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Ten Scenic Waterside Walks

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

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.

1. Blackbeck and Innominate Tarns

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

Blackbeck Tarn     photo credit: Ade Gidney

2. Yew Tree Tarn and Tarn Hows

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.

Yew Tree Tarn

Tranquil Yew Tree Tarn     photo credit: Belinda Turnbull

Tarn How

Tarn Hows near Coniston     photo credit: Sarah Gillson

3. Blea Tarn (Langdale)

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

Blea Tarn (Langdale)     photo credit: Ade Gidney

Coast

4. Ravenglass Estuary

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.

Ravenglass

Spring flowers blooming on the estuary at Ravenglass     photo credit: Belinda Turnbull

5. Silecroft Beach

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

Silecroft beach     photo credit: Cumbria Tourism

Meres, Waters and a Lake

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.

6. Bassenthwaite Lake


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

Ullock Pike and Bassenthwaite Lake     photo credit: Belinda Turnbull

7. Windermere

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

Windermere with the Langdale Pikes in the distance     photo credit: Thomas Beecham

Waterfalls and Ghylls

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.

8. Aira Force Aira Force

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)

9. Tom Gill

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

Tom Gill     photo credit: Belinda Turnbull

Accessible walks

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.

10. Coniston to Torver Jetty

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.

Splashing about

Children paddling in Coniston Water     photo credit: Thomas Beecham

Walk with us

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

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