While the UK is renowned for its drizzly climates, it’s also home to some of the most beautiful lakes around the world. Lakes are an iconic feature of the British landscape, with plenty of opportunty for travel and adventure. We’ve compiled ten of the best UK lakes to visit, with some hidden gems thrown in for good measure!
1. Lake Windermere, Cumbria (Lake District)
At 10.5 miles long, Windermere is the largest natural lake in England, conveniently positioned at the edge of the Lake District National Park. Aside from its natural beauty, Windermere has a lot to offer – from picturesque towns, to walking paths, to vast woodland and towering hills. If you’re into sailing, Bowness-on-Windermere is a bustling hub for boating activities, with 10,000 boats currently registered there!
2. Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands
While Loch Ness is perhaps most well-known for the monster lurking beneath its surface, it is also one of the most stunning bodies of water in the UK. Surrounded by the romantic ruins of Urquhart Castle and dramatic Scottish mountains, Loch Ness is Britain’s largest lake by volume of water. There are plenty of winding paths around the shoreline that are perfect for admiring the scenery, while also being close enough for a day trip from Glasgow or Edinburgh. So, whether you want to find out more about Scottish history or you’d prefer to keep your eyes peeled for Nessie, Loch Ness is undoubtedly one of the best lakes to visit in the UK.
3. Lake Vyrnwy, Powys, Wales
Lake Vyrnwy is one of the prettiest reservoirs in the UK, originally built in the 1800s to supply Liverpool with fresh water. Lake Vyrnwy lies on the edge of the Snowdonia National park, with a sculpture tail park and play area that makes it perfect for family trips. This beautiful lake is flanked by the striking Berwyn Mountains, so should you happen to be there at sunrise or sunset, watch out for the sky’s dramatically changing colour!
4. Ladybower Reservoir, Derbyshire (Peak District)
Ladybower Reservoir is a winding, Y-shaped reservoir found in the heart of the Peak District. It is the lowest of three reservoirs found in the Upper Derwent Valley, surrounded by green fields that stretch for miles. Ladybower is steeped in history – it’s the place where bouncing bombs were tested before the Dam Busters raid in Germany during the Second World War. If you’re interested in finding out more about the history of the Ladybower Reservoir, there is a small museum you can visit that is situated on top of the Derwent Dam.
5. Buttermere, Cumbria (Lake District)
Buttermere is the smallest of the Lake District’s water attractions, but no less popular than its larger counterparts. Surrounded by towering peaks that are perfect for exploring, Buttermere is also home to the summits of Haystacks and Red Pike, making it a walker’s paradise. With accessible footpaths, Buttermere is perfect for a family stroll, taking around two hours to complete the circuit. As you reach the end of your ramble, you can choose a higher path that takes you to Skye Farm for some light refreshments – perhaps an ice cream if the sun is shining!
6. Loch Awe, Scottish Highlands
Loch Awe certainly lives up to its name thanks to its dramatic surroundings. Found in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, this lake can be found in the midst of discarded castle ruins that give the place an eerie, magical feel. It is the longest of all Scottish lakes, running twenty-five miles along Argyll and Bute. There are plenty of water sports to take part in – including canoeing, kayaking, dinghy sailing and yacht trips – but if you’re seeking a less tiring activity, Loch Awe is renowned for its trout fishing.
7. Derwent Water, Cumbria (Lake District)
Beloved by the children’s author Beatrix Potter, Derwent Water is another expanse of water found in the heart of the Lake District. Surrounded by the town of Keswick and the Borrowdale Valley, there are plenty of places for families to explore both on-foot and by boat. Derwent Water is also believed to be the last remaining native habitat of the endangered vendance fish!
8. Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland
Lough Neagh is a unique landscape that captivates tourists with its tranquility, unspoilt countryside and skyward views. It is the largest freshwater lake in the UK, with plenty of opportunity for exploring the water by boat or the shoreline on various paths. Lough Neagh is home to a number of nature reserves, making it a haven for wildlife and discovering different types of flora and fauna. It is also steeped in folklore and legend, with many tales of Celtic gods and underwater cities stemming from this area.
9. Bewl Water, Kent and East Sussex
Perhaps a lesser known lake in the UK, Bewl Water is the largest stretch of open water in South East England. Set across 800 acres of scenery near Lamberhust in Kent, Bewl Water offers a variety of outdoor activites – from peaceful walks around the reservoir, to rock climbing and horse riding. At Bewl Water Family and Activity Park you can find an array of kids activities, with an adventure playground, fishing ponds, quadbiking and model boating lake. If you’re planning a weekend away from your little ones, Bewl Water is only a stone’s throw away from The Bell Inn – one of Britain’s quirkiest pubs!
10. Ennerdale Water, Cumbria (Lake District)
Ennerdale Water is one of the Lake District’s hidden gems. It is the most westerly and remote of the lakes, offering peace and tranquility even during busier times of the year. It is a deep, glacial lake with exceptionally clear water that contains many rare fish – keep your eyes peeled for the opossum shrimp, eel, minnow, stickleback and lamprey!
Ennerdale Water is also home to the banded rhyolite – a rare volcanic stone that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. If you’re feeling adventurous, some of the best views Ennerdale Water has to offer are from the top of Angler’s Crag – a rocky foothill of Crag Fell. Although its craggy front may appear daunting to visiting walkers, the top of Angler’s Crag can be easily reached from either side via acccessible footpaths.
Are you planning on laking a day of it with your little ones?
Planning a family adventure? Hawkshead can help you tick these lakes off your list with our wide range of women’s, men’s and kids’ outdoor jackets. Looking for a handy first aid kit or eco-friendly water bottle? Check out our travel accessories too.