The high rainfall in our National Park may dampen the spirits on occasion but water defines the area and provides visitors with some of the most glorious scenery in the world. From tranquil tarns to magnificent lakes and dramatic coast to stunning waterfalls. There are too many watery wonders to mention all of them here so we’ve selected just a few of our favourites.
Tarns are small mountain lakes and can be found all over the Lake District. Many are picture perfect and can be found in the busy tourist hotspots or in remote, little-visited areas. Do stay safe if planning to wild swim.
These two delightful tarns can be found on Haystacks, one of the so-called Wainwright fells. Alfred Wainwright was the author of the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, a series of beautifully illustrated books in which he described 214 felltops. A popular pastime in the Lakes is for walkers to bag these summits. The tarns can be reached either from Honister Pass or for a more strenuous walk start from Gatesgarth which is situated close to Buttermere.
Blackbeck Tarn photo credit: Ade Gidney
Not far from the village of Coniston, you’ll find these two popular tarns with easy or more challenging walks from both. The views to the Coniston fells from Tarn Hows are simply unmissable. Holme Fell is a short but steep walk from Yew Tree Tarn. You’ll find a delightful small tarn on the summit and superb views. Both have car parks and nearby parking spots but they can fill up quickly on peak days.
Tranquil Yew Tree Tarn photo credit: Belinda Turnbull
Tarn Hows near Coniston photo credit: Sarah Gillson
Situated in the heart of the central Lakeland fells, stunning Blea Tarn provides easy walking with superb views to the iconic Langdale Pikes and Lingmoor Fell. Take care on the windy, narrow roads. There’s parking at the National Trust car park but like all popular spots, especially in high season, it’s advisable to arrive early or consider an evening stroll.
Blea Tarn (Langdale) photo credit: Ade Gidney
The coast from Seascale to Millom is part of the National Park and provides spectacular walking. Explore a shoreline rich in wildlife. If you're lucky you might spot the rare Natterjack toad in the dunes and salt marshes. From here you'll enjoy sweeping and dramatic views out over the Irish Sea and inland views to the high fells. Head for Ravenglass, the only coastal town in the National Park, and its scenic estuary, a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the sunset. Each year in summer our volunteers lead Esk Estuary Escapade walks from Ravenglass to Muncaster Castle, a walk not to be missed.
Spring flowers blooming on the estuary at Ravenglass photo credit: Belinda Turnbull
Further down the coast, Silecroft’s magnificent beach offers miles of sand and is well worth a visit. On a clear day you can see the nearby Isle of Man. Horse riding on the beach is a popular activity.
Silecroft beach photo credit: Cumbria Tourism
The larger bodies of water in the Lake District are known as meres or waters. Bassenthwaite stands alone as being the sole ‘lake’. Windermere is the longest followed by Ullswater. All offer stunning walking routes around their shores.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the Lakes in late spring, head to Bassenthwaite Lake and you might get to glimpse our visiting Ospreys. There are viewpoints at Dodd wood, where you can park, and around the lake itself. A walk up to the summit of Dodd will reward you with awesome views of both Bassenthwaite and Derwentwater. For a more challenging hike continue up to Ullock Pike. We run guided walks to the summit during the season.
Ullock Pike and Bassenthwaite Lake photo credit: Belinda Turnbull
This being the longest lake, there are lots of walks to discover. Why not take a boat to the western shore for a quiet meander? You can cruise across the lake from several points along Windermere. You can also combine this with a visit to Brockhole on Windermere and hop on a boat from there. Claife viewing station and the fabulous Wray Castle are both worth a visit, both owned by the National Trust.
Windermere with the Langdale Pikes in the distance photo credit: Thomas Beecham
After a cloudburst or during a spell of more persistent rainfall, head to one of the many ephemeral waterfalls which spring up across the Lakes. From the spectacular falls at Aira Force (Ullswater), Lodore Falls (Derwent Water) or Scale Force (Buttermere) to the shorter but just as impressive falls such as Skelwith, Colwith and Stock Ghyll Force near Ambleside in the central Lakes.
Aira Force is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Lake District, and for good reason. Situated near the shore of Ullswater it’s a lovely walk at any time of year.
Catch the Ullswater steamer, walk to the falls and walk back to Glenridding. Alternatively there's a National Trust car park at the falls.
(Aira Force photo credit: Neil Park)
There are many ghylls or gills (ravine) throughout the Lakes. When the becks (streams) swell after rainfall, many produce impressive cascading waterfalls. Many are delightfully named such as Sour Milk, Frozenfell, Dungeon, Grains, Hagg and Piers. Tom Gill, near Tarn Hows, is a popular woodland walk. Do note there is limited car parking at the National Trust car park at Glen Mary Bridge.
Tom Gill photo credit: Belinda Turnbull
There are a number of easily accessible routes near water for wheelchair users, people with pushchairs and for those with visual impairment. Our Miles without Stiles routes give details of 48 walks, many of which take you to beautiful lake shore locations.
The Coniston to Torver Jetty walk (number 17) is a 7km walk along the shoreline of Coniston Water, with the option of returning on the Coniston Launches from Torver jetty, making it a shorter 3.5 km walk.
Children paddling in Coniston Water photo credit: Thomas Beecham
Many of our guided walks will take you to some of the best spots to see a watery wonder. There's over 200 walks during the season to choose from so you'll be able to join one any week from Easter to the end of October.
Belinda Turnbull, Volunteer Led Activity Coordinator, Lake District National Park
Discover the wonderful Ullswater Valley at this year's Ullswater Outdoor Fest 23 September to 1 October 2017
12 September 2017
Wonderful walks from Windermere. Suitable for families.
07 August 2017
11 July 2017
30 June 2017
Ten great ideas for walks by water
23 June 2017
Early summer is a perfect time for walking in England’s largest National Park
23 June 2017
The Lake District is the perfect place for a springtime break. Here are five ideas for a wonderful spring walk
04 April 2017
Five great reasons to join a guided walk this year
30 January 2017
Walking is one of the most popular activities cited by visitors to the Lake District National Park. Our 'Discover, Explore, Inspire' programme of walks, navigation days and more is designed to help you make the most of this awe-inspiring destination
03 November 2016
Discover our special Wordsworth walks
29 June 2016
Discover the Ullswater Way
06 May 2016
18 March 2016
Our wonderful volunteer guides are ready and waiting to help you discover and explore the spectacular Lake District landscape. By boot, boat or bike, our events will take you to stunning vistas and secret places.
16 February 2016
Six superb walks to do in the North West of the Lake District. Joint Great British Walks with the National Trust.
10 September 2015
17 August 2015
Beatrix Potter based many of her tales on locations around Derwentwater in the Lake District. We offer several guided walks in the area.
28 July 2015
Blog post about Lake District's tarns. We feature Angle Tarn in Ullswater. Alfred Wainwright ranked it among the best in Lakeland.
01 May 2015
Top winter walking safety tips.
02 December 2014
Keswick's Mass Trespass
02 October 2014
Six great reasons to go on one of our Lake District guided walks, led by our fantastic team of volunteers.
29 August 2014
Seven great reasons to go on one of our Lake District guided walks, led by our fantastic team of volunteers.
11 July 2014
Volunteer walk leader Neil describes a walk up Catstycam
03 July 2014
Ambleside has long been a top tourist destination and a popular start point for a number of our favourite guided rambles.
26 June 2014