There are officially 16 lakes in the Lake District, though these are complimented by many other bodies of water including tarns and reservoirs.
Each lake has its own special character, scenery, and attractions, and we’ve created this two-part guide to them all so that you can find your perfect location for a Lake District visit! Once you've read part 1, don't forget to take a look at A Guide to the Lake District Lakes, Part 2!
It might be hard to believe, but Bassenthwaite Lake is the only officially named lake in the whole the Lake District! That’s because the rest are either meres or waters. Found in the north west of the national park, between Cockermouth and Keswick, the waters are very peaceful because the only boats allowed on there are those belonging to members of the Bassenthwaite Sailing Club.
There is a nature reserve each on its north west and south east side, while Whinlatter Forest rises up to the south west. On its north east bank you will find lovely St Bega’s Church and nearby is Mirehouse stately home, the Lake District Wildlife Park, Lakes Distillery (discounts available for Sally’s Cottages’ guests), and Dodd Wood. If you’re very lucky, at the right time of year you might see the rare ospreys fishing on the lake!
See our holiday cottages around Bassenthwaite Lake.
Pretty Buttermere is a little lake surrounded by grand scenery! Overlooked by imposing fells - including Haystacks, Alfred Wainwright’s favourite - its location is fantastic for both experienced fell walkers and gentle amblers. A path around the lake is just 4.5 miles long across easy, low-level countryside and makes a wonderful family-friendly walk for a couple of hours. Kids will love the Victorian tunnel on the north east side, and watch out for the handsome Highland cattle that graze in the area.
Buttermere village includes a wonderful ice cream parlour, café, and two pubs. One of these, The Fish Inn, was once home to ‘The Maid of Buttermere’, a famous beauty mentioned in the works of Wordsworth and Coleridge, amongst others.
Browse our holiday cottages in Buttermere.
Found in the glorious South Lakes, Coniston Water is perhaps best known as the location of Donald Campbell’s infamous final water speed record attempt. It is also popular thanks to its incredible scenery, easy access to the fells, and options on and around the water.
Coniston village is overlooked by several mountains, including one with a rather wonderful name: The Old Man of Coniston. You can sail the lake on a heritage Steam Yacht Gondola, or why not hire a boat and explore for yourself? There are plenty of options on dry land, too, with the likes of The Ruskin Museum and Brantwood House on its shores. Or why not discover some famous filming locations used in the likes of The ‘A’ Word and Swallows & Amazons?
Take a look at holiday cottages around Coniston.
Crummock Water is the twin of Buttermere, above, as they were once one big lake! Separated over thousands of years by debris carried down the mountain by streams, they now have their own unique character and points of interest.
Towering over either side of Crummock are the fells of Melbreak and Grasmoor, which make for fantastic hikes. For an easier but no less rewarding walk, pull on your boots and head to spectacular Scale Force, the highest single drop waterfall in the Lake District! Alternatively, during spring you must visit the wonderful hidden valley of Rannerdale to see the spectacular carpet of bluebells covering the open fell (please take care not to trample the flowers). For refreshment, head back to Buttermere village for a pint at one of the two pubs, a cake at the café, or a homemade ice cream at Syke Farm Tea Room.
Find your perfect holiday cottage near Crummock Water.
Derwentwater is simply spectacular! Perhaps the most iconic body of water of the North Lakes, it’s surrounded by the fell Catbells, the ‘jaws’ of Borrowdale, and the popular market town of Keswick. There’s a huge amount of things to do here from walking, outdoor activities, shopping, eating out, boating, going to the theatre, or simply enjoying the breathtaking views.
Dotted with small islands - one with a house on it! - Derwentwater is remarkably peaceful, despite its popularity. You could spend the day walking the whole circumference of the lake, hop on a launch and sail to one of several jetties, or simply pick a spot for a picnic and watch the world go by.
Elterwater is an unusually shaped lake in the valley of Great Langdale that flows into Windermere via the River Brathay. The name itself means ‘lake of the swan’ (or swan lake, if you will!) and Whooper swans still winter there.
This small but pretty lake makes for a fabulous walk with wonderful views. If you’re a lover of trees and waterfalls, then you will adore the area. Colwith Force to the south tumbles through oak woodland and is an impressive sight to see. Alternatively (or as well as - it’s not far to walk!), Skelwith Force is a much shorter but no less impressive fall amongst the woodlands to the south east of the lake.
As well as waterfalls to admire, the path around the lake takes you through tranquil woodland, open fields, and alongside the glittering lake. It’s a truly spectacular place.
Have a look at cottages in Langdale.
If seclusion and real tranquillity is what you’re after from your Lake District lakes, then Ennerdale Water is the place to head for. Remote and with no public roads entering the valley, you will have to rely on foot, bike or horseback to explore this area!
The most westerly of the lakes, Ennerdale Water stretches for 2.5 miles and is surrounded by woodland and towering fells. Nearby Pillar Rock is famous in the world of climbing as the place where pioneers of Lake District climbing practised their ascents in the 1820s. It has a range of climbing routes to suit all abilities.
The walk around Ennerdale Water is relatively flat, apart from some scrambling on the south side, but can be surprisingly tiring. However, it is well worth any effort for the silence, amazing views, and utter tranquillity. At the end of it, why not head to Ennerdale Bridge village and The Gather, a wonderful community-run café and gift shop.
See our holiday homes around Ennerdale Water.
This little lake is perhaps overshadowed at times by Windermere and Coniston Water, which sit on either side of it and are considerably larger. However, that’s no reason not to visit! If you’re into your fishing, this could be the lake for you, as it’s stocked with trout, pike and roach and includes facilities for both boat and bank fishing.
Esthwaite Water is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and was Beatrix Potter’s favourite lake (you might see one of Jeremy Fisher’s descendants hopping about!). Although much of the surrounding countryside is privately owned, you can still enjoy nearby walks from the village of Near Sawrey, Hawkshead and Moss Eccles Tarn.
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