the cleft and waterfall - it's gorgeous!

    We should warn you that Blackmoss Pot features pure cold mountain water. It'll take your breath away for a second, but then your body adjusts and it's beyond refreshing. Be ready to brave some brisk temps, and you'll be rewarded with one of the most exhilarating and secluded swimming spots in the whole of the Lake District.

    Blackmoss Pot location


    • Head south on Borrowdale Road from Keswick. Turn off the road into Stonethwaite. There is limited parking in this tributary valley:

    How to get there

    Walking map showing how to get to Blackmoss Pot from Stonethwaite

    From the parking, head towards Stonethwaite village on the road. As you approach the village proper, with a large cottage on your left and a small parking layby to your right next to a telephone box, head in between the two onto the Cumbria Way.

    Follow the path over the beck then turn right onto the Cumbria Way into the valley.

    Follow the Cumbria Way past Galleny Force. You’ll eventually reach a point next to an old sheep pen where the beck splits into two. Rather than carrying on in the same direction, towards Greenup Gill, instead cross the footbridge and start heading south into Langstrath, staying on the Cumbria Way.

    Follow the path south. It will veer away from the beck a few times, before ultimately returning near again.

    Blackmoss Pot is unmistakeable compared to the rest of the shallow meandering beck, presenting as a small waterfall cascading into a craggy cleft in the valley. The water here is pristine and clear, and understandably a popular diving/swimming spot.

    In total, the walk should take 1-2 hours from the parking to get to Blackmoss Pot.

    Wild swimming in the Upper Eskdale Pots

    Wild swimming in the pots of Upper Eskdale

    Situated in a more remote area of the Lake District, the magical realm of Upper Eskdale remains an unspoiled paradise. The lack of easy road access keeps crowds away, meaning you’re likely to have these spectacular pots all to yourself. Your reward will be some of the most pristine swimming in the region.

    Upper Eskdale itself is a magnificent valley bounded by soaring crags. With the pyramid-shaped peak of Bowfell towering in the distance, the scenery here is breathtaking. The indistinct, boggy path reminds you this is a true wilderness – so do watch your step as you explore.

    At the base of the valley, the Esk River has carved intricate canyons and pools into the rock. This natural artistry has formed several exquisite swimming spots. The peaceful currents of Kail and Pillar Pots provide a soothing natural massage as you recline. For the daring, Tongue Pot offers profound depth and towering walls for exhilarating leaps into the chilly water.

    Reaching these secluded pots requires some effort. You’re looking at a 30-minute walk to Kail and Pillar from the parking area. For the more remote Tongue Pot, near Lingcove Bridge, it's an hour's walk further up the valley. But the reward is a blissful escape amidst dramatic crags and crystalline waters. Get ready to be transported to a secret wilderness paradise in Upper Eskdale.

    Upper Eskdale pots locations

    Kail Pot

    Kail Pot swimming in Upper Eskdale, the Lake District

    Tongue Pot

    Tongue Pot swimming in Upper Eskdale, the Lake District

    How to get here

    • From the south
      • On the M6 North, take Junction 36 onto A590 towards Barrow/Kendal. After 3 miles take the A590 slip road to Barrow/Milnthorpe/A6, then at the roundabout take the 1st exit onto the A590.
      • At Greenodd Roundabout take exit onto A5092, then after 5-6 miles continue onto the A595
      • At Duddon Bridge come off the A595 by taking a right onto Smithy Lane. Travel along for 3 miles and continue onto Sella Brow towards Ulpha.
      • Carry on through Ulpha until you reach a fingerpost sign pointing to Eskdale and Whitehaven. Take this left turn, signposted Birker Fell, and head up the steep road.
      • Follow Birker Fell road up and over for 3 miles or so and continue onto Austhwaite Brow. You’ll take a sharp left as you start dropping down into Eskdale.
      • At the junction with the King George IV pub on your left, turn right onto the road signposted Boot/Langdale via Hardknott Pass. Follow this small road up Eskdale for 4 miles or so.
      • A large layby off the road for parking can be found at ///chair.hypnotist.veal (What3Words location)
    • From the north
      • On the M6 South, take Junction 44 onto A7/A689 to Carlisle/Workington. At the Greymoorhill Interchange, take the 5th exit onto the A689. Continue over all the roundabouts to stay on the A689 until you get to Newby West Roundabout. Here, take the 3rd exit onto the A595.
      • Stay on the A595 all the way around West Cumbria until you get to Holmrook. Just beyond Holmrook, past the petrol station, take the left onto Kirklands signposted for Wasdale Head and Santon Bridge.
      • Follow the Kirklands road to Santon Bridge. At the junction opposite Santon Bridge Village Hall, take the right turn signposted for Eskdale Green/Broughton. Follow this road all the way to, and through, Eskdale Green.
      • When you get to the junction with the King George IV pub on your right, turn leftonto the road signposted Boot/Langdale via Hardknott Pass. Follow this small road up Eskdale for 4 miles or so.
      • Park in the layby mentioned above.

    The walk

    Walking map in Upper Eskdale to Kail Pot and Tongue Pot

    From the parking, follow the road east until you reach the road sign warning of Hardknott Pass’ steep gradient. Instead, take the farm track left to Brotherilkeld Farm.

    Follow this track towards and through the farm to get down to the riverside of the Esk. Follow this footpath that runs vaguely alongside the Esk. Enjoy the views along the way and keep an eye for all the beautiful pots.

    Wild swimming in Forth Pot, Birks Bridge, Duddon Valley

    Wild swimming in Forth Pot, Birks Bridge, in the Duddon Valley
    © Copyright Andy Stephenson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

    We're now headed to one of the Lake District's most remote and unspoiled valleys: the Duddon valley, also known as Dunnerdale.

    This secluded spot is tricky to access, keeping crowds far away. But the reward for your effort is pristine wilderness and swimming.

    After a thrilling drive on winding country lanes, you'll arrive at the small Forestry Commission parking area near Birks Bridge. Access to the water is simple from here.

    Birks Bridge itself is a charming 18th century packhorse bridge over the River Duddon. Downstream, prepare to feast your eyes on the aquamarine waters churning through the rocky crags of Forth Pot.

    As the river is forced through the narrow slit in the fellside, it gains speed and power. This makes Forth Pot a great spot for splashing, jumping, and riding the surging currents. Just take care, as the rocks and fast water demand respect.

    If you're ready for a remote adventure in one of the Lake District's lost valleys, pack your swimsuit and sense of discovery.

    Birks Bridge location

    Swimming in the River Duddon underneath Birks Bridge
    River Duddon below Birks Bridge cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Andrew Hill

    How to get here

    • From the south
      • On the M6 North, take Junction 36 onto A590 towards Barrow/Kendal. After 3 miles take the A590 slip road to Barrow/Milnthorpe/A6, then at the roundabout take the 1st exit onto the A590.
      • At Greenodd Roundabout take exit onto A5092, then after 5-6 miles continue onto the A595
      • At Duddon Bridge come off the A595 by taking a right onto Smithy Lane. Travel along for 3 miles and continue onto Sella Brow towards Ulpha.
      • Carry on through Ulpha. At the fingerpost signage, continue on the road signposted for Seathwaite/Langdale via Wrynose Pass. Follow this road for 3 miles or so, past the Turner Hall Campsite. Ignore the turn off to Coniston via Walna Scar Road.
      • 2 miles further up the road, you’ll pass Birks Bridge on your left.
      • The Forestry Commission car park is just beyond it at ///hoofs.campus.cricket (What3Words location link).
    • From the north
      • On the M6 South, take Junction 44 onto A7/A689 to Carlisle/Workington. At the Greymoorhill Interchange, take the 5th exit onto the A689. Continue over all the roundabouts to stay on the A689 until you get to Newby West Roundabout. Here, take the 3rd exit onto the A595.
      • Stay on the A595 all the way around West Cumbria until you get to Holmrook. Just beyond Holmrook, past the petrol station, take the left onto Kirklands signposted for Wasdale Head and Santon Bridge.
      • Follow the Kirklands road to Santon Bridge. At the junction opposite Santon Bridge Village Hall, take the right turn signposted for Eskdale Green/Broughton. Follow this road all the way to, and through, Eskdale Green.
      • Follow this road over the River Esk and onto Austhwaite Brow as you start to ascend up and onto the moorland. Follow this road as it becomes Birker Fell road, heading towards Ulpha.
      • You’ll drop steeply back down into the Duddon valley. At the junction with the fingerpost signage, turn left onto the road signposted for Seathwaite/Langdale via Wrynose Pass. Follow this road for 3 miles or so, past the Turner Hall Campsite. Ignore the turn off to Coniston via Walna Scar Road.
      • 2 miles further up the road, you’ll pass Birks Bridge on your left. The Forestry Commission car park is just beyond it (see location link above).

    Thankfully, after an eventful drive, accessing Birks Bridge from the car park is a doddle. Exit the car park via the river side trail and follow it south to Birks Bridge. Alternatively, exit the car park back onto the road and head south until you reach Birks Bridge.

    Wild swimming in the Lake District's waterfalls and pools

    As you've already seen, there are so many places and ways to enjoy wild swimming in the Lake District.

    But the Lake District isn't just about the big, famous lakes. Dotted around are loads of smaller plunge pools and waterfalls that are ace for wild swimming.

    When water cascades over the rocks, it gathers in these deep, clear pools below. Tucked away in forests or off the beaten path, they feel like secret oases. The water's crisp and cool - taking a dip instantly wakes you up. And swimming under a waterfall gives you a real thrill.

    Some of these waterfall pools have been popular local swim spots for ages. But many remain hidden gems, known only to those in the loop. Part of the fun is stumbling across them on your adventures. The locals like to keep these secret spots, well, secret.

    In this section, we'll share directions to our favourite waterfall swim spots in the Lake District, and highlight a few out-of-the-way places that are still waiting to be found. From popular plunges to secluded spas, we'll give you the inside scoop on the best waterfalls and pools for wild swimming in the Lake District.

    Swimming in Rydal Falls & Buckstones Jump

    Wild swimming Rydal Falls and Buckstones Jump
    Buckstones Jump cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Ian Capper

    Just a short walk from the historical Rydal Hall into the woods, you'll find the magical Rydal Falls. This little cascade tumbles down mossy rocks into a perfect plunge pool that begs for swimming. One of the Lake District's most delightful secret spots, it feels like your own private oasis.

    Venture further up the Scandale valley beyond the hall's grounds, and you'll come across Buckstones Jump. This secluded waterfall has a personality all its own. Scramble up the rocky cliffs, and you can leap from the top into the churning pool below. It's a total rush!

    Getting to Rydal Hall

    The falls are located in the woods around Rydal Hall. You can access Rydal Hall easily just off the A591 trunk road that runs through the middle of the Lake District. Parking is £10 for the day.

    Finding the Rydal Waterfalls

    • The lower falls or High Wall
    Swimming in Rydal Falls near Rydal Hall
    • The higher of the Rydal Falls

    One of the awesome things about Rydal Falls is that you've got options based on how adventurous you're feeling.

    The falls right near Rydal Hall are pretty easy to access. A quick jaunt into the captivating woods surrounding the estate. But if you're up for more of a challenge, make your way farther into the forest, where you'll find some falls that take a bit more effort to reach.

    Either way, these are some stunning plunge pools and waterfalls tucked away in the trees. With mossy rocks and verdant forests all around, you'll feel like you've found a magical fairy glen. It's an utterly enchanting spot for a swim.

    Now, fair warning: to reach some of these falls, you've got to scramble down and up some pretty steep terrain. So they're best saved for dry days when the rocks aren't slippery. It's probably best to leave these falls to the experienced climbers and adventurers out there. If you're sure-footed and comfortable with climbing, you'll have a blast. But if vertigo sets in when you're off the ground, admire these falls from a safe distance!

    No matter which ones you decide to check out, the secluded pools and cascades around Rydal Hall make for an unforgettable wild swimming experience. Just use good judgement based on your abilities before plunging in. Safety first!

    Finding Buckstones Jump

    If you're up for a longer hiking day while you're in the area, we recommend continuing north out of the woods up the valley past Rydal Falls. After about a 45-minute to an hour hike and 500 feet of climbing, you'll come across the awesome Buckstones Jump.

    Tucked among the fells surrounding Rydal, this spot is gorgeous. The serene pool here is so inviting - perfect for swimming, bathing, or just hanging out and unwinding after the hike in. With the quintessential Lake District scenery all around, it's a pretty sweet place to spend an afternoon.

    The pool has this unique triangular shape, with rugged rocky shores on all sides. It's a great setting whether you're in the mood for adventure in the water or want to bask on the rocks. A cute little waterfall at the edge of the pool adds some magic to the scene too.

    It's one of those places that kids and adults alike will love. You can splash around and have fun but also relax and take in the tranquil vibe. However you spend your time there, Buckstones Jump is bound to delight.

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    Swimming in Ritson's Force, Wasdale Head

    Wild swimming in Ritson's Force, Wasdale Head

    Away from the more popular areas, let's venture into the mountainous and craggy terrain of Wasdale Head. The plunge pools at Ritson's Force have some of the clearest, most turquoise water you'll ever see. It's like the fairy pools of Skye, right here in the Lake District.

    Since it's a mountain stream, the water temp is pretty chilly year-round. But on a hot summer day after you've hiked in, taking a dip in these icy falls will feel incredible. It's the perfect way to cool off and refresh.

    Even if you only pop in your toes, make sure to check out Ritson's Force. The vibrant blue-green colors of the pools are just unreal. You gotta see them to believe them! Pair that with the gorgeous mountain setting, and it's about the dreamiest swim spot I can imagine.

    Ritson's Force location

    Finding Ritson's Force in Wasdale Head

    The start of the walk to Ritson’s Force first involves driving to Wasdale Head. Let's show you how to do that.

    • From the south
      • On the M6 North, take Junction 36 onto A590 towards Barrow/Kendal. After 3 miles take the A590 slip road to Barrow/Milnthorpe/A6, then at the roundabout take the 1st exit onto the A590.
      • At Greenodd Roundabout take exit onto A5092, then after 5-6 miles continue onto the A595
      • At Duddon Bridge come off the A595 by taking a right onto Smithy Lane. Travel along for 3 miles and continue onto Sella Brow towards Ulpha.
      • Carry on through Ulpha until you reach a fingerpost sign pointing to Eskdale and Whitehaven. Take this left turn, signposted Birker Fell, and head up the steep road.
      • Follow Birker Fell road up and over for 3 miles or so and continue onto Austhwaite Brow. You’ll take a sharp left as you start dropping down into Eskdale.
      • Follow the road over the River Esk and into Eskdale Green where Austhwaite Brow becomes Smithybrow Lane via a slight bend left. After a mile keep on the road via slight right as it ascends and becomes Bowerhouse Bank. Follow this road into Santon Bridge.
      • At the junction with the Old Post Office Campsite you’ll see a fingerpost indicate a right turn into Wasdale. Take this turn. After crossing the River Irt, turn right near the Sawmill Cafe and Farm Shop.
      • Follow this road all the way into Wasdale, alongside and past Wastwater, until you arrive at the Common Land car park at ///soonest.shape.dish (What3Words location link).
    • From the north
      • On the M6 South, take Junction 44 onto A7/A689 to Carlisle/Workington. At the Greymoorhill Interchange, take the 5th exit onto the A689. Continue over all the roundabouts to stay on the A689 until you get to Newby West Roundabout. Here, take the 3rd exit onto the A595.
      • Stay on the A595 all the way around West Cumbria until you see the slip-road left towards Gosforth. There will also be a turn left sign for Gosforth/Eskdale/Wasdale. Take this turn off. Head through the village and at the roundabout opposite the Lion & the Lamb pub, take the left exit.
      • Follow this road all the way into Wasdale, alongside and past Wastwater, until you arrive at the Common Land car park, see the location link above.

    The walk to Ritson's Force

    The walk to Ritson's Force from Wasdale Head
    • From the car park head towards the Wasdale Head Inn via the road. Take a left round to the back of the Wasdale Head Inn, and then right to walk alongside the beck.
    • Start on the gravel path, go through the gate, and you'll soon see a stone bridge. Cross it and turn right onto the grass path. The views of England's highest mountains, including Kirk Fell and Great Gable, are great. After walking 200m, go through another gate and keep walking up a slight hill. The path gets muddy after another 150m, so wear shoes that can get dirty if it's wet.
    • The path then goes flat and cuts through some bracken. There's a gate 150m further (500m into your walk). A sign points to Ritson’s Force. Go through the gate. You're now only 60m from the start of the pools. The path here is a bit rocky and goes downhill, but it's not too hard. You can then walk up and down the stream, and there are nice pools in both directions. The force is located around ///sitting.flattery.shirtless (What3Words location link).

    Swimming in Galleny Force, Stonethwaite, Borrowdale

    Wild swimming in Galleny Force, Stonethwaite, Borrowdale
    Photo by Howard Greenwood, licensed CC-by-NC-2.0

    From the epic peaks and turquoise water of Wasdale Head, we head now to the famous Borrowdale.

    We talked earlier about wild swimming Blackmoss Pot, in the Langstrath valley off Stonethwaite, in Borrowdale. Well, before you reach Blackmoss Pot, there's another waterfall and its pools you can visit for a beautiful swim: Galleny Force.

    To reach Galleny Force, plan for a 30-45 minute walk from the parking area in Stonethwaite. It's a nice scenic hike through the valley to get to the falls. The payoff is so worth it.

    The falls themselves are gorgeous, cascading through a rugged gorge. But the whole Stonethwaite valley is just breathtaking too. As you hike in, be sure to take in the views towards Eagle Crag. It's a jaw-dropping backdrop.

    Between the inspiring scenery all around, the thunderous falls, and the inviting plunge pools, Galleny Force is a top notch swim spot. Take your time soaking it all in and snapping some pics for the gram before taking a dip.

    The walk in gives you time to get in the zone and build your anticipation. By the time you arrive at the base of the falls, you'll be so ready to jump into those crisp, clear pools! It's the perfect reward after taking in the majestic valley.

    Galleny Force location

    Galleny Force with a view towards Eagle Crag

    Head south on Borrowdale Road from Keswick. Turn off the road into Stonethwaite, it's clearly signposted. There is limited parking in this tributary valley.

    Walking to Galleny Force

    Walking map to Galleny Force
    • From the parking, head towards Stonethwaite village on the road. As you approach the village proper, with a large cottage on your left and a small parking layby to your right next to a telephone box, you have two choices:
      1. You can carry on through the village, following the signpost to Stonethwaite Farm & Campsite. Here you just following minor path through the fields, past the campsite and the small woods, until you reach the southern shore of the beck and the falls. This side allows access to the stony shores of the beck, so you can gently dip in and start swimming upriver into the gorge and towards the falls.
      2. Head in between the cottage and the parking onto the Cumbria Way. Follow the path over the beck then turn right onto the Cumbria Way into the valley. You’ll the follow the beck up the valley but on its northern side. Soon enough the path will steer right near the upper part of Galleny Force. Daredevils can take the opportunity to plunge from the crags above the falls into its crystal clear waters.

    The falls can be roughly be found at ///acid.payout.buildings (What3Words location link).

    Swimming in Whorneyside Force, Great Langdale

    Wild swimming in Whorneyside Force, Great Langdale

    Tucked within the mountain-lined valley of Great Langdale is Whorneyside Force. This is a hidden swimming hole that perfectly encapsulates the magic of the Lake District.

    This impressive 40 ft waterfall cascades down from the fells into an exquisite plunge pool, with stunning turquoise water. While Great Langdale itself has no lake or tarn, its south-facing peaks are some of the most dramatic in the region.

    After soaking in the quintessential Langdale views, make your way off the beaten path to Whorneyside Force for a brisk, rejuvenating swim surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Its bracing mountain waters will instantly refresh when you need a break from the summer heat. Let's dive into everything you need to know to experience this secluded Lake District gem.

    Whorneyside Force location

    Finding Whorneyside Force in Great Langdale

    You’ll start in the heart of Great Langdale. There’s a couple of options for parking:

    • The LDNPA-owned New Dungeon Ghyll car park, paid parking, found at ///extreme.booms.trick (What3Words location link)
    • The National Trust’s Stickle Ghyll car park, free for NT members, otherwise paid parking , found at ///stooping.bills.fittingly (What3Words location link)
    • Further towards the head of the valley, and thus closer to the waterfall, there’s some parking available at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, ///teaches.musician.emulated (What3Words location link)

    The walk to Whorneyside Force

    The walk to Whorneyside Force in Great Langdale

    Regardless of parking choice, follow the road west towards the head of Great Langdale, where the splendid sight of Crinkle Crags presents itself as a foreboding wall of rock. The road will turn sharply left as you approach the gate to Stool End Farm. Carry on through the gate onto the footpath.

    • Follow the path all the way towards, and through, Stool End Farm. A few metres beyond the farm, you’ll see a path branch off up and to the right, signposted The Band. Ignore this; this is the way up towards Bowfell. Instead, follow the path you’re already on through the gate and into Oxendale as it climbs and nears the beck.
    • Approximately 2km from the car park, you'll encounter two kissing gates in rapid succession, leading you to a wooden bridge. Do not cross this bridge unless you aim to take the more extended loop via Crinkle Crags. The path to Whorneyside Force follows Oxendale Beck, along the verdant trail to the right of the bridge, beside the dry stone wall.
    • When you reach the 2.3km point, you should turn right and tread on a slightly uphill grassy path. Keep an eye out for a well-trodden grassy path on your right. The climb becomes slightly more strenuous for the next 50m, after which you'll need to make a sharp left turn, and the trail becomes level again.
    • The subsequent 350m offers a delightful segment of track lined with bracken, guiding you to another wooden bridge at the 2.7km mark. Cross this bridge over the charming cascades and immediately look for the path on your right. This trail is much more rugged than before, tracing the watercourse throughout. It’s narrow and pebbled, with a few brief areas of erosion.
    • After an additional 250m - just shy of 3km from the car park - you will arrive at the base of Whorneyside Force, found at ///vision.snow.magically (What3Words location link)

    Swimming in Sourmilk Ghyll, Easedale

    Swimming in Sourmilk Ghyll, Easedale

    This time, we're taking you to the charming Sourmilk Ghyll in Easedale, near Grasmere.

    Imagine immersing yourself in a warm, crystal-clear pool, surrounded by an awe-inspiring landscape and the soothing sound of a cascading waterfall. This is the experience at Sourmilk Ghyll. The south-facing orientation of the pool basks in sunshine, encouraging a pleasantly warm swim.

    As you float in the clear waters, you'll enjoy breathtaking views of Easedale, Grasmere, and the Fairfield fells. This serene backdrop enhances every wild swimming foray, creating an unforgettable experience.

    And for those who wish to turn this into a full-day adventure, a hike beyond the waterfall will eventually lead you to Easedale Tarn. Here, you should prepare for a larger, albeit colder, swim in a captivating environment.

    Sourmilk Ghyll location

    Finding Sourmilk Ghyll near Grasmere

    Sourmilk Ghyll is a relatively uncomplicated walk from Grasmere village. For parking at Grasmere, there’s a few options:

    • Stock Lane car park, LDNPA owned, paid parking, found at ///plastic.shameless.toggle (What3Words location link)
    • Red Bank car park, operated by South Lakeland District Council/Westmorland & Furness Council, paid parking found at ///crouches.masterful.headsets (What3Words location link)
    • Broadgate Meadow car park, LDNPA owned, paid parking found at ///rank.nerves.womanly (What3Words location link)
    • Large layby off the A591, free, found at ///balance.excavate.doubt (What3Words location link)
    • Another large layby off the A591, north of Grasmere, free, found at ///fines.gems.sweeter (What3Words location link)

    Walking to Sourmilk Ghyll

    Walking to Sourmilk Ghyll in Easedale from Grasmere

    Wherever you park, you need to get into the centre of Grasmere village. At the junction with Sam Read Bookseller on the corner, follow Easedale Road.

    • As the road takes a fairly sharp turn to the right, you’ll see a small footbridge heading over the beck and into the woods. Head over that bridge and through the woods. Follow the paved footpath all the way into Easdale. You’ll soon see Sourmilk Ghyll very clearly lodged in the fells in front of you
    • The trail turns from well paved to a rough and rocky track, but it’s nevertheless clearly defined. Just watch your step. It will start ascending up the fellside, away from the beck, towards the lefthand side of the falls.
    • Eventually the trail will round right back towards the falls and head up alongside them. From here, it’s simply enough to navigate across the rocky ground to the bottom of Sourmilk Ghyll and its gorgeous plunge pool. The location is at ///oval.buckets.motored (What3Words location link).

    Swimming in Warnscale Beck falls aka the Buttermere "Infinity Pool"

    Swimming in Warnscale Beck falls aka Buttermere's Infinity Pools

    If you think you've seen everything the Lake District has to offer, wait until you hear about the Infinity Pools at Buttermere. They're a bit off the beaten path, but trust us, the journey is worth every step.

    You'll find these natural pools right where Warnscale Beck runs down the fellside into Buttermere.

    The area is peaceful and quiet. All you'll hear is the water from the beck, the wind rustling the leaves, and maybe a bird or two in the distance. It's a great place to get away from it all and just enjoy being in nature.

    Whether you're an old hand at wild swimming or just starting out, these pools at Buttermere are well worth a visit. The water's refreshing, the view's amazing, and the experience is something you won't soon forget.

    The Buttermere Infinity Pools location

    The start of this walk is best from Gatesgarth Farm parking, at the bottom of Honister Pass, found at ///shops.outdoor.pesky (What3Words location link).

    Walking map to Buttermere's infinity pools

    The journey to the infinity pools is easier than you think.

    • From the car park, take a left down Honister Pass. After a short and easy 150m stroll, you'll spot a sign for Honister House on your right.
    • Follow that gravel path up, enjoying the views of the fells around you. The path is flat or gently sloping - perfect for a relaxed hike.
    • As you round a corner, you'll catch a glimpse of a magnificent waterfall in the distance - a taste of the natural beauty to come. Just beyond a kilometre, keep an eye out for a grassy path on your right. Take it across a cute little bridge, then hop across a second dry stream bed.
    • You're so close now, just 100m more up a rockier but still manageable path. Take the turn off for Buttermere infinity pool and you'll be there in under a minute. The last bit is the only noticeable uphill part, but take it slow and enjoy the anticipation as you approach this hidden gem.

    Apart from the "main" infinity pool, there are plenty of others  further up the falls that may require a wee scramble to access. Take your time, be safe, and explore at your leisure.

    Swimming in Thirlmere's "Infinity Pool"

    Swimming in Thirlmere's "infinity pool"

    Ever heard of the "Infinity Pool" above Thirlmere?

    It's been getting a lot of love on social media in recent years. This natural pool is part of Fisherplace Gill, a stream that comes down from Raise, one of the high points in the Helvellyn mountain range. It's more than just a place to swim, it's a real adventure.

    Getting there can be a little tricky. The paths are either filled with loose stones or covered in soft grass, which can be tough to handle, especially when it's wet. And when you finally get to the pool, expect a bit of a scramble, no matter which way you approach.

    But trust us, the effort is worth it. Once you get there and take a dip, you'll have an incredible view across Thirlmere, all the way to Raven Crag and High Seat. It's a sight you won't forget. So grab your swimming kit and get ready for your next adventure at Thirlmere's "Infinity Pool".

    The Thirlmere Infinity Pool location

    Your best bet for parking would be the Legburthwaite car park, provided by United Utilities, found at ///decoder.carbon.bins (What3Words location link).

    The walk to Thirlmere's Infinity Pool

    Walking to the Thirlmere infinity pool from Legburthwaite car park
    • From the car park turn right and head south alongside the road. Once you pass the Lodge in the Vale accommodation, look for and head up Stanah Lane on your left.
    • Follow this lane up to some pretty cascades. Head past them and take the turn right, signalled by the signpost, and following the drystone wall on your right.
    • After nearly a kilometre or so, the drystone wall will veer off to the right, down the fellside. Maintain your own direction, where the path is more indistinct between all the ferns and bracken.
    • You’ll eventually reach a small wooden bridge. Cross it and take the trail left, going up the fellside. The beck tumbling down the fellside on your left here is Fisherplace Gill, which contains the “infinity pool”.
    • As you head up you’ll join the main path that heads left directly towards the gill. You can take this if you want, but it’s steep and loose. Otherwise, follow the direction you were already going. This smaller trail eventually veers left back towards the gill again, in a more gentle gradation.
    • The hike up to the pool is gorgeous. You'll veer left up the rocky path, taking in the lovely views.
    • After a couple hundred meters, right before reaching the pool, there's a narrow section of trail with a steep drop, so be cautious. Then you'll come upon the rocky area above the falls - take a moment to enjoy the view!
    • Now to access the pool. You've got options! On the south side, the way you came up, there's a sling tied to the rock to help you climb down into the pool. Footholds are there, but be careful as they can be slippery.
    • If you prefer, you can rock hop downstream just a bit, cross over the stream, and enter the pool from the north side. Less exposure over there. Either way, getting into this pool requires some scrambling, so take it slow and watch your footing. The cool water will be worth it though!

    Coming soon: Wild swimming in the Lake District's tarns

    Wild swimming in the Lake District's tarns

    We're certain that the ideas and information we've provided in this post is more than enough to get you started on your Lake District wild swimming adventure.

    But there's more to come.

    We want this guide to be the place to come to for accurate, useful, and helpful information about all the ways you can wild swim in the Lake District.

    In due course we will update this guide to also include swimming in the Lake District's various tarns. Now, there are of course hundreds of tarns in the Lake District, so we shan't explore them all. But certainly, the ones that offer the best swimming experiences will feature in this guide.

    Frequently asked questions

    Generally speaking, yes it is safe to swim in the Lake District. But as always, do your due diligence:

    • Check current and upcoming weather conditions
    • Let someone know of your expected route and also a return time
    • Ensure you're highly visible with something like a tow float
    • Make sure you have the all the necessary equipment and apparel suitable for the lake and conditions. That can include an insulative swim suit, swimming cap or bobble hat, gloves, and maybe something like a dry robe to warm up in when you leave the water.

    Be sure to also read our safety guidelines at the top of this post.

    The water quality in the Lake District can vary year by year based on multiple factors including weather, pollution, and conservation efforts.

    For example, in recent times, there has been increasing controversy and awareness of the declining water quality in Windermere due to sewage dumping↗. There's also been coverage regarding Invasive non-native species (INNS) in the Lake District's lakes, with Buttermere being regarded as one of the last "pristine" lakes left↗.

    As a good rule of thumb, you'll need a lake that sees no motor boats and is free from algae blooms. Good choices can include:

    In the Lake District, the most inviting lakes with the warmest water temperatures for swimming are Rydal Water and Grasmere. Additionally, more compact bodies of water such as Loughrigg Tarn are also known for their warmer conditions.

    As a rule of thumb, smaller and shallower lakes are usually warmer due to their ability to heat up faster and maintain their warmth longer in comparison to their larger and deeper counterparts.

    You can swim in most waterfalls in the Lake District, but in general we would advise swimming in the smaller falls and cascades.

    Bigger waterfalls with a higher drop are more dangerous, especially after an extended period of rain. There will also be waterfalls on private or managed land that you won't have swimming access to, such as Aira Force near Ullswater. 

    Check out waterfalls swimming section for some of our favourites.

    By and large, Windermere is clean to swim, but as always you must exercise your own judgement and perform due diligence.

    You can refer to the Environment Agency's Bathing Water Profile↗ for Windermere at Millerground. As mentioned earlier, concerns have also been raised regarding sewage dumping in Windermere, resulting in the Save Windermere↗ campaign.

    On the whole it is safe to swim in Coniston Water.

    If you wish to feel extra safe, we recommend various swimming spots around Coniston Water's eastern shore. That way you tend to stay away from motorised boats, which often embark from the western shore. 

    Get the details by checking out our wild swimming in Coniston Water section.

    It's generally a good idea to shower after swimming in any open body of water. This is so you can ensure you're free of bacteria and other potential nasties that may have been lurking in the water. 

    Additionally, thoroughly wash down your swimming gear and equipment too. This helps to prevent inadvertently transferring bacteria, algae, and Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) between bodies of water.

    Largely, yes it is safe to swim in Grasmere lake.

    Motorised boats are not allowed on the lake, so all you'll really need to watch out for are rowers/kayakers and other swimmers. 

    Learn the best swimming spots at Grasmere in our wild swimming in Grasmere section.

    Temperatures of the lakes and tarns in the Lake District vary a lot, influenced by factors such as their size, elevation, and local weather conditions.

    During the primary swimming season, mostly May through to September, the average temperatures for larger lakes tend to fall around 16 to 18 degrees Celsius. High-altitude tarns and rivers, on the other hand, have an average temperature of approximately 13 degrees Celsius.

    However, certain deeper lakes, higher tarns, and rivers situated within specific catchment areas can experience cooler temperatures, dropping as low as 5 to 8 degrees Celsius.

    To stay safe, learn about wild swimming safely in the Lake District.

    The Lake District is notably wet due to the influence of prevailing westerly winds that cross the Atlantic Ocean, picking up loads of moisture.

    Upon encountering the Lake District, this moisture-laden air hits the fells and is pushed up, dropping temperatures. As the air cools, the moisture within it condenses and falls as rain, a phenomenon known as orographic or relief rainfall. This process is primarily responsible for the high levels of rainfall in the Lake District.

    The deepest water in the Lake District is Wast Water, reaching 79 m/258 ft deep. 

    The Wasdale valley, which holds Wastwater, is a classic example of an "overdeepened" valley. These are caused by glacial erosion, fast meltwater, supercooling, changes in bedrock, and/or isostatic rebound.

    Read more about Wastwater and swimming in it.

    Not really, no.

    The nearest bodies of water to Scafell Pike are Broadcrag Tarn and Foxes Tarn, both of which are tiny and — due to climate change — have increasingly little water left in them.

    Wrapping up

    Well, there we have it, that's a wrap on our "Ultimate Guide to Wild Swimming in the Lake District". We've taken a good look at some top spots for wild swimming - from the big lakes to the cool dubs and pots, and even a few waterfalls and pools thrown in for good measure.

    Let's keep it simple: wild swimming in the Lake District is awesome. It's a great way to chill out, get some exercise and take in some pretty epic scenery. Each spot we've checked out has its own vibe, whether you're into the big open spaces of Windermere or the secluded corners of Eskdale. Put simply, if you're into wild swimming, the Lake District's got plenty to keep you busy.

    Here's the thing: don't rush it. Take the time to enjoy the experience, from the moment you first dip your toes in the water, to that last look back at the view. Each swim is a mini-adventure waiting to happen.

    The Lake District is a great place for wild swimming, but it's not just about the swim - it's about the whole experience. So grab your swimsuit, keep safety in mind, respect the environment, and go have some fun.

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