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 .
Take a look at the photos below. If you were steering a boat, which swimmer is easier to spot?
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.
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.
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)
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!
These lakes all have motor boats, sailing boats and other craft:
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.
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
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.
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.
The Lake District National Park Authority looks after this unique corner of England, encouraging people to enjoy and understand its beauty and helping those who live and work here. Our staff include rangers and field workers, advisers at our visitor centres, planners and ecologists.