great north swim windermere

Wild Swimming in the Lake District

22 April 2022 Local area

The best open water swimming venues in The Lakes

The Lake District is one of the best wild swimming destinations in the UK. Every year, visitors from across the country flock to the region to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters that can be found throughout the National Park.

Swimming in lakes, tarns and rivers is a great way to take in the spectacular scenery and feel better connected with nature. It’s more exciting than swimming lanes at your local pool and there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests open water swimming can improve mental and physical health.

We know many of our holiday park guests are looking for adventurous things to do during a camping or caravan holiday at Park Cliffe, so we’ve compiled a handy wild swimming guide. Here we list our top pick of places to go open wild swimming in the Lake District. We also share open water swimming events, kit recommendations and advice.


Best places to swim in the Lake District

buttermere wild swimming


Motorboats are not permitted in Buttermere, which makes it a favourite among experienced open water swimmers. At 2km long it is one of the smallest lakes in Cumbria, but what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in beauty!

The lake is situated in a deep valley with stunning vistas of the surrounding fells. In the summer it’s a haven for wildlife and plenty of scenic walks can be enjoyed nearby.

Buttermere is 23m at its deepest point with shelved underwater ledges. It is best suited to strong and confident swimmers, who have plenty of wild swimming experience. We do not recommend allowing children to swim at Buttermere. 

Parking: There is a pay and display car park behind the Bridge Hotel.

grasmere wild swimming


Grasmere is situated in the heart of the Lake District National Park. Like Buttermere, it is relatively small in comparison to other lakes, but well worth a visit if you fancy taking a dip.

The crossing is approximately 2km, though shorter swims along the shoreline are possible. Entry is easy, via gently shelving ledges.

There is a forested island in the centre, which is managed by the National Trust. It is home to nesting herons, which thrive here due to the lack of human disturbance. Although it may be tempting, please note swimmers are not permitted on the island.

Motorboats are not permitted on Grasmere, though there may be rowing boats, kayaks and canoes.

Parking: Pay and display car parking is available at Broadgate Meadow Car Park.

Tongue pot

Tongue Pot

Tongue Pot is a series of pools on the River Esk in the Eskdale Valley. In recent years it has grown in popularity and earned its rightful place as one of the best wild swimming destinations in The Lakes.

The largest pool is at the base of a picturesque waterfall, which is situated close to an old Packhorse Bridge. It’s a magical place to enjoy a refreshing dip, whatever time of year you choose to visit.

The water is a stunning emerald green in colour, with a small pebbled beach for easy access. The pool is flanked by pretty farmland and rocky outcrops, which create a stunning backdrop for an early morning swim.

Parking: Tongue Pot occupies a secluded location, which in our opinion only adds to its charm. Park close to the old telephone box at the bottom of Hardknott Pass and follow the river through the valley. The walk should take 40 minutes to 1 hour.

great north swim swimmers


Windermere is the largest lake in the Lake District and the home of the Great North Swim. It’s a wonderful place to try open water swimming, with locations to suit all ages and abilities.

If you’re in the mood for some serious exercise, it’s easy to wrack up some miles here during your trip. Windermere is over 10 miles long and a mile at its widest point, providing plenty of opportunity for long distance swims.

Families should stick to areas such as Fell Foot Park or Millerground where the water is comparatively shallow.

Windermere is a busy lake with ferries, jet skis and pleasure boats. You should pay extra attention to your surroundings and takes measures to make yourself more visible to motorised pleasure craft.

Parking: There are lots of car parks to choose from around Windermere. Park at Beech Hill, Waterhead or Hammarbank.

coniston water

Coniston Water

There are plenty of access points around the shores of Coniston Water, making it an ideal venue for wild swimming. The Western side is deep and boasts far-reaching views of the surrounding fells. The Eastern shoreline is comparatively shallow and better suited to families, with sandy coves and warmer water to enjoy.

If you’re feeling adventurous you could make the 100m swim across to Peer Island. This scenic spot was the inspiration behind Wildcat Island that featured in children’s adventure novel, Swallows and Amazons.

Coniston is a hive of activity in the summer months, with plenty of people enjoying the water. Motorised boats are permitted on the lake, so extra care should be taken to make yourself visible (brightly coloured hat and swim float) to other water users.

Parking: There is pay and display car parking at Brown Howe car park and Coniston Village.

Photo credit: Tony West

rydal water

Rydal Water

Rydal Water is only small, but well worth a visit during your wild swimming adventure in The Lakes. Motorised vessels are not permitted, which means it’s well suited to complete novices and those still learning the ropes. Best of all, Rydal is fairly shallow, which means its one of the warmest lakes in Cumbria.

This scenic lake featured in many of Wordworth’s poems and attracts plenty of literary fans each year. It’s a stunning setting for an early morning swim – soak up the views as you explore the chilly waters!

The Southern end of the lake is best for swimming. There is a rope swing to keep children entertained.

Parking: Park at White Moss car park. From here it’s only a 1 mile walk to the southern shoreline.

sheep next to Loughrigg Tarn

Loughrigg Tarn

Louhrigg Tarn is a natural swimming hole, located below the Langdale Pikes. It occupies a spectacular location, with panoramic views of surrounding farmland. This hidden gem is off the beaten track, which means it’s one of the quietest wild swimming spots on our list. Its an idyllic place to rest after a strenuous hike on some of the nearby walking trails.

Unlike some lakes, it does not have a constant feed of fresh water. This means that it can get quite warm from May onwards (temperatures peak in August).

Parking: Park on Foulstep Road, near Skelwith Bridge. It’s a 5 minute walk down to the tarn.

Where not to swim in the Lake District

There are a handful of places in the Lake District where swimming is not permitted. Please do not attempt to swim in Thirlmere Reservoir, Kentmere Reservoir, Haweswater or Ennerdale Water.

Coaching and advice

If you’re just starting out on your wild swimming adventure, we recommend enlisting the help of a qualified professional. There are plenty of cold-water swimming coaches and clubs in the Lake District, offering guided swims, one-to-one tuition, boat support and social events.

Swimming as part of a larger group is a great way to meet like-minded individuals, while holidaying in The Lakes. Group members will help you improve your technique and show you the best places to go!

Trusted guides include:

Adventures with Emma – Emma arranges bespoke guided swims at a variety of venues enabling you to build on your own open water swimming knowledge and experience, whilst having tonnes of fun at the same time.

Swim the Lakes – offer guided and group swims. The experienced team run a variety of courses, including Introduction to Open Water Swimming and RLSS Water Safety.

Suzanna Swims – specialises in sociable leisurely swims and guided swim walks. Offers a number of guided group swims throughout the year, with sessions tailored to beginners as well as experienced swimmers.

Wild Swims Lake District – small group guided swims in the Lake District. Swims are led by a qualified open water swim coach. Walks are guided by a mountain leader. 

great north swim lake district

Swimming events in the Lake District

The Lake District plays host to an exciting programme of swimming events throughout the year. Here’s our top pick:

Great North Swim (June) – thousands of open water swimmers take to Windermere each June in the Great North Swim. There are a number of challenges on offer that cater to all levels and abilities. Distances range from 250m to 10k. The event is open to participants aged 8 and over.

Epic Lakes Swim Ullswater (June) – 500m, 1 mile or 3.8k distances. Entrants received a medal, swim camp, chip timing, safety cover and event photographs.

Swim Windermere (September) – three distances to choose from – 500m, 1 mile and 5k. A great family swimming event, open to entrants aged 11 or over.

wild swimming in the lake district


Open water swimming is a fantastic hobby and excellent way to stay fit and active. It does, however, have some inherent dangers, so we respectfully remind you to take precautions when venturing out.

Below we list all the things you should consider when wild swimming in the Lake District.

  • Consult the weather forecast carefully before heading out – the weather changes quickly in the Lake District, so you should check to see whether there are any storms on their way.
  • Assess the conditions when you arrive and only head out into the water if you deem it safe. Research whether there are any currents or known dangers you should be aware of. It is be unwise to enter bodies of water after heavy rainfall, when the water is moving very fast. Remember – if in doubt, don’t go out.
  • Always swim with a buddy and make sure someone knows where you are. Let them know what time you expect to enter the water and what time you intend to come back.
  • Always swim within your limits. Don’t try and swim too far or for too long.
  • Enter the water slowly and carefully. This will help your body adjust to the temperature.
  • Keep a look out for hazards under the water – it may be shallower or deeper than you think.
  • Avoid bodies of water with high boat traffic, including jetties and marinas. Be aware of other lake users. If you do swim in a lake that permits motorised water craft, we suggest plotting a route that stays close to the shore.
  • Wear a brightly coloured swimming hat and tow float. It can be difficult for pleasure craft such as jet skis and boats to see you. Consider wearing a wetsuit to protect you against the cold.
  • Pack multiple layers of warm clothing and a hot drink ready for when you get out of the water. You should still do this in the summer, when the air temperature is warm
  • Rinse yourself and your kit thoroughly after each swim. This will prevent cross contamination and damage to the Lake Districts carefully managed eco system

Frequently Asked Wild Swimming Questions

Can I swim in the Lake District?

Yes, the lake district is a fantastic place to go wild swimming. You can swim in all lakes, tarns and rivers apart from Thirlmere Reservoir, Kentmere Reservoir, Haweswater or Ennerdale Water.

Is it safe to swim in lakes in the Lake District?

You should always exercise caution when swimming in the Lake District. Make sure you are wearing a wetsuit, brightly coloured swim hat and tow float. You should also check the conditions before you head out and always swim with a buddy.

Can you swim anywhere in the Lake District?

No, swimming is not permitted at Thirlmere Reservoir, Kentmere Reservoir, Haweswater or Ennerdale Water.

Holiday Park in the Lake District

Park Cliffe is a multi-award-winning holiday park in the Lake District, situated in an unbeatable location overlooking Windermere. We have a range of self-catering accommodation to choose from, including static caravans, camping pods and a cosy shepherds hut and cottage.

Our touring and camping pitches are well-maintained and spacious, with fantastic views of the surrounding fells. Facilities include an on-site bar and restaurant, heated amenities block, shop and children’s play area.