There are probably many of you shouting at your screen right now. I’m sure you’ll know that, officially, there is only one lake in the Lake District: Bassenthwaite. Whether you consider them waters, reservoirs, meres or lakes, for the purpose of this blog, I’ve listed them as the best Lake District Lakes.
Top 10 Lakes in the Lake District
Let’s start with one of the most popular and arguably well-known lakes, Windermere. This is the largest natural lake (or water) in England and spans 10.5 miles in length. As you’d expect from the Lake District, the surrounding scenery is stunning. Year round you can take a boat tour on Lake Windermere, and each June the Great North Swim takes place here. Flanking the shores is Bowness-on Windermere, a busy tourist area with plenty of cool bars and restaurants.
Grasmere Water is one of the smaller Lake District lakes, measuring just one mile in length. Taking its name from the village of Grasmere, the lake is a popular place for walking. Follow in the footsteps of the famous poet, William Wordsworth, who once lived in Dove Cottage in the village. Much of Wordsworth’s poetry was inspired by Grasmere and the beautiful scenery surrounding Grasmere Water.
3. Rydal Water
Situated next to Grasmere Lake, Rydal Water is just ¾ of a mile in length and is another of the smaller lakes in the Lake District National Park. Many visitors tend to walk around both Grasmere and Rydal waters, which make a reasonable circular route. One of the main attractions here is Rydal Cave which overlooks Rydal Water. This is a great place to bring the kids but make sure you visit early or during the week as it gets pretty busy!
Just a short walk from the bustling market town of Keswick in the Borrowdale valley, Derwentwater boasts some of the best views in the Lake District. Peering over the water, you have the likes of Catbells, Skiddaw, Latrigg and Walla Crag making up the dramatic backdrop. There’s a fabulous dog-friendly walk around Derwentwater that will take you up close to some of the most popular fells in the Lake District. Alternatively, if you prefer a spot of shopping, you’ll find plenty of places to visit in Keswick.
Tucked away on the road-less-travelled, Wastwater can be found in the more remote, western part of the Lake District in the Wasdale Valley. At 79 metres, Wastwater is the deepest lake in the Lake District as well as the whole of England. There’s an eerie yet magical atmosphere here and the colourful screes that dip into the water make it a popular place for photographers. It also sits under the shadow of Scafell, which looms over the head of the lake.
6. Coniston Water
Coniston Water tends to be one of the lesser-visited lakes so if you’re looking for somewhere that isn’t quite as crowded, this is a great place to come. It’s great for a spot for wild swimming, enjoying a picnic on the shores, or hiring a boat to explore the scenery that was the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s Swallow and Amazons.
Ullswater has it all and is a favourite lake for many visitors to the Lake District. It has everything: incredible fell scenery, Parkfoot campsite on its shores, water-based activities, great walks – what more could you want? If splashing around on the water excites you, Another Place Hotel offers kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, wild swimming, and sailing. But if you prefer not to get your hair wet, the Ullswater steamers are a great option for getting around on the water. Pooley Bridge is just a short walk from the lake where you can sample the food and local ales at The Sun Inn or The Crown Inn.
A personal favourite of mine, Buttermere makes you feel like you’ve arrived in a magical land with the imposing presence of fells such as Haystacks, Fleetwith Pike and High Stile. When the water is still, the reflections here are something else and owing to the colours, an autumn walk at Buttermere is highly recommended. The walk around Buttermere lake is ideal for beginners and you’re sure to meet the local characters en route: the Herdies and Highland cows. Stop off at the pub or Syke Farm Tea Room on the way back.
9. Bassenthwaite Lake
At 4 miles long, Bassenthwaite is one of the largest lakes in the Lake District, and it is the only true lake! It is home to Bassenthwaite Sailing Club and only has a path along its western shore so it’s not the best lake for walking around. However, it is blessed with amazing wildlife such as osprey and Atlantic salmon. Britain’s rarest freshwater fish, the Vendace, has also made an appearance here.
10. Haweswater Reservoir
Located in the Mardale valley, Haweswater is a 2.5 mile-long reservoir that was once a natural lake. Sadly, the villages of Mardale Green and Measand were destroyed and their ruins can still be seen when the water levels of the reservoir are low. There is some beautiful scenery surrounding the reservoir and the Haweswater Hotel lets you soak up the views from the beer garden.