With misty lakes, meandering rivers and hidden tarns, there are hundreds of places to wild swim in the Lake District. Here are our top 8 remote spots for losing the crowds.
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 wild 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 in stunning mountain scenery with almost no one else around.
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BEST WILD SWIMMING IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
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.
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 wild swim in the Lake District.
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 5 kilometres away and one of the many great places to stay in the Lake District.
HOW TO GET THERE / Park by the side of the road at Wastwater. The best spot to swim is just south of Countess Beck.
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 in the Lake District than Blea Tarn. High up in the mountains, the still water perfectly reflects the impressive Langdale Pikes. 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 THERE / Park at the Blea Tarn car park between Little and Great Langdale Valleys. The tarn is a 5-minute walk from the car park.
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 THERE / Park in the village of Stonethwaite and walk along the river for 45 minutes past the Langstrath Country Inn.
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 THERE / Park in the village of Stonethwaite and walk along the river for 15 minutes past the Langstrath Country Inn.
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 to wild swim 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 criss-crossed 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.
HOW TO GET THERE / Park at the White Moss Cas Park on the A591, then walk for 20 minutes anti-clockwise around the lake.
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 THERE / Park alongside the road just before the farm at Seathwaite, then walk for 1 hour and 45 minutes uphill.
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.
READ NEXT / BLENCATHRA VIA SHARP EDGE
HOW TO GET THERE / 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.
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. Loughrigg is perfect after a long day on the hiking trails. Access is easiest on the south-east side.
HOW TO GET THERE / 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.
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.
Save this map by clicking on the start beside the title which will save it to your Google Maps account (if you are logged in). The map will then be available in YOUR MAPS in the app.
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. 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.
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.
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