Swimming in the Lake District

Swimming in tarns, lakes and rivers is great fun, and a wonderful way to experience the Lake District landscape. However it's important to stay safe.

Swim Safe Code

Be seen in the water and have support

  • Never swim after drinking or taking drugs.
  • Wear a bright swim cap and tow a bright float.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Swimmers may be able to see boaters but boaters may not be able to see swimmers!
  • Have a safety boat (a canoe, kayak or paddleboard work well) ideally displaying a white and blue Alpha flag Blue and white Alpha flag, warning of divers or swimmers in the water.

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 in open water

The deep lakes and tarns in the Lake District can be cold, even on a hot summers day. Exposure to cool water can rapidly lead to hypothermia, and the early signs like struggling to move your hands, can make swimming more difficult than normal. There can be rocks and hazards under the water that you can't see, and the water may be shallower than you think near jetties.

  • Enter the water slowly to get used to it.
  • Check the depth and the water bed by walking in carefully.
  • Work out where you will exit the water easily.
  • Don't stay in too long if you are not used to cold water.
  • Wear a wetsuit to keep you warmer and more buoyant.
  • Swim along the shoreline so you can get out easily if you need to.
  • Have lots of layers, a hat, and a warm drink ready for when you get out of the water, even in summer.
  • Don't swim alone.

Look out for blue-green algae

Blue-Green Algae occurs naturally in fresh water lakes, and becomes more likely during periods of warm, dry weather. It can pose a small risk to human health, but can be lethal for dogs if they come into contact with it.

The Enviroment Agency have weekly updates on blue-green algae across the Lake District. But also take notice of any signs warning of blooms at lake shore locations. If you suspect the water has algae, don't swim.

Be mindful to other water users

  • 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.

Lake Rangers advice on being seen as a swimmer

Where can I swim in the Lake District?

You can swim in most of the lakes, tarns and rivers in the Lake District. Some lakes are busier than others, here's our guide to where to have an enjoyable and safe dip:

Quieter lakes best for swimming

These lakes have no motor boats, but may have rowing boats, canoes and kayaks:

  • Bassenthwaite (may have some motor boats and no diving allowed)
  • Buttermere
  • Crummock Water
  • Grasmere
  • Loweswater
  • Rydal Water
  • Wast Water

There are also lots of quiet tarns and rivers which can be great places for a dip. Just beware that tarns are generally cooler than lakes, and can be very cold even on a hot summers day!

Busier lakes

These lakes all have motor boats, sailing boats and other craft:

  • Windermere
  • Ullswater
  • Coniston Water
  • Derwentwater

In these busier lakes, we recommend picking a swim route along the shoreline, so you're less likely to be in the path of boats and cruisers. Its also important to make yourself as visible as possible. Wear a bright hat, have a tow float and have a support craft like a kayak or paddleboard, to keep safe and enjoy your swimming.

Swimming not allowed

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

Our access to the lakes guide shows what you can do in which lake

Commerical swimming events

As a general guide if there are more than 50 people in your group you should seek advice from the land owner. Likewise if you intend to bring any infrastructure, like a gazebo.

Maps of Lakes for water users:

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.

Check, Clean and Dry guides for different water users

Join a swim group or coaching session

Open water swimming sessions give you a safe way to swim in new places, with hints on your swimming technique and joining a group for a fun day out. Here are some swimming coaches and groups across the Lake District.

  • Active Blu - sessions in Windermere.
  • Adventures with Emma - Coached open water qswim sessions, and guided wild swims for individuals and groups.
  • Chillswim - Lake District open water swim specialists.
  • Great North Swim - Windermere - organised swim event with choice of 250 metres, 1/2 a mile, 1 mile, 2 miles, 5k or a 10k swim race.
  • Outdoor Swimming Society - great advice for all wild swimmers and a UK wide swim map.
  • SleekerSwim - coaching and events.
  • Suzanna Swims - guided outdoor and wild swimming for individuals and groups.
  • Swim on the Wild Side - swimming holidays and coached open water swimming sessions.
  • Swim the Lakes - based in Ambleside, swim events, boat support and private coaching and a swim gear shop.
  • Wild Swims Lake District - guided swimming and walking by a qualified Open Water Swim Coach and Mountain Leader, for one-to-one and small group adventures in lakes, tarns and fells.
Lake District Kind


Things to know before you go, tips to plan a great trip and help us look after the landscape you love.

Be Lake District Kind