If you are looking for freedom, stunning scenery, and the opportunity to explore the very best in wild swimming spots, then the only place to visit is the Lake District. With swims and areas to suit the newest wild swimmer in open water, through to the hardened veteran, we have looked at the 17 best swimming spots in the Lake District to visit to save you the hard work.
From great lakes like Windermere, through to small hidden gems such as Tongue Pot, there is a swim out there to suit you all. The only hard decision you will have to make, is which one to visit first!
7 amazing public swimming lakes to ‘wet’ your appetite
There is no shortage of choice when looking at swimming spots in the wild in the Lake District. Out of the 14 major lakes in the national park, only 3 of them do not allow swimming, but which are the best? What are the most spectacular lakes to wild swim in?
This is what we think!
Situated only a stones throw from the picturesque town of Keswick, Derwentwater is a lake you can swim in the wild any time during the day and get spectacular views while enjoying the water. However, early morning and sunset are personal favourites especially setting out from places like Ashness Jetty.
At 1 mile wide and 3 miles long, you can choose how far and where to swim to. There are 4 larger islands on the lake making great targets to head for, as well as numerous smaller islands. Be aware that boats do use the lake as well so always swim with care.
It may be small, but Rydal Water is still an amazing place to venture for a wild swim. The southern end of the lake is the best place to swim and is only around a mile from the nearest car park.
The lake itself is approximately ¾ mile in length and ¼ mile in width, making it the perfect starting point for novices and for those literature fans among you, as you can gaze up at Wordworth’s Seat during your swim. It is reputed that it was the great poets favoured spot for relaxing and taking in the scenery.
As the biggest and most famous lake in the National Park and in England, it could not be left out. At a massive length of over 10 miles and 1 mile in width it can seem scary to the newer wild swimmers out there, but please do not be disheartened.
With amazing scenery and history, Windermere is a fantastic wild open water swimming spot. A great place for new swimmers is in Waterhead at Borran’s Park.
Here you can enjoy wilder and shallower waters. For the more experienced there are different routes you can try as well as some brilliant guided swim tours that cover the full length of this great lake.
Beautifully placed between Buttermere and Loweswater, Crummock Water is one of the lovely wild outdoor swimming spots. With the largest waterfall in the Lake District, Scale Force, on one side, Rannerdale on the other and also the starting point for the River Cocker. There is so much to see and experience while swimming in this wild lake.
It is easy to access, with numerous parking spots along the side so you can step out of your car and into the lovely welcoming waters. The lake itself is around ¾ mile in width and 2 ½ miles in length so you can use it to gain confidence or to let yourself go into nature.
This is a lake and a wild swim that will take your breath away with the pure scale and beauty of your surroundings. With Scafell Pike, Great Gable and more looming you should be asking yourself why you haven’t taken a wild swim here already?
The deepest of the lakes at over 250 feet deep, Wastwater also stretches for 3 miles in length and around ½ mile wide with the Screes also making up one part of the shoreline. Due to the depth of the lake it may be colder than others on our list so make sure that you wild swim in the correct gear.
Buttermere and its surrounding area have been voted time and again as some of the most stunningly beautiful scenery in the Lake District, if not the entire UK. Surrounded by some of the most breath-taking walks and nature trails, the view from the water is just as good, if not better.
This lake is better suited to more experienced or confident wild swimmers due to the steep drop offs near the edge of the lake but that shouldn’t stop it being a lake to aim for. If you are less confident or experienced, practice in some of the other lakes or pools on our list. If you are an experienced swimmer then sink in and enjoy the resounding vista of the lake and its surroundings.
Around one hours walk away from Eskdale, you will find this beauty. High up in the Lake District, Burnmoor Tarn will leave you speechless. If peace, quiet and beauty is what you are looking for then this is the place for you. The water is shallower than most of the other lakes on our list with crystal clear water.
Seeing a fish or two while swimming in the wild here is not uncommon and only adds to your enjoyment. Up in this beautiful place you may feel like you are the only person in the entire National Park. Now that’s not a bad feeling to have.
4 natural swimming holes in the Lake District to plunge into
Tucked away in the stunning landscape, you can find some amazing natural swimming holes to explore and enjoy. There may be a walk involved in getting there, but the enjoyment afterwards will more than make up for it. As well as your wild swimming gear these spots are perfect places to get out your camera, phone or GoPro and capture the surroundings.
Hidden gems in the great outdoors
Sunbathe, swim, plunge and enjoy your surroundings up at Galleny Force. There are two separate pools, one higher than the other. The lower portion is perfect for swimming and relaxing for all the family, either in the water or around the shoreline.
Holme Fell Lake
This fantastic little lake is an old reservoir above Coniston and a fabulous place to escape to. Being smaller in size and relatively shallow, on a lovely summer’s day the temperature of the water will be perfect. The whole family can enjoy a picnic, swimming and laughter, all in this magical spot.
Located in the shadows of Langdale Pikes, Loughrigg Tarn is another natural swimming hole that is too good to resist. With a campsite on its shores, this small lake is a perfect place to relax and enjoy a leisurely swim in the wild, while taking in the views all around.
The water during the summer months is usually warmer than you would expect. Go and visit purely for a wild swim or as a lovely after hike dip.
To be found in the fells near Rydal, this pool is great for a swim, bathe or relax, with the guaranteed beauty of the Lake District all around you. Triangular in shape and with a rocky beach, you can wile away the day in and out of the water and enjoy the small waterfall that can be found at the end of the pool. Adults and children alike will love it.
Pour over these 3 stunning waterfalls to swim in
With all the beauty of the lakes and wild natural swimming holes, there is something special about swimming in the wild near to, or even under a waterfall. The magical sound and sight of the water cascading down delights us all and it would be rude not to share with you some of the most stunning swims that have embraced the magnificence of a waterfall or two.
You won’t believe the beauty!
The Eskdale Valley is known for its pools and waterfalls and Tongue Pot is possibly the best of them all. A stunning waterfall flows down into a long pool making it an idyllic place to spend your time. With perfectly clear water and sheer edges rising above you in places, you will fall in love with it as soon as you dip your little toe into the water.
Lower down from Buckstones Jum, you will find an amazing swim location with a majestic waterfall. This 4 metre deep pool lies under a narrow gorge which the water cascades down from. This is not as well known as some of our other pools and waterfalls which makes it such a special and tranquil place to be, deep in the middle of the forest.
This pool and rocky gorge with its beautiful waterfall is an excellent place for a wild swim and to enjoy the scenery. The water level can be variable depending on the recent rainfall but that shouldn’t detract from the sheer wonder of this fabulous place. In general, the pools are deep and good for swimming in the wild while you enjoy the water flowing down from above.
Wild places to swim outdoors and immerse yourself in
As well as the main lakes, pools, and waterfalls there are also other stunning places to swim in wild in the Lake District. These are either stand alone pieces of water or a particular place on some of the larger lakes to enjoy yourself in the water without doing an open water swim.
These are amazing!
This is an avid favourite among wild swimmers and you are sure to meet others here who are enjoying the water. All around you are rocks and cliffs that form the walls of the Pot. With a waterfall to enjoy at one side and beautifully clear waters to indulge in taking a snorkel may also be a good idea.
Located off Ullswater, this deep water underneath an intimidating cliff can be enjoyed by jumpers and wild swimmers alike. Behind the crag are peaceful woods to enjoy and there is a small beach that runs alongside the water. A brilliant place to explore.
To complete our list is this stunning location. This stream has beautiful water to swim in wild through a breath-taking gorge. It gets its name from a stone pack horse bridge that traverses the stream which you can swim underneath. An unforgettable wild swim.
Stay In Cabins in the Lakes
What to Consider When Wild Swimming`
While wild swimming is hugely enjoyable for both exercise and the natural beauty that you experience, there are certain things that you need to ensure so that your safety and that of others are looked after when taking advantage of the Lake Districts wild open water swimming spots.
These are always to be remembered
Always be aware of the dangers of swimming in lakes and rivers
Firstly, always check the weather forecast. The weather in the Lake District can change very quickly and it is always beneficial to be aware of any upcoming storms or fluctuations.
Although lakes and rivers can look calm and beautiful on the surface there can be underlying dangers. The currents under the surface can be significantly stronger than above and can catch you unawares. Always research the lake or river that you are looking at wild swimming in. There is information on currents, tides and excess water due to heavy rainfall and these are always things to check before you start to swim in the wild.
Also, be aware of other users. Whether these are sailing boats, ferries and pleasure craft, or jet skis etc, you are small and hard for them to see. Always take precautions like wearing a bright swimming cap, towing a bright buoy or float behind you and by swimming as a group where possible. This will make you more noticeable and reduce the risk of an accident. Make sure that you are always aware of your surroundings. Information can be found on the Lake District website specifically for swimmers and users of the lakes.
A crucial question is always, what is the water temperature?
This is crucial for your own safety. The water temperature can fluctuate hugely depending on the time of year and can be significantly colder that the air temperature. If you are planning to swim in the colder months such as spring or autumn, or even in the summer months, then a wetsuit is an advisable purchase. It will help to keep your body temperature up and to help you with buoyancy. Hypothermia from wild swimming is known and should be protected against.
Which are the quieter lakes to swim?
If you are worried about powerboats and other larger vessels, then you can choose one of the lakes where they are not allowed. You will still have to be aware of smaller craft like canoes and sailing boats, but your overall experience may be improved. The lakes which do not have power boats or ferries include; Wastwater, Crummock Water, Buttermere and Rydal Water. These are ideal places for enjoying a peaceful wild swim.
What safety precautions should you take?
As previously mentioned, wetsuits, bright swimming caps and tow floats can be very important. Swimming in the wild in groups is good for safety and moral and it is very important to let someone know of your plans. Tell them where you are going to swim and the time you are going to start. That way in the unlikely event that there is a problem, people will know where to find you. Also, don’t try and do too much too soon. Ease yourself into it and build up your wild swim distances gradually.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wild Swimming
Are you allowed to swim in Lakes?
The easy answer is yes. Check for any regulations before hand such as specific areas or times first though.
Where can I swim for free in the lake district?
Any of the main lakes, tarns etc are all free to swim in. Especially if they are owned by the National Trust. Some car parks may charge and always check the specific lake before you swim.
Should I swim with someone?
Ideally yes where possible. Swimming in pairs or groups is good for morale and safety. If you are swimming alone ensure that someone knows of your plans before setting out.
Now you have seen 17 of the very best wild swimming spots in the Lake District we hope that you will make the time to go and enjoy them. Swimming is a fantastic exercise and when you can do it out in the open with such stunning scenery, it enhances the experience immensely.
Get the information first hand
All we ask is that you swim safely. Look at the websites for the Lake District and for Cumbria, for any information and guidelines before you set out. Enjoy the wilds with friends, in an organised swimming group, or with family. The most important part is to get out there and swim with a smile.
Companies like Head for the Hills also do beginners and advanced courses in open water swimming. To see what it’s like look at the video below.