Swimming in the Lake District

Swimming in tarns, lakes and rivers is great fun, and a wonderful way to experience the Lake District landscape. Below you can discover where you can swim in our lakes and be inspired by nearby swimming groups, sessions and events. Plus, information about swimming safely including the swim safe code and some useful videos.

Where can I swim?

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 motorboats, but may have rowing boats, canoes and kayaks:

  • Bassenthwaite (some motorboats, no diving)
  • Buttermere
  • Crummock Water
  • Grasmere
  • Loweswater
  • Rydal Water
  • Wast Water

There are lots of quiet tarns and rivers too, 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 summer's day!

Busier lakes

These lakes all have motorboats, 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. It's also important to make yourself as visible as possible. Wear a bright hat, have a tow float and use 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 reservoir, Thirlmere reservoir and Kentmere reservoir.

Our Lake Activities Guide shows you what you can do in which lake.

Commercial swimming events

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

Swimming safely

On this section you 'll find information about swimming safely in lakes, rivers and tarns. Discover the swim safe code and some video guides on how to be seen in the water. You can also learn about cold water shock and how to prevent it.

Swim safe code

1. Be seen in the water and have support

  • never swim alone
  • don't swim after drinking or taking drugs
  • wear a bright swim cap and tow a bright float
  • swimmers may be able to see boaters but boaters may not be able to see swimmers!
  • have a safety boat, such as a kayak or paddleboard and ideally display a white-blue Alpha flag

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Top Tip: Lake Ranger advice: being seen as a swimmer

2. Be water wise in open water

The deep lakes and tarns in the Lake District can be cold, even on a hot summer's day. Exposure to cool water (RNLI website) can cause cold water shock and could lead to hypothermia, the early signs include struggling to move your hands, which 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 of water bed by walking in slowly
  • 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, warm drink for when you get out, even in summer
  • don't swim alone

3. Look out for blue-green algae

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

4. Be mindful of other water users

  • choose one of the quieter lakes that don't allow boats
  • avoid mooring areas, marinas, jetties used by boats, ferry routes, 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

5. Cold Water Shock

Our lakes, tarns and rivers can be very cold, even on the hottest days. Exposure to cold water (RNLI website) can rapidly lead to cold water shock so it's important to know how to avoid this, or what to do in instances of cold water shock.

  • don't swim alone - have support on hand so that you can call for help if needed.
  • take a personal flotation device with you - floating can help you to catch your breath if you experience shock.
  • check conditions before heading into the water and enter slowly, making sure you're aware of your surroundings.
  • consider wearing a wetsuit which will keep you warm in cold water.

For further water safety advice, tips and tricks, follow our Lake Rangers on Twitter.

Example: If steering a boat, which swimmer is easier to spot?

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

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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 (external websites).

Maps of Lakes for water users

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