Top 10 Places to Kayak in the Lake District

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The Lake District is mecca for those who love water sports, with the national park’s 16 lakes offering an array of activities on their shimmering surfaces.

A total of 12 lakes are navigable by kayak, although some require permits beforehand, and they tempt enthusiasts with some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Paddle over the placid water, surrounded by ancient mountains capped with snow, and soak up the tranquillity of the landscape.

We’ve put together 10 of the best places to kayak in the Lake District to help you plan your next adventure. Before you set off, make sure your equipment is in order, and be aware of other water users on the more popular lakes.

Where will you choose to visit first?

Note: Whenever you are in or on the lake, make sure to thoroughly check, clean and dry your equipment (and self) before going into the next body of water. This is to prevent the transfer of dangerous plants and animals that could upset the unique natural balance of each lake. Check the NNSS website for more information.

Windermere

Windermere in the Lake DistrictWindermere is the largest lake in England, so it’s a great place to start your kayaking adventure in the Lake District. As you paddle, you can spot Wray Castle as well as a whole host of wildlife including otters, crayfish and tufted duck. Just be aware that launching is prohibited on some shores and you can’t land on Belle Isle.

Ullswater

Ullswater in the Lake DistrictThe Lake District’s second-largest lake has a lot of privately owned shorelines, however many hire places offer great navigation advice as well as kit, and there are several public slipways too. As you traverse the 9-mile-long lake, you can soak up the sights in the shadow of Helvellyn and its surrounding fells. There are two small islands where you can stop for a picnic too.

Coniston Water

Coniston Water in the Lake DistrictWith a view described by John Ruskin as “the best in all England”, there are few more picturesque spots for a kayak trip. Paddle amidst high fells and the imposing sight of the Old Man of Coniston, and make your way to the three small islands where you can rest and soak up the views. 

Derwentwater

Derwentwater in the Lake DistrictDerwentwater is a great choice for a kayak trip if you’re staying in one of our Keswick cottages as it’s very close to the town. It’s a very peaceful lake with serene views towards the Borrowdale fells. However, there are only four launching sites so it’s best to consult a map before you set off.

Ennerdale Water

Ennerdale Water in the Lake DistrictFor a more peaceful kayak adventure, head to Ennerdale, which, as the most westerly lake in the national park, is more remote and therefore attracts fewer crowds. The water is fringed by conifers which creates a very pretty scene. If you’re in a larger group, you’ll need a permit before you paddle – these are available from United Utilities.

Grasmere

Grasmere in the Lake DistrictWordsworth’s “loveliest spot that man hath found” is all the lovelier when explored by kayak. Unfortunately, you can’t land on the poet’s beloved island in the middle of the lake, but it’s worth visiting anyway to get a new perspective on the famous views from the water itself. Kayak hire is also available here.  

Thirlmere

Thirlmere in the Lake DistrictHead to Thirlmere for a unique day out, where you’ll be paddling over the villages that were submerged to make the reservoir. As well as this, you can soak up the views of the spectacular Helvellyn Ridge and the Borrowdale fells.

Wastwater

Wastwater in the Lake DistrictExperience the true scale of the Lake District with a kayak trip on Wastwater – the deepest lake in the national park, it’s also surrounded by a majestic array of mountains including the impressive Scafell Pike. It can be quite exposed, however, so make sure you dress for the conditions.  

Bassenthwaite

Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake DistrictThis is one of the four national park lakes where you require a permit before you launch your kayak; for Bassenthwaite, these are available from Keswick Tourist Information Centre. One of the shallowest lakes in the national park, you can spot a wide range of wildlife including ospreys and Atlantic salmon here as you paddle.

Buttermere

Buttermere in the Lake District
Purchase your permit from the National Trust car park in Buttermere before you set off and you can enjoy a paddle taking in the views towards Fleetwith Pike. The number of watercraft is limited to 10 per party here to maintain the lake’s tranquil character.

Self-catering accommodation

We have a wide range of cottages close to these tempting lakes, many with storage for kayaks and other water sports equipment. Start planning your next outdoor adventure by browsing our collection of Lake District cottages.

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