When the sun comes out it’s easy to understand why so many people flock to the Lake District.
Not only does the Lake District boast unrivalled views it is home to England’s highest mountain and its deepest lake. Despite being commonly known as The Lakes, England’s biggest national park actually has only one ‘lake’, Bassenthwaite Lake, while the rest are meres and other bodies of water.
Millions of people every year visit Cumbria to take in the breath-taking views and quaint villages as well as to walk the fells, take a trip on a Lake District steamer and to see the world famous Herdwick sheep but there is a growing number of visitors who head to the Lakes to take a dive in the cool, clear waters. Every year the Great North Swim is held at Windermere but many prefer the unseen, hidden gems where you can partake in a spot of wild swimming.
As many parts of the Lake District are isolated it’s worth taking along a few supplies. Here are a few must-haves you might want to take:
- A picnic: Although Cumbria has some of the best pubs and restaurants the price comes at a tourist premium and few are close to the best wild swimming locations. And what’s better than eating a picnic next to a river or lake?
- Swimming shoes: You don’t want to jump in barefoot as the lakes and rivers in Cumbria are full of sharp rocks and stones.
- First aid kit: Think plasters, insect repellent and sun cream.
- Clothes you can swim in: While it might seem obvious to take a swimming costume remember; this is England. Although the sun might be scorching the water won’t be so it’s much safer to swim in an old t-shirt and cycling shorts as your body can go into shock if you enter cold water too quickly.
- A towel: Speaks for itself.
Here we have selected some of the most popular locations for taking a dip in the Lake District.
One of this reporter’s favourite spots in the Lakes because of its relative quietness compared to the tourist hotspots of Windermere and Ambleside, Ullswater’s still surface and shallow beach is perfect for beginners. Larger hotels such as The Macdonald Leeming Hotel have their own shore to swim from.
One of the best ways to enjoy the water is to charter a boat and simply ‘dive in’. You can sail out to the centre of the water and explore some of the tiny islands before heading to the village for a spot of lunch. Coniston Boating Centre hires out boats from just £20.
Suzanna Cruickshank is an experienced wild swimmer and hosts group swims if you don’t feel confident enough to head out on your own. Her company, Suzanna Swims, runs events for beginners, plus size ladies and even swim yoga sessions.
With the water reaching an almost tropical 18 degrees Celsius a swim in Rydal is more like taking a dip in a heated swimming pool. But don’t be fooled by the warm water at the edge – as the lakebed can drop suddenly so can the temperature.
Stock Ghyll Force, Ambleside
Just a short walk up from the town is this hidden gem with a pool at the bottom of the spectacular 70-foot waterfall which is perfect for paddling and exploring. Follow the signposts to the waterfall.
Ulpha, near Broughton-in-Furness
Situated up an unassuming road off the A595 just before Broughton is Ulpha. There’s a small parking and picnic area next to the river which can be deceptively deep in places. Perfect for kids. Bear in mind there is no or little phone reception and few shops nearby so take plenty of supplies with you. Top tip: Get there early.
A former British Military Officer, Eddie went on to study History and then Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. A keen outdoorsman, he has co-written several books on Outdoor Survival and Wild Camping. Now living in Penrith, Ed is a keen fellrunner.