Adventure & Travel Blog Lake District Lovers

Wild Swimming in the Lake District

fairy glen wild swimming spot

If you have an uncontrollable urge to dive beneath the surface whenever the glimmer of water catches your eye, you’ll love these cool locations for open water and wild swimming in the Lake District. Taking your first bracing dip in the clear and tranquil waters of the Lakes can be a life-changing experience and a great boost for both physical and mental wellbeing.

Wild swimming in the Lake District

Enjoy slipping into hidden pools framed by rugged landscapes and find the secret becks where you’ll experience the true pleasures of open water swimming. I’ve chosen the best wild water swimming hot spots for both novices and more experienced open water swimmers searching for a new aquatic adventure.

Some of the Best Places in the Lake District for Wild Swimming

1. Wild Swimming in Wastwater

This lake is for those who seek true solitude (just make sure you avoid school holidays!). In contrast with many of the other lakes in the region, Wastwater offers deep, dark depths in vast, dramatic surroundings. It has that Wuthering Heights moody vibe about it which attracts dedicated outdoor swimming enthusiasts and professional divers. Warm up at the Wasdale Head Inn after your dip.

Why swim here?

Wild swimming at Wastwater means going off the beaten track and immersing yourself in only the sights and sounds of nature. And you can boast that you’ve swum in England’s deepest lake!

Coordinates: 54.4428° N, 3.2920° W

2. Wild swimming at Galleny Force (Fairy Glen) & Black Moss Pot

Grassy verges give way to flat rock banks surrounding the perfect pools and cascading waterfalls of the wonderful Fairy Glen. Swim in the gin-clear waters beneath the waterfalls or head further up the river to Black Moss Pot to dive into deeper waters.

Why swim here?

Galleny Force is perfect for families and for those looking to paddle as well as swim. Black Moss Pot is preferred by more experienced swimmers and outdoor divers. However, it’s also worth being aware that Black Moss Pot has been known to host its fair share of skinny dippers because of its secluded location!

Coordinates: 54.5073° N, 3.1234° W

3. Wild Swimming in Derwentwater

wild swimming at derwentwater calfclose bay
Calfclose Bay, Derwentwater

Like many of the larger lakes, wild swimming in Derwentwater means looking out for any traffic. Yet, the footpath circling the lake gives plenty of options for access points making it easier to find a quieter spot in which to begin your swim. Aim to swim at the midpoints of the lake as southern end tends to be strewn with reeds and the northern side has its fair share of blue-green algae.

Why swim here?

There are several bays where you can enjoy a little more privacy, including Calfclose Bay, which is a pretty little spot on the eastern side of the lake.

Coordinates: 54.5769° N, 3.1468° W

4. Open water Swimming in Windermere

windermere great north swim
Windermere at North Swim

Windermere is perhaps the best-known location for open water swimming in the UK, thanks to the Great North Swim and other events. It’s the longest natural lake in the UK (18.08km) and visitors can book guided swims if it’s their first time dipping their toe (quite literally!) into the world of open water swimming.

Why swim here?

As a beginner, you’ll probably appreciate a guided swim rather than going it alone. As an experienced wild swimmer, you’ll enjoy the lengthier swim provided by such a long stretch of water. Either way, you can enjoy incredible fell views. Just remember to watch out for the boats!

Coordinates: 54.3739° N, 2.9376° W

5. Wild Swimming in Ullswater

ullswater lakeside walk

Ullswater is renowned for its pristine waters, perfect for open water swimming. It’s advised that swimmers stay close to the shoreline, as this lake can become very busy with sailing and motor boats. It may be best to take an early morning swim here to avoid the crowds. However, be sure to make yourself visible with a brightly coloured swim hat or buoyancy aid to be on the safe side when wild swimming in Ullswater.

Why swim here?

Needless to say, the fell views from Ullswater are something else, and the many islands and beaches dotted along the 11.8km route provide convenient resting points during your swim.

Coordinates: 54.5762° N, 2.8860° W

6. Wild Swimming in Tongue Pot at Eskdale

esk valley swimming
Esk Valley

The deep green waters of this more secret swimming spot in the Lake District are perfect for an outdoor swim on a hot summer’s day. The gushing waterfalls and scenery of the Esk Valley create an ethereal backdrop for a fun outdoor swim. No doubt you’ll be tempted to jump in from the series of rocks along the beck. You can find several fairy pools as you walk up the river.

Why swim here?

If you’re an adventurous and experienced outdoor swimmer you’ll love jumping from the rocks into Tongue Pot. Its isolated location means it’s likely to be less busy than other wild swimming spots in the Lake District.

Coordinates: 54.4212° N, 3.1926° W

7. Wild Swimming in Buttermere

Buttermere wild swimming

At just 2km in length, Buttermere is not a lake that’s popular with the boating and water sports crowd. The lack of crafts therefore makes it a very popular spot for outdoor swimming. However, this is a deep lake, with a maximum depth of 23 metres and has deep underwater shelving along the circumference. Swimming in Buttermere is therefore not suitable for beginners or children and is more suited to strong, confident swimmers.


Why swim here?

Buttermere has several times been voted as having the best views in the UK. Enjoy these views from the tranquil waters of the lake.

Coordinates: 54.5313° N, 3.2646° W

8. Wild Swimming at Crummock Water

crummock water wild swimming
Crummock Water

Coordinates: 54.5617° N, 3.3048° W

Located close to Buttermere, Crummock Water is a lake with no traffic whatsoever – making it ideal for wild swimming in the Lake District. You may have to walk a while to find an ideal entry point around this 4km long lake, but it’s worth it when you do. As there is no traffic, you may prefer to swim the width of the lake which is 966 metres.

Why swim here?

If you like it cold, this lake is for you! At its deepest it is 42 metres and so it can take a long time to heat up. Yet the cold may just be worth it when you don’t have to worry about dodging boats.

9. Wild Swimming at Gill Force at Eskdale

Gill Force
River Esk

This truly is a hidden beauty. Swim below a cascading water chute surrounded by a verdant backdrop that would have you believe you were in the tropics. You will need to walk over wooden bridges and via uneven pathways to reach it, but getting there is part of the adventure.

Why swim here?

Found on the River Esk, this is an enchanting location with a rocky gorge shaded by a leafy canopy.

Coordinates: 54.3851° N, 3.2732° W

10. Wild Swimming in Coniston Water

Coniston Water

Coniston Water is often less busy than some of the other major lakes, making it a good option for wild swimming. You’ll also find plenty of access points dotted around the lakeside. For less competent swimmers, try to stay around the eastern shore as it’s shallower and has a gradual downward shelf.

Why swim here?

Coniston Water is surrounded on all sides by gorgeous fell scenery which gives you a wonderful sense of isolation, even on busier days.

Coordinates: 54.3432° N, 3.0716° W

11. Swimming in Alcock Tarn

Alcock Tarn

If you prefer to get up high for a wild swim, Alcock Tarn is a wonderful spot for a dip. If you’re not a fan of anything brushing up against your legs in the water, this probably isn’t the best place for you! The water is quite shallow and there are lots of grasses in the water, oh and you might be accompanied by a duck or two, but other than that, it’s well worth the climb to get here.

Why swim here?

Surrounded by imposing fells, the views from Alcock Tarn are undeniably stunning. It’s also a much more peaceful spot for wild swimming as the hike does tend to put some swimmers off.

Coordinates: 54.4622° N, 3.0056° W

12. Wild Swimming in Elterwater

Elterwater and Langdale Pikes

Lying below the gaze of the mighty Langdale Pikes, Elterwater is an idyllic place for a swim. While it doesn’t get as busy as some other wild swimming spots in the Lake District, it’s not unusual to be joined by other swimmers at the weekends during the summer. The water can get cooler than the larger lakes owing to its position below the fells.

Why swim here?

As well as being overlooked by majestic fellside scenery, the pool is a good size so you can really get those legs kicking. It’s also a good spot to take a refreshing dip during a walk along the River Brathay.

Coordinates: 54.4342° N, 3.0377° W

13. Rydal Water and Grasmere

grasmere swimming and canoeing

Due to the lack of traffic on Grasmere and Rydal Water, both make ideal spots for wild swimming. And because there’s a handy car park situated in between the two lakes, you can take a dip in both and decide which is your favourite. Rydal Water is great for younger children or novice swimmers as it’s reasonably shallow and not as cold as some of the bigger lakes.

Why swim here?

Both lakes are ideal for less confident swimmers because of their size, the absence of boats and various entry points where the water is shallow. And not forgetting, of course, the magnificent fells that loom over them.

Coordinates: 54.4488° N, 3.0209° W

14. Open Water Swimming in Blea Tarn

wild swimming at blea tarn and langdale pikes
Blea Tarn

Blea Tarn is tucked away inside the Langdale Valley and is surrounded by magnificent fell views. As you look towards Great Langdale, the iconic Lamgdale Pikes provide a mountainous backdrop that makes this location so special. If you come midweek and outside of school holidays, you might even get the place to yourself for a while.

Why swim here?

Without a doubt, the scenery that wraps around Blea Tarn is the ultimate lure for wild swimming here.

Coordinates: 54.4300° N, 3.0914° W

15. Wild Swimming in Angle Tarn

Angle tarn wild swimming
Angle Tarn

Lying at 479 metres on a ridge top plateau above the village of Hartsop, Angle Tarn is one of the highest bodies of water in the Lake District. The tarn is enveloped by iconic peaks and is a tranquil oasis for local wildlife. The 1.5-hour hike to reach Angle Tarn makes wild swimming here all the more rewarding as you cool down from some steep climbs. 

Why swim here?

Tthe majestic views of the Helvellyn range and Ullswater en route to Angle Tarn add to the thrill of the adventure and if you’re a wildlife lover, you’ll be in your element.

Coordinates: 54.5210° N, 2.9023° W

Wild Swimming Tips

  • To avoid cold water shock, acclimatise to the water slowly before jumping straight in.
  • If you do feel in shock when you get into the water, resist the urge to swim! Stay calm until your body has adjusted to the temperature of the water and your breathing has returned to normal.
  • Be sensible and stay aware of your limits. Don’t swim so far out that you’re unable to make it back to the shore.
  • Avoid swimming alone.
  • Check the weather forecast before you plan your swim.
  • Take warm clothes and hot drinks to warm you up after your swim.
  • Wearing a wetsuit will help prevent you from suffering from cold water shock and can also aid buoyancy.
  • Always check the depth of the water before diving or jumping in, especially from great heights.
  • Don’t swim anywhere where there’s blue-green algae.
  • Always be on your guard for boats and wear a brightly coloured swim hat so that you’re clearly visible.
  • If you’re a weak swimmer, wear buoyancy aids.
  • If you do get into trouble, try to float on your back with your arms and legs out.
  • Invest in a waterproof pouch so you can keep your mobile phone on you.
  • Check, clean and dry all your clothing and equipment to help keep water free from invasive non-native species.

If you love being surrounded by nature and you’ve enjoyed reading about the best places for wild swimming in the Lake District, discover more water sports and outdoor activities you can enjoy in the national park.

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