The Great British Lake Off holiday cottages

The Great British Lake Off

Julie 02 July 2024

As wellness travel takes centre stage in 2024, more and more people are seeking ways to combine their love for travel with activities that boost their mental and physical well-being. This summer, water-based staycations in the UK are poised to become a top choice for those looking to rejuvenate their spirits and stay active.

With wild swimming experiencing a surge in popularity and the excitement of the upcoming Olympics fuelling interest in various water sports, there's never been a better time to dive into the refreshing waters of the British lakes.

In this guide, we'll explore the best spots in the UK for indulging in water sports. From the serene waters of Derwentwater to the adventure-filled Loch Ness, we'll help you find the ideal location to make the most of your water-based staycation. So, pack your swimwear and get ready to discover the hidden gems that make the UK a haven for water sports enthusiasts. If you're looking for a wonderful holiday by the water, take a look at our Lake District cottages.

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The best UK lakes for water sports activities

The UK's picturesque lakes offer the perfect backdrop for an array of water-based activities. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie looking to try your hand at kayaking or paddleboarding, or seeking the tranquillity of a serene swim, there are plenty of locations to choose from. So where are the best spots in Britain to find this incredible connection with the great outdoors?

1. Lake Windermere, Cumbria

The harbour and jetty at Ambleside with wooden rowing boats on the shore of Windermere

Lake Windermere, the largest natural lake in England, is the number one destination on our list for a water sports holiday in Cumbria – and for good reason! With its vast expanse of clear waters surrounded by stunning scenery, Lake Windermere offers an exceptional setting for a wide range of water-based activities. Not only is it beautiful but there’s a huge range of activities you can partake in when you’re there.

 Explore the lake at your own pace with kayaks or canoes available for hire, or opt for some stand-up paddleboarding, which is a popular activity on Lake Windermere. Providers like Windermere Outdoor Adventure offer board rentals starting at £20 for an hour. Sailing enthusiasts can rent sailboats or take lessons from the Royal Windermere Yacht Club. Prices vary, with lessons often starting around £50 per hour.

After a day on the water, unwind at some of the charming local pubs and eateries, including The Wateredge Inn. Situated right on the shores of the lake, this pub offers stunning views and hearty meals, perfect for refuelling after a day of activities.

2. Rutland Water, East Midlands

Sailing boats on Rutland Water

Rutland Water, one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe, is second place on our list and is a fantastic destination for a water sports holiday in the East Midlands. Nestled in the heart of Rutland, this beautiful reservoir offers a diverse range of activities set against a backdrop of rolling countryside and tranquil waters.

Rutland Sailing Club offers sailboat rentals and lessons for all skill levels. Prices for sailboat hire start at around £40 per hour. Windsurfing enthusiasts can also rent equipment or take lessons from qualified instructors. Prices for windsurfing start at approximately £25 per hour. Once you’ve had your fill of fun on the water, come and fill your bellies at The Finch’s Arms. This charming inn boasts stunning views of Rutland Water and serves a variety of classic British dishes.

3. Carsington Water, Derbyshire

Colourful canoes near the edge of Carsington Water

With its vast expanse of clear water surrounded by rolling hills and stunning landscapes, Carsington Water offers a wide array of activities for both thrill-seekers and those looking to relax and enjoy nature. Windsurfing enthusiasts can take advantage of the excellent conditions at Carsington Water with equipment rentals and lessons offered by Carsington Sports and Leisure, with prices starting at £25 per hour.

For those who enjoy a more leisurely activity, fishing is also popular here. Day permits are available, with prices starting at around £25. And when the day is done, just a short drive from Carsington Water, The Knockerdown Inn is a charming country pub known for its hearty meals and friendly service.

4. Coniston Water, Cumbria

Wooden rowing boats beside Coniston with motor boats in the water

Coniston Water, nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Lake District, comes in fourth on our top five list and is an idyllic destination for a water sports holiday. Surrounded by towering fells and lush greenery, this stunning lake offers a wide range of exhilarating activities for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.

Coniston Water offers pristine waters perfect for wild swimming enthusiasts. Explore secluded coves and hidden beaches for a refreshing dip in nature's embrace. Coniston Boating Centre provides sailboat rentals and lessons for both beginners and experienced sailors. Prices for sailboat hire start at around £30 per hour, with lessons available from £40 per hour. You can also grab a paddleboard or a kayak from here too!

5. Llyn Tegid, Wales

Canoe and sailing boat on Llyn Tegid

Llyn Tegid, also known as Bala Lake, is a magnificent destination for a water sports holiday in Wales. Smack in the middle of the stunning scenery of Snowdonia National Park, Bala  Adventure and Watersports Centre provides everything you need for a day on the water. Prices for sailboat hire typically start at around £25 per hour, while stand-up paddleboarding is around £20 per hour. 

Want to warm up after a day on the water? Located in Bala town, Y Plas Coch is a historic pub that offers a cosy atmosphere and traditional Welsh dishes, perfect for a substantial meal after a day of activities.

Looking for your favourite water sport?

While our top five cover a lot of different water sports you may enjoy, you might already have a favourite sport that you’d like to spend your entire holiday taking part in!

Best UK lakes with water sports facilities

Boats moored at Fort Augustus on Loch Ness

1. Loch Ness, Scotland

2. Lake Windermere, Cumbria

3. Loch Lomond, Scotland

4. Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland

5. Coniston Water, Cumbria

Best UK lakes for wild swimming

Waterfalls gushing into Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye

1. Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

2. Coniston Water, Cumbria

3. Rydal Water, Cumbria

4. Llyn Tegid, Wales

5. Buttermere, Cumbria

Best UK lakes for kayaking

Man on a kayak in the Lake District

1. Lake Windermere, Cumbria

2. Llyn Tegid, Wales

3. Carsington Water, Derbyshire

4. Llyn Padarn, Wales

5. Coniston Water, Cumbria

Best UK lakes for fishing

Fishing on Rutland Water at sunset

1. Rutland Water, East Midlands

2. Llyn Brenig, Wales

3. Derwent Reservoir, Northumberland

4. Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire

5. Carsington Water, Derbyshire


Windermere jetty with motor boats beside it and sailing boats in the distance

This dataset ranks lakes across the UK based on how good they are to visit for recreational activities. To do this, 10 different factors were used. Once the data for the factors was collected, the factors were then normalised, to provide each factor with a score between 0 and 1. If data was not available, a score of 0 was given. The normalised values were then summed, to give each location a total score out of 10. The locations were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on their total scores.  

The factors used are as follows:

  • Number of TikTok posts – The total number of TikTok posts
  • % of 5* Reviews – The percentage of reviews on Tripadvisor which are 5 stars
  • Number of watersports facilities – Total number of water sports facilities according to Google
  • Number of canoeing mentions – Total number of reviews containing mentions of 'canoe' or 'canoeing'
  • Number of swimming mentions – Total number of reviews containing mentions of 'swim' or 'swimming'
  • Number of paddleboarding mentions – Total number of reviews containing mentions of 'paddleboard' or 'paddleboarding'
  • Number of fishing mentions – Total number of reviews containing mentions of 'fish' or 'fishing'
  • Number of boating mentions – Total number of reviews containing mentions of 'boat' or 'boating'
  • Number of sailing mentions – Total number of reviews containing mentions of 'sailing' or 'sail'
  • Number of kayaking mentions – Total number of reviews containing mentions of 'kayak' or 'kayaking'

 All factors were indexed with a higher value getting a higher score. All data is correct as of 07/05/24. The ranking data shown is a compilation of multiple data sources and may not be representative of real life. All data is accurate concerning the sources provided.

Julie Smith, Regional Marketing Manager at Sally’s Cottages said: “The Lake District is a breathtaking destination, especially in the summer, offering a variety of stunning lakes that are ideal for a variety of water sports activities and water-based staycations. With its crystal-clear waters and serene natural beauty, this region is the perfect setting for everything from leisurely paddleboarding and wild swimming to thrilling kayaking and sailing adventures. 

Whether you're seeking the excitement of trying a new sport or the peacefulness of tranquil waters, the Lake District caters to all levels of enthusiasm and experience, making it an unparalleled destination for your summer getaway.”

Plan your Lake District break by the water

Fairsnape, a large white holiday home close to Windermere

Watermead | Sleeps 10 + 2 dogs

Ready to plan your perfect family trip? Explore the charming properties available in the Lake District and find the ideal spot for your next adventure-filled holiday. Dive into a summer of fun and relaxation at your perfect Lake District retreat today!

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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