Lakes & Tarns

It doesn't take a mastermind to work out why Cumbria is called 'The Lake District'. While Windermere, Grasmere, Coniston and Derwent Water are very well known, the other lakes are tarns have their own charm and uniqueness. We advise you to seek them out, even if it takes you a few trips!

Windermere

Windermere

England’s largest natural lake is over 10 miles long, with secluded bays, 18 wooded islands and surrounded by mountain ranges. The lake was created when glaciers retreated over ten thousand years ago. The Romans built Fort Galava at Waterhead and Viking farmers settled around the lake in in the 10th Century. In 1847 the railway arrived turning the lake into a popular tourist attraction. Windermere lake cruises operate all year round with tours of varying length. Spend the whole day on the lake with a Freedom of the lake ticket or sail to Wray castle and walk the western shore. Plenty of water sports are available and self drive and rowing boats to hire.

Coniston Water

Coniston Water, the 3rd largest lake in the lake district is 5 miles long. There are several small islands including Peel island which became Wild Cat island in Arthur Ransome’s children’s adventure story Swallows and Amazons. Adventures on the water are now offered by Coniston Launches which operate a frequent service around the lake. The lake was famously used by Donald Campbell to break speed records until he lost his life there in 1967 when he crashed his boat the Bluebird. Behind the town of Coniston are the towering fells above Coppermine valley and Coniston Old Man mountain rises dramatically above the Western shore.

Coniston Water
Esthwaite

Esthwaite Water

Esthwaite is a picturesque, tranquil lake situated between the larger lakes of Windermere and Coniston, just south of the pretty village of Hawkshead. It is primarily a privately owned fishery, stocked with brown trout which in turn attracts Ospreys from nearby nesting sites. Self-drive boats are available for both fishing and Osprey sighting. Beatrix Potter lived nearby at Hill Top, and based her Tales of Jeremy Fisher on the lake.  Reached by taking the car ferry to Far Sawrey and follow the B5284 to the lakes edge.

Derwent Water

Within grand mountaineous surroundings, the little boats of the Keswick launch company get you easily and quickly in to some of the most picteuesqe walking country in the Lakes. Launches glide from cove to bay with 7 landings along the tree lined shore.The fells of Catbells rise to its west and east is the viewpoint of Friars Cragg jutting on to the lake. Nearby Keswick is a lovely market town and the beautifully situated Thatre by the lake lives up to its name.

Derwent
Brockhole Lake District Visitor Centre

Blea Tarn

Tranquil Blea Tarn sits amidst a small hanging valley between Little Langdale and Great Langdale. with stunning views of the Langdale Pikes. Tarn means ‘a small mountain lake’. There are brown trout, perch and pike in the tarn and it is a popular spot for wild swimming. A 5-minute walk from Blea Tarn Car park.

Buttermere

This popular lake has been voted as one of the best views in Britain. The name means ‘The lake by the dairy pasture’ Buttermere is very accessible and offers one of the best round-the-lake strolls in the lake district. There is a footpath running all the way round, and the going is relatively easy, taking 2 to 3 hours. Good paths lead up to the summits of Red Pike, and also Wainwrights favourite walk, Haystacks, where his ashes are scattered. Buttermere and Crummock were originally one post glacial lake

Buttermere
Loweswater

Loweswater

The Buttermere valley is the only valley in Cumbria possessing 3 lakes. Buttermere, Crummock water and Loweswater. Loweswater is a secluded lake nestling in woodland and often overlooked, but well worth visiting. Traditional rowing boats are available to hire from the National Trust farm at the South Eastern end. Red squirrels can be found in the area.

Grasmere

Described by Wordsworth as ‘The most loveliest spot than man hath found’, Grasmere is an attractive and popular tourist area. There is a lovely circular shore walk on established footpaths. The shingle beach at the south end is easy to reach from White Moss car park. Grasmere village has a great choice of independent shops and places to eat. Helm Crag for a great walk with views looking down to pretty Grasmere. Canoes and boats for hire.

Grasmere
Watersports Lake Windermere

Rydal

Rydal water was another of William Wordsworth’s favourites and he would often have picnics here. It is one of the smallest lakes at under a mile long, connected to Grasmere by the river Rothay which then flows through Rydal village to Windermere. There is a pleasant walk around the lake which can also include Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, two of Wordsworth’s homes and Rydal Cave a former quarry working. The coffin route, a circular walk around both Grasmere and Rydal lakes is one of the most popular walks in the lake district.

Ullswater

Wordsworth declared Ullswater ‘ the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur which any of the lakes affords’. At 7.5 miles long it is the 2nd longest lake. The busy village of Pooley Bridge is in the north, Glenridding south and Howtown half way down. Ullswater steamers provide a wonderful way to combine a lake cruise with some of the most spectacular walks in the lakes. Or walk the new 20 mile Ullswater way which circumnavigates the lake.

Ullswater
Wastwater

Wastwater

Wastwater is located in the Wasdale valley in the Western lake district. It is the deepest lake in England at 258 feet and is overlooked by Scafell Pike – England’s highest mountain. Extending the length of the south east side are Screes consisting of millions of fragments of broken rock and rising from the floor of the lake to a height of almost 2000ft, giving the lake its desolate, dark and almost ominous appearance. Named in 2007 as Britain’s favourite view, over the centuries it has fired the imagination of painters, poets and climbers.

Elter Water

Elter Water is a small lake that lies half a mile south east of Elterwater village, in the beautiful valley of Great Langdale. There is limited access on to the lake itself but some good walks along the banks of the river Brathay. A lovely circular walk with great views of the Langdale Pikes follows the Cumbria way past Skelwith Force - a 20ft waterfall, to Skelwith Bridge. The force of the river here has in the past been harnessed for powering bobbin mills further downstream. Now Chester’s café has seating by the river Brathay.

Elterwater
Devoke Water

Devoke

Devoke water is the largest tarn in the Lake district at nearly 1 mile long, and one of the highest, lying half way up Birker Fell in the Western lakes. It is a tranquil lake, easy to walk around and surrounded by broad heather moors and rocky outcrops. Owned by Millom anglers it contains brown trout and perch and is perfect for fly fishing. A ruined boathouse on the shore dates to 1772.

Haweswater

Haweswater is a reservoir in the valley of Mardale. The controversial construction of the dam started in 1929 with much public outcry as the valley was considered one of the most picturesque in Westmorland, and populated by the farming villages of Mardale and Measdale. Ruins of buildings can still be seen when the water level falls in times of drought. It is one of the more tranquil areas partly due to poor accessibility. There are a number of walking routes with spectacular scenery which can be reached from the small car park at the south end.

Royalty Conema Bowness
Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows is a popular beauty spot, artificially made in the 19th century by joining 3 tarns together. It offers an accessible circular walk of 1.8 miles, through beautiful countryside with majestic mountain scenery, suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, and with plenty of benches along the route. Surrounded by wooded fells it is particularly spectacular in Autumn, and always a great place to walk or picnic. All terrain mobility scooters called ‘Trampers’ are available by pre-booking for one and a half hour slots. Tarn Hows was a favourite spot of Beatrix Potter’s who owned the estate land and bequeathed it to the National Trust when she died.

Bassenthwaite Lake

Bassenthwaite is a quiet stretch of water, the most northerly of the lakes, and the only official lake in the Lake District, all the others are waters or meres. As one of the shallowest lakes its warmer water makes it popular with wild swimmers. The Whinlatter forest above the lake is famous as a nesting place of magnificent ospreys which feed on fish from the lake. Red squirrels are also seen here. Views from the lake of Skiddaw one of England’s highest peaks. Nearby is the Lake Districts only distillery. The Lakes Distillery with tours and a good café.

Royalty Conema Bowness
Thirlmere

Thirlmere

The demands of Victorian Manchester for water for its population and manufacturing industries resulted in the creation of Thirlmere reservoir. The original lake was shorter AND almost split in 2. The levels were raised by 30ft by the construction of a dam at the north end, and 2 small hamlets were abandoned and submerged. The Western side of Thirlmere is often quiet and there is a 2 hour walk up Harrop tarn through crags woodlands and the waterfalls of Dob Gill.

Ennerdale Water

Park at Bowness Knott and walk around the lake or use the lake as an ascent point for the Pillar, Steeple, Red Pike and Wasdale ridges high above its shores.

Ennerdale
Crummock Water

Crummock Water

The meaning of Crummock seems to be Crooked One which may refer to the winding course of the River Cocker which flows out of the lake, or the bending nature of the lake itself. The word Water is the main Lakeland term for lake. Often overlooked by sister lake Buttermere, Crummock is wild and wonderful, and a special treat in May when the Rannerdale bluebells flood the lake side. Rowing boats available for hire. 2.5 miles long it has a clear rocky bottom flanked by steep fellsides of Skiddaw slate. About a mile’s hike up Scale Beck is Scale Force, the highest waterfall in the Lake District with a drop of 170 ft.