Open water swimmer with hat and towfloat copyright Chillswim
Open water swimmer with hat and towfloat

Swimming in the Lake District

Swimming in tarns, lakes and rivers is great fun.

Which lake?

Quieter lakes best for swimming

These lakes have less boat traffic:

  • Bassenthwaite - but no diving allowed
  • Buttermere
  • Crummock Water
  • Grasmere
  • Loweswater
  • Rydal Water
  • Wast Water

Busier lakes

Anyone can swim in these lakes but there are more boats: 

  • Coniston Water - but there is boat traffic
  • Derwentwater - but there is boat traffic
  • Ullswater - but there is boat traffic
  • Windermere - but there is boat traffic

Swimming not allowed

Swimming is not allowed in Ennerdale Water, Haweswater and Thirlmere.

For more details check out Access to Lakes (PDF)

SwimSafe code

Be Seen, have support

Swimmers may be able to see boaters but boaters may not be able to see swimmers!

  • Have a safety boat or canoe support displaying a white and blue Alpha flag Blue and white Alpha flag, warning of divers or swimmers in the water.
  • Wear a bright swim cap and tow a bright float.
  • Never swim alone.

Take a look at the photos below. If you were steering a boat, which swimmer is easier to spot?

Showing how much easier a swimmer is to spot when next to a support boat

Be Water wise

Exposure to cool water can rapidly lead to hypothermia

  • Wear a wetsuit to keep you warmer and more buoyant.
  • Enter the water slowly to get used to it.
  • Check the depth and the water bed by walking in carefully.
  • Don't jump in.

Be Informed

Other people use the lakes too! Windermere, Derwentwater, Coniston Water and Ullswater are busy with boats. People on boats may struggle to see swimmers. A collision with any boat can be fatal.

  • Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Be Mindful

  • Choose one of the quieter lakes that do not allow boats.
  • Avoid mooring areas, marinas and jetties used by boats, ferry routes and boating channels.
  • Be aware boaters may be in any area of the lake at any time of day or night.
  • Only swim when weather conditions are suitable - remember they can change quickly. 

Print out a handy guide

Full version

Starting out?

Open water swimming sessions provide instruction and safety support. Also you meet other enthusiasts. Some local suppliers include:

  • Active Blu (opens in new window) - from the Windermere shores of Brockhole - The Lake District Visitor Centre.
  • Chillswim (opens in new window) - Lake District open water swim specialists. Tow floats for sale online.
  • Head to the Hills (opens in new window) - based in Ambleside
  • MyTriClub (opens in new window) - events in and around the National Park
  • SleekerSwim (opens in new window) - coaching and events

Useful links

Lake guides - including maps

These help everyone get the best out of their time on the water safely:

Organisations and advice

All links open in a new window:

Help native wildlife

Invasive non-native species of wildlife can hitchhike on equipment, footwear, clothing and boats. You may inadvertently spread the aliens even if you just go for a paddle! Every time you leave any water such as a river, tarn or lake:

Check - Clean - Dry

Stop the spread of invasive aquatic species logo
  • Check your equipment and clothing for living organisms. Pay particular attention to damp or hard to inspect areas.
  • Clean and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you do come across any organisms, leave them at the water body where you found them or on a hard surface to die out.
  • Dry all equipment and clothing. Some species can live for many days in damp conditions.

Find out more at Biosecurity - South Cumbria Rivers Trust (opens in new window)