With misty lakes, meandering rivers and hidden tarns, there are hundreds of places to wild swim in the Lake District. Here are our top 10 swimming spots for both family activities and secluded bliss.
As we venture down the rocky trail, dew clings to the long grasses either side of the path like shards of tiny crystals catching the early morning light. An eerie mist lingers over the lake, revealing the mountain scene reflected on the perfectly still water in an intermittent rhythm.
It’s cold already. A crisp air drifts from the nearby mountains, covering us in a reluctance to dive in the water.
But we do it. If only to stroke our sense of adventure and indulge our sense of achievement. After a while, the bite of the initial cold dissipates and all that remains is the magic of wild swimming in the Lake District on such a beautiful morning.
The Lake District is an excellent destination for open water swimming. Large waters provide gorgeous spots for an early morning workout, while tiny tarns (ponds formed by glaciers) provide refreshing afternoon dips following long hikes in the high mountains. With rivers forming picturesque canyons, delightful babbling brooks and natural lagoon plunge pools, there’s a wild swim in the Lake District for all tastes.
The wild swimming locations on our list are more remote than many others. Some require a hike to get to; but all are rewarded for the cathartic sensation of swimming amongst some of the best scenery in the Lake District with almost no one else around.
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IN THIS GUIDE // LAKE DISTRICT WILD SWIMMING
QUICK NOTE ON PROTECTING THE LAKES
Swimmers transferring invasive, non-native weeds to some of the Lake District’s most pristine lakes is becoming a problem. So if you plan to take a dip in multiple lakes please rinse both yourself, your swimwear and any other equipment thoroughly between each swim.
This will help to maintain the pristine conditions of the English Lakes. For more information about swimming responsibly in the Lake District, catch up on the rules at the Outdoor Swimming Society. But don’t let that put you off. Open water swimming is one of our favourite things to do in the Lake District.
MORE READING // WILD SWIMMING IN THE UK
1 – WASTWATER
Best wild swimming in the Lake District for putting some laps under your belt in a scenic lake.
Wastwater is the deepest lake in the Lake District. Huge craggy mountains surround the water creating a dramatic atmosphere for a refreshing Lake District wild swim. While on a cold day the setting might look a little forbidding, find a warm sunny afternoon and you’re in for a treat. With the sun reflecting off the mountains, the water shimmers in the reflection of tall mountains, there are few places better for a thoroughly enjoyable outdoor activity in the UK.
Several little beaches are sprinkled around the shore where you can launch for a long swim, lay in the shallows or just soak up the views from the bank. Looking up to Great Gable mountain at the head of the lake, or across at the spine of rocky scree as you swim, is a great way to while away an afternoon.
There are no facilities at Wastwater, but the Saw Mill Café a few kilometres south is great for coffee and lunch. Alternatively, the Wasdale Head pub is just 5 kilometres away.
HOW TO GET TO WASTWATER
Park by the side of the road at Wastwater. The best spot to swim is just south of Countess Beck.
Read Next — Where to stay in the Lake District
2 – BLEA TARN
Best wild swimming in the Lake District for wading amongst high, picturesque views.
There are few more picturesque spots to wild swim than Blea Tarn. High up in the mountains, the still water perfectly reflecting the impressive Langdale Pikes is one of the best views in the Lake District. In the early morning, as the mist slowly drifts from the lake, Blea Tarn is lavished with a cache of serenity. It’s the perfect spot for a rejuvenating wake-up swim.
There’s a car park right next to the tarn and a path that runs down to the water. There are no facilities at Blea Tarn, so pack your own picnic and thermos of coffee.
If you don’t want to bring your own supplies, head to the newly opened National Trust Sticklebarn restaurant in Great Langdale Valley. They do a mean pint and have an environmentally friendly menu that explains the carbon footprint for each dish.
For more information about visiting the area, read our guide to the Langdale Valley.
HOW TO GET TO BLEA TARN
Park at the Blea Tarn car park between Little and Great Langdale Valleys. The tarn is a 5-minute walk from the car park.
Read Next — 15 stunning Lake District walks
3 – BLACK MOSS POT
Best wild swimming in the Lake District for plunging into a lagoon pool from rocky ledges.
Following the Langstrath Valley in the Borrowdale area of the Lake District, Langstrath Beck curves through steep woodlands and grassy fields before forming a small dramatic gorge pool cut into a rock ledge. The long narrow pool is just wide enough to swim up and down for about 50 meters.
But, it’s much more fun to jump off the perfectly formed ledge about 5 metres above the water. Alternatively, climb down the large rocks to the bottom of the pool for a lazy relaxing soak. It’s a scenic remote spot and one of our favourite wild swimming locations in the Lake District.
The pot is a 45-minute stroll up the valley from the village of Stonethwaite, which also provides one of the best views in the area without any climbing. Black Moss Pot can get a little busy in the summer holidays and on weekends. But it’s worth the trip and one of our favourite things to do in the Lake District.
HOW TO GET TO BLACK MOSS POT
Park in the village of Stonethwaite and walk along the river for 45 minutes past the Langstrath Country Inn. See out Black Moss Pot article for more information.
4 – GALLENY FORCE
Best wild swimming in the Lake District near a great local pub.
Just 15 minutes along Langstrath Beck from the Langstrath Country Inn, the river forms a small waterfall called Galleny Force. In a lovely wooded section of the valley, the falls curve around the large boulders lining the river, creating atmospheric spots to unwind and go for a dip.
Set up camp here for an afternoon and spend your time cooling off in the falls, jumping in from their swing rope or taking a walk along the valley.
Once you’ve soaked up the atmosphere, head back to the Langstrath Country Inn in Stonethwaite for a pint. It’s one of our favourite pubs in the Lake District and a great way to end a day of wild swimming.
HOW TO GET TO GALLENY FORCE
Park in the village of Stonethwaite and walk along the river for 15 minutes past the Langstrath Country Inn.
Read Next — The Gordale Scale Walk, Yorkshire Dales
5 – RYDAL WATER
Best wild swimming in the Lake District for serene early morning laps in calm waters.
Rydal Water is a serene and peaceful place for open water swimming in the Lake District. Sheltered on all sides by mountains and low in altitude, the water is often a little stiller and a little warmer than other swimming spots.
Surrounded by hilly woodlands crisscrossed with jogging tracks, Rydal Water is the perfect place to get active in nature. Take a walk, or a run then launch yourself into this large beautiful lake. There’s a shelving beach for easy access plus plenty of grassy banks to while away a few idyllic hours.
Rydal Water is next to the road and is not as remote as some of the other wild swimming spots in the Lake District. But the shelving beach is on the far side (20 minute walk away from the car park), so it retains a slightly off-the-beaten-track feel. Combine the swim with one of the best walks in the Lake District and you’re in for a treat.
HOW TO GET TO RYDAL WATER
Park at the White Moss Cas Park on the A591, then walk for 20 minutes anti-clockwise around the lake.
Read Next — Great things to do in the Yorkshire Dales
6 – SPRINKLING TARN
Best wild swimming in the Lake District for that remote mountain feel.
It doesn’t get much more remote than this. Nestled under some of the largest mountains in the area, Sprinkling Tarn offers an adventurous wild swim in the Lake District. At an altitude of 600 metres, getting to Sprinkling Tarn is a long hike across rugged mountain scenery. But, with craggy mountains rising all around and icy water framed by wild grasses, it’s an experience that will literally leave you breathless.
The tarn is located along one of the best hiking paths to Scafell Pike – the highest peak in the Lake District. After making your way up to Scafell Pike via the corridor route, return via Esk Hause and make a small detour to Sprinkling Tarn. After your thoroughly adventurous swim, head back down to Seathwaite Farm along Grains Ghyll completing a day out in the Lake District that you won’t forget in a hurry.
HOW TO GET TO SPRINGLING TARN
Park alongside the road just before the farm at Seathwaite, then walk for 1 hour and 45 minutes uphill.
Read Next — The absolute best way up Scafell Pike
7 – POTS OF ESKDALE
Best wild swimming in the Lake District for exploring this most beautiful and remote valley.
Eskdale is one of the most beautiful places in the Lake District. A wide, picturesque valley wedged between the high mountains; its remoteness adds to its rugged allure. As the valley is difficult to get to, few people venture to this beautiful destination. This makes Eskdale a therapeutic isolated place for wild swimming in the Lake District.
Near the foot of the valley, the Esk River has cut canyons and pools in the rock creating three great pots to wild swim. Kail and Pillar pots are beautiful pools to sit and be massaged by the relaxing flow of the water. Tongue Pot is a deep pool with high walls perfect for leaping into for a more expansive swim.
If you come here for a dip it’s worth exploring further up the valley. The ghyll (deep ravine) upstream is dramatic and the views over the Great Moss up to the Scafell range is one of the most dramatic in the Lakes.
HOW TO GET TO THE POTS OF ESKDALE
Park at the bottom of Hardknott Pass near Brotherinkeld Farm then walk up the Eskdale Valley. Kail pot and Pillar pot are 25 minutes from the car park; Tongue Pot is 20 minutes further.
Read Next — Exploring the Langdale Pikes
8 – LOUGHRIGG TARN
Best wild swimming in the Lake District to soak your limbs at the end of a day.
Loughrigg Tarn is a reed-fringed lake set among farmland in the heart of the Lake District. Yet, despite its central location, it’s often overlooked by the throngs who bypass it on the way from a day exploring the mountains, back to their hotel. After a long hike, Loughrigg Tarn is the perfect place to relax tired limbs and unwind.
Set among the lush green pastures of gentle rolling farmland, Loughrigg is less rugged than some of the wild swimming on our list. But, the natural and tranquil setting is full of the typically beautiful Lake District scenes.
Parking is close by, so it’s only a short walk down to the tarn making it perfect after a long day on the hiking trails. Access into the water is easiest on the southeast side of the tarn.
HOW TO GET LOUGHRIGG TARN
Park at the car park at the top of the Foulstep Road just above Skelwith Bridge, then walk for 5 minutes down to the tarn.
09 – GLENRIDDING ULLSWATER
Best wild swimming in the Lake District for young kids and families
At the southern end of Ullswater, in the town of Glenridding, gently sloping beaches descend into a beautiful part of the lake. It makes for incredibly easy and safe access into the water, just right for young kids.
There are large open grassy banks and all the facilities of Glenridding (toilets, shops, pubs, cafes) are just a few minutes’ walk away.
St Patrick’s boatyard rents kayaks and canoes, so you can take to the water for your own mini-adventure. Swimming from the boats is allowed, providing you can pull yourself back in!
Ullswater at Glenridding isn’t exactly the wild swimming location in the Lake District for getting away from the crowds, but on most days, you can find a decent spot to call your own.
HOW TO GET TO GLENRIDDING
Park at one of the many Glenridding car parks or beside the road. It’s a popular location with hikers heading up to the summit of Helvellyn or boat lovers cruising on the Ullswater Steamer. But there is usually plenty of coming and going to find a spot.
Read Next — Conquering ridges on Blencathra
MAP / WHERE TO GO WILD SWIMMING IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
Each of the parking locations mentioned in this article have been marked on the map, along with the best spots to jump in for a swim. At Westwater, you can park right where you swim. Take our map with you on your discovery of the amazing wild swimming in the Lake District.
To help decide where to base yourself, read our article on the best places to stay in the Lake District.
TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE WILD SWIMMING IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
1 – Enter the water slowly. The temperature may be cold, especially so in deeper areas. If it’s your first time, stay close to the shore while you get used to the conditions.
2 – Never jump in unless your heart and body have already become acclimatised, you know what’s below the surface and have a plan on how to get out again.
3 – Do not swim in rivers with strong currents, there is a risk of being swept downstream. If you feel the current is fine stay near the bank, as the water is usually slower moving. Swim upstream first because you don’t want to leave the more tiring work till the end.
4 – Be aware of the cold, hypothermia can come to you quickly. For longer swims in summer or any swims in winter wear a wetsuit and make sure you have warm clothes to change back into when you are finished.
5 – If you plan on swimming across deep water then do not go on your own, it’s safer and more fun with others.
6 – If you are swimming on a river or lake with lots of boats, wear a colourful hat or take a visibility float.
7 – Avoid areas of blue-green algae, wading in muddy areas or swimming with an open cut.
8 – Have fun and take a picnic. It’s a great day out, but beware being drunk and wild swimming isn’t a good mix.
MORE LAKE DISTRICT READING
If you’re planning a trip to the Lake District, here are more of our guides to help you get the best out of this stunning part of England.
Our favourite views and photo spots in the Lake District
Explore the remote and rugged Lake District at the Langdale Pikes
Walk Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route for a top Lake District Hike
Find our favourite things to do in the Lake District
Conquer knife-edge ridges on the exhilarating walk up Blencathra
Our pick of the finest walks in the Lake District
Try these heart-pumping grade 1 Lake District scrambles
The best places to stay in the Lake District
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