Touring Britain’s Lake District transports you to a serene world of undulating fells, mystical tarns and oak woodlands.
And then there are the 16 lakes that add the fairytale overlay that have inspired poets, artists and writers over the centuries.
Each lake in the Lake District has its own qualities and unique nearby attractions. Here’s a snapshot to help plan your travels through this captivating National Park in the north west corner of England.
1. Bassenthwaite Lake
Bassenthwaite Lake – the only body of water named a true ‘lake’ here is often dotted with sailing and fishing boats. There are no major settlements, visiting Bassenthwaite is about immersing yourself in nature strolling along the western shore path.
Be sure to visit the 17th-century Mirehouse and Gardens for a walk through the history of the lake. There’s also the Lakes Distillery at the north end of the lake producing craft gin, vodka and whisky.
Buttermere is best known for its rewarding walking trail, the Buttermere Foreshore. This route takes you alongside the lake through the challenging Burtness Wood.
Save time to admire the many outlooks along the way, including the dramatic High Stile and Haystacks. The nearby Buttermere Village has quaint holiday cottages, hotels and a famous tale to tell. ‘The Maid of Buttermere’ is a story of bigamy that has been the subject of novels, plays and poetry for 200 years.
3. Coniston Water
Nestled at the base of the famous Old Man of Coniston mountain, Coniston Water won international acclaim with triumph and tragedy in 1939 and 1967 with the world water speed record attempts of father and son Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell.
The stories are told in the Ruskin Museum and Lakeland Motor Museums in the village of Coniston. The lake was owned by the monks of Furness Abbey during the Middles Ages who used it for food supply.
4. Crummock Water
Some of the Lake District’s most unique scenery can be found at Crummock Water, which is home to the region’s highest waterfall, Scale Force. Take a stroll down to Rannerdale, a revered valley and the site of an epic battle. Visit between April and May to see it covered in bluebells.
5. Derwent Water
Derwent Water is one of the most populated lakes, surrounded by the villages of Keswick, Grange, Rosthwaite, Stonethwaite and Seatoller. The lake itself is ideal for watersports such as kayaking, swimming or boating.
Grab a permit and rod license from Keswick’s information centre to fish. The town is also home to boutiques, the open-air Theatre by the Lake and a mini-golf course.
6. Elter Water
Located in the Great Langdale valley, Elter Water is blessed with an abundance of native wildlife, particularly swans, thanks to the ban on all water navigation. The village of Elterwater is less than one-kilometre from the lake’s edge and boasts charming holiday homes and B&Bs overlooking the water. Waterfalls to note here are Skelwith Force and Colwith Force.
7. Ennerdale Water
A deep glacial lake, Ennerdale Water offers a remote and seemingly untouched escape. You find panoramic views of the lake during hikes up Great Gable, High Crag and other surrounding fells. Grab a beer and a bed at the Shepherds Arms Hotel in Ennerdale Bridge, just west of the lake.
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8. Esthwaite Water
Bring your fishing rod when visiting Esthwaite Water where you can reel in trout and pike. The lesser-known lake was actually one of poet William Wordsworth’s favourites, featuring in many of his works.
Wordsworth also loved Grasmere, describing it as “the most loveliest spot that man hath ever found”. You’ll quickly realise why when you get there. It is the most popular of the villages in the region as a result.
Allan Bank, a house Wordsworth shared with Samuel Taylor Coleridge is here and you can visit Wordsworth’s grave at St Oswald’s Church which is said to be one of the most visited shrines in the world.
It might be one the 16 bodies of water in the Lake District but Haweswater is actually a reservoir dam built early in the 20th century. During periods of low rainfall, remnants of the villages of Mardale and Measand can be seen.
The placid Loweswater is perfect for a day out rowing or walking along the shoreline. Visit the historic village of Loweswater to indulge in some cask ales and hearty pub fare at the 16th-century Kirkstile Inn.
12. Rydal Water
Discover more Wordsworth history at Rydal Water, where you can see two of the writer’s former homes, Dove Cottage (on the edge of Grasmere) and Rydal Mount. Take a moment to admire the scenery from Wordsworth’s Seat (the writer’s favourite spot), before visiting the 17th-century Rydall Hall mansion.
Another reservoir, Thirlmere saw the submerging of the villages of Armboth and Wythburn but extensive planting in 1908 means this manmade entity now blends seamlessly into the park environment.
One of the most popular holiday destinations in the Lake District, Ullswater lures you with its historic steamer boats and sailing and rowing facilities. Near the lake you’ll find the Aira Force waterfall, Wordsworth’s famed “golden daffodils” and three villages. The biggest is Glenridding, a gateway to challenging mountain hikes. Trek to the fells above Martindale valley to see ancient red deer.
15. Wast Water
England’s deepest lake is a popular diving spot and one of the best places in the country for jaw-dropping vistas. It’s encircled by mountains (including England’s highest, Scafell Pike) and ominous ‘screes’, which rise out of the lake like black volcanoes. After all that walking, take a break with a pint in the pubs at Wasdale Head and Nether Wasdale.
We’ve saved arguably the best lake for last. At 79 metres deep and 18 kilometres long, Windermere is England’s longest lake and boasts bustling towns including Bowness-on-Windermere, Ambleside and Windermere.
There are numerous family-friendly activities, such as hot-air balloons, horse riding and rock climbing, along with an authentic steam railway. See the UK’s largest freshwater fish collection at Lakes Aquarium or get to know famed author Beatrix Potter at the World of Beatrix Potter.