In all of Britain, no other place compares. Geological quirks of fate, millions of years in the making, have turned the Lake District into a wild swimmer’s paradise. A kingdom of water.
Indoor pools with artificial lighting and eye-burning chlorine will never elicit the sense of rawness, and wide-open naturalness of wild swimming.
There’s something vital and immediately cleansing about cold, fresh water. Plunging in, refreshes your body and stills your mind. Something so difficult to achieve amidst the chaos of modern life.
Below are the best wild swimming spots in the Lake District, which quite possibly, make them the best in Britain.
Tongue Pot, Upper Eskdale
Beneath a mountain ridge, stirred by the white rapids of a waterfall is a real-life fairy pool. Tongue Pot, with its leaf-green surface and moving shadows is a sublime place.
Swimming here, under the bow of an ancient oak tree is calming, and at times transcendental. There are few places where you can experience that necessary closeness to what is natural and pure. Tongue Pot is, doubtless, one of them.
Coordinates: 54.4212, -3.1926
Kailpot Crag, Ullswater
This spot is less mystical and more about the rush. That flood of clear, bright adrenaline as you emerge running from a wooded lakeside, and leap from the crag edge into the deep blue waters below.
Kailpot Crag is a lot of fun, and after resurfacing there’s a beach to swim back to. Imagine the setting sun, a BBQ smoking and glass of something.
Coordinates: 54.5763, -2.8734
Galleny force, Borrowdale
The wellspring of life, or mysterious life-giving pool motif is found in folklore around the world. We have always been fascinated by water and imbued upon it all sorts of magical healing qualities.
Galleny Force, flanked by old rowan trees and primordial ferns is a watering hole, fit for legends and myth.
Unlike Tongue Pot, there are flat rocks for sunbathing. As revitalising as a chilly dip is, you’ll be thankful in summer for good sun spot.
Coordinates: 54.5073, -3.1234
It’s no secret that since the dawn of Lake District tourism, Buttermere has been revered as one of the prettiest lakes. It has a postcard perfect mix of open water and mountains.
The seal’s eye view of Buttermere is the grandest way of taking in a classic Lake District landmark. It’s a deep lake, without many shallows, so swimming is only recommended if you’re confident and used to cold water.
Often, Crummock Water is overlooked—being so near Buttermere. However, this means it’s a quiet, contemplative place to go wild swimming.
Like Buttermere, Crummock Water is deep, and the temperature of the water may take your breath away. This is part of the fun and once you start moving, you’ll warm up. What’s great about Crummock is its soft lakebed and gradually sloping beach. No need to go in at the deep end.
Banishead Quarry, Coniston
This is the odd one out, and not natural at all. Although, you wouldn’t know it. Like Tongue Pot, Banishead Quarry has an air of fantasy about it.
Climbing down to it isn’t the easiest, but once down, it’s enchanting. Sunlight strained though lush foliage, dropping jewels into the dark waters.
Swimming straight into the deep of a flooded quarry may not be for everyone, but if you’re comfortable with it. You’ll have a lifelong memory.
Coordinates: 54.3545, -3.1126
Black Moss Pot, Langstrath Valley
This is favourite Lake District wild swimming spot, and in the heat of summer can be busy. Black Moss Pot probably hosted stone age swim parties. It’s as if the land intended it to be a natural swimming pool, complete with a six-metre jump, for social media embarrassment.
The water at Black Moss Pot is clear, making it a superb place to investigate what lies beneath with a snorkel or goggles. If you’re new to wild swimming this could be an ideal place for you to start, with some friendly faces around for encouragement.
Black Moss Pot is a half hour walk from Stonethwaite in Borrowdale.
At the Rothay Garden Hotel, we’re a stone’s throw from where the famous romantic poet William Wordsworth used to swim, possibly.
He lived in Grasmere village for a good while, but we’re not sure if he was fond of swimming. We’re assuming. He certainly found literary inspiration from Lake Grasmere.
After a brisk swim in Lake Grasmere’s gently undulating waters, the comfort of our hotel and spa is something you’ll relish.
Burnmoor Tarn, Eskdale
An isolated mountain lake, or tarn. There’s an otherworldly feeling here. It could be the fact it’s accessed from “The Coffin Path”, or the prairie-like hills that encircle it. The lack of tree cover and openness evoke a sense of desolation and brooding wonder.
This also means it’s quiet. Ever so peaceful. If you’re in need of truly placid moment to finally banish the hectic, the digital and the stressful—this could be it.
Coordinates: 54.428067, -3.259848
The most famous of all the lakes and largest in England. Windermere is also the home of the Great North Swim. This is the UK’s biggest open water swim, attracting thousands of people each year. Although, you might not fancy swimming a mile.
At the Waterhead end of the Lake, by the west bank there are shallows by the west bank, making for an easy place to enter the water.
Wild Swimming Safety
Heading into the wilds for a swim is nothing like popping into your local leisure centre. There are no lifeguards, and often no firm guidance as to water depth or current strength.
Wild swimming is life affirming, and if you haven’t tried it, you should. However, making sure you keep yourself safe is paramount.
One of the main dangers is slippery rocks. Tread carefully, barefoot or with thin rubber plimsolls. Another is cold water shock. That feeling when you run into the sea, gasp, and run back out. That’s the start of it.
Unless you’re very accustomed to swimming in cold water, make sure you wade in slowly and acclimatise yourself to it. If you start feeling particularly cold, get out and warm up.
For more safety advice, please click here.
The Beautiful Heart of the Lake District
Four-star luxury, fine dining, revitalising spa experiences and comfortable rooms—right in the heart of the Lakes.
After wild swimming, you could use some warmth and good food. The Rothay Garden Hotel in Grasmere is a romantic bolt-hole, like no other and perfectly at one with the beauty that surrounds it. Discover the Lake District