Birkdale

Wild Swimming in the Lake District

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Birkdale

6th April 2022

Have you ever been wild swimming in the Lake District? If not, perhaps it’s time to give it a go.

Wild swimming and cold water immersion have certainly attracted more media attention over the last couple of years, and with good reason. Among the health benefits are improved circulation; a boost to your brain power; a boost to your immune system; reduced anxiety and stress; increased alertness; feelings of euphoria and achievement; and if you’re swimming with others, a sense of community.

No wonder the hobby of outdoor swimming was rediscovered during the pandemic. And where better than in the lakes and tarns of the beautiful Lake District? But where can we go wild swimming in the Lake District?

There are some amazing places, such as the legendary Tongue Pot in Eskdale, or Galleny Force in the heart of beautiful Borrowdale. But we’ll try to keep our choices a little more local, although we have included Wastwater because, well, you have to. Read on for a few of our favourite spots.

Windermere

Let’s start with Windermere, England’s largest lake and home to the Great North Swim. Within easy access of Birkdale House is Miller Ground. It is easily walkable, but there is a car park for those who want to get the hot air blowing as soon as possible following a dip in the lake.

Alternatively, head up to Ambleside where Borrans Park at Waterhead is perfect for your first dip; or down to Fell Foot at the southern end of the lake, forty-three acres of beautiful parkland perfect for paddling, wild-swimming and picnicking.

Coniston Water

Coniston Water, surrounded on all sides by stunning scenery, is often less busy than some of the other major lakes and has plenty of small bays and beaches, making it a great option for wild swimming. The eastern shore in particular has a number of parking spots and shallow water, perfect for those who are new to wild swimming.

To make it a day to remember, why not paddle out to Peel Island (or stand-up paddle board of course) and recreate your own Swallow and Amazons adventure.

Loughrigg Tarn

Loughrigg Tarn is considered by many as one of the best places to swim in the Lake District. And with the Langdale Pikes as a backdrop, it’s easy to see why. With no rivers feeding directly into it, the waters are relatively warm, making it the perfect spot to cool down after a hard day’s walking.

Rydal Water

Sheltered on all sides by Lake District fells, Rydal Water is often a little stiller than other wild swimming spots. It’s also a touch warmer thanks to its lower altitude. This is a great place to swim for novices – the shallow beach is on the far side of the water from the road, about a twenty minute walk, so despite the lake’s proximity to the road, swimming here still feels like you’re slightly off the beaten track. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to write, as it did Wordsworth.

Blea Tarn

When it comes to picturesque spots for wild swimming, Blea Tarn more than holds its own. The Langdale Pikes frame the horizon, perfectly reflected in the cool, still water. This is without doubt one of the best views in the Lake District, and with a stony beach on the southern shore, it’s perfect for wild swimming.

Ullswater

A relatively short car journey over the Kirkstone Pass brings you to Glenridding at the southern end of Ullswater. Here, gently sloping beaches allow safe access to the water – perfect for families. It’s hardly secluded, but with large grassy banks and all the facilities of Glenridding, you’ll find a spot you can call your own and enjoy a fabulous day out.

Wastwater

Our final destination is Wastwater, the deepest lake in England and arguably one of the most dramatic sights in the Lake District. Meaning it has to be included on any wild swimming list. On the eastern shore, the screes tumble down towards the deep, dark water and to the north some of the highest mountains in England, including Scafell Pike, Great Gable and Lingmell. This is wild swimming with added exhilaration. Several small beaches lie just off from the road on the western shore, providing easy access to the water. So find somewhere to park and head for the lake. And be prepared to feel a little chilly.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t mentioned the likes of Easedale Tarn, Styhead Tarn or Buckstone Jum, all iconic wild swimming spots but which require a bit of a hike to reach. Another time maybe.

In the meantime, next time you’re visiting, why not dig out your swimming gear and take a dip? But do take care. Below is a list of wild swimming tips.

  • Acclimatise to the water slowly to avoid shock
  • Be aware of your limits
  • Avoid swimming alone
  • Always check the weather forecast
  • Take warm clothes and hot drinks for after your swim – a hot water bottle in your bag is a great idea
  • A wetsuit can help prevent your suffering from cold water shock – and it can also act as a buoyancy aid
  • Always check the depth of the water, especially if you’re jumping in
  • Don’t swim anywhere where there’s blue-green algae
  • Keep an eye out for boats
  • Make sure you’re visible – a brightly coloured hat or tow float would be ideal
  • If you do get into trouble, try to float on your back with your arms and legs out
  • Always clean your clothing and equipment to help keep water free from non-native species

If you would like any further information about wild swimming in the beautiful Lake District, please do get in touch