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United Kingdom > General information > Britain's Lakes

Britain’s lakes  

Lakes – monsters, adventure sports and relaxation. There aren’t many links between Romantic poetry, monsters, water skiing and gyrocopters, but all have a compelling connection with the magnificent bodies of water that are Britain’s lakes. Whether they’ve been immortalised in some of the most famous poetry ever written, fostered a host of conspiracy theories as to whether a legendary monster lives in their depths, or are the perfect base for adrenaline-fuelled sports, lakes are a treasured part of Britain’s landscape.   

From England’s Lake District to the celebrated lochs of Scotland, via lakes in the heart of the Welsh mountains, here are just a few of the highlights and why their attractions extend beyond boat trips.  

Lake District, Cumbria, north-west England.  

Home of England’s deepest and largest lakes, the lush natural environment of the Lake District in the north-west of England is one in which you can’t fail to embrace the great outdoors. Hike around England’s largest and second-largest lakes – Windermere and Ullswater respectively – set off on a fell walk around Grasmere Lake or take a gentler walk around some of the smaller lakes, including Derwent Water and Rydal Water.   

A tranquil haven of towering peaks, serene waters and undulating hills, Ullswater Valley is truly breath-taking, with its beautiful lake nestled among towering fells. There you'll find Aira Force, a tumbling waterfall dropping an impressive 65ft/20 metres, which can be reached by taking a stroll through ancient woodland and landscaped glades.

It's no wonder that, while walking here, Wordsworth wrote ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud'. The perfect place for a family walk and picnic, water-sports enthusiasts will be kept busy with canoeing, sailing, fishing and even swimming for the more intrepid explorers (nationaltrust.org.uk).
 

Walking and sailing aside, the Lake District is renowned as the ultimate adventure playground. Enjoy views over Buttermere, Crummock and Loweswater with Via Ferrata Xtreme in Honister, an adventure activity destination that’s highly rated by all those who’ve had a go. As well as experiencing vertical climbs and cliff-edge ladders, adventurers can walk along Europe’s longest Burma Rope bridge, suspended 2,000ft/610m over the valley.  

There are great views to be had on a spectacular gyrocopter flight over Derwent Water or Ullswater. Take the controls of the gyrocopter or just look out of the window. This is a wonderful way to gain a birds’ eye perspective of the Lakes.  

Alternatively, swing through the trees at Windermere’s TreeTop Trek, a ropes course built into the canopy of ancient oak trees with amazing views of the lake and the Langdale Pikes from 50ft/15m up. Avid hikers can climb Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England and one of the Three Peaks Challenge Mountains.  

Once the daredevil in you has been satisfied, enjoy one of the many picturesque towns in the region – check out Keswick, Bowness-on-Windermere or Ambleside, all with close association to the Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (cumbriatourism.org and golakes.co.uk/adventure-capital).  

Getting there: The Lake District is under two hours by train from Manchester and there are direct trains from London Euston to Oxenho lme (half an hour from Windermere) in just under three hours. Driving from London to Lake Windermere takes around five hours. 

See also many nice pictures from the United Kingdom.

Snowdonia National Park, north Wales.   

The largest natural lake in Wales – Llyn Tegid – lies in Snowdonia National Park – along with 100 others. The National Park is heaven for water sports enthusiasts, with sailing, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, wakeboarding and windsurfing all up for grabs. And, if you’re looking to indulge a passion for outdoor swimming, check out Gone Swimming (goneswimming.co.uk). The company specialises in adventure swimming holidays, some of which are in the lakes of Snowdonia. So grab your goggles and a wetsuit, and admire spectacular scenery while perfecting your strokes.  

If you’d rather sit back and enjoy the tranquil scenery, Llyn Tegid is also ideal for fishing; the freshwater lake is packed with pike, perch, grayling and roach. And, like the Lake District, Snowdonia’s terrain is perfect for fell walking. Head away from the busier parts of Snowdonia and enjoy a more tranquil walk on the footpaths around Bala Lake.

Embark on the entire 14-mile circuit walk or split it into two and jump on board the Bala Lake Railway for return transport; either way, walkers will observe Snowdonia’s spectacular lake views, farmland, moorland, mountains and forests (visitsnowdonia.info and visitwales.com).
    

Getting there: There are direct trains to Llandudno Junction and Bangor – the closest mainline stations to Snowdonia National Park. Journey time from London Euston is three and-a-half hours; from Birmingham three hours; from Manchester two-and-a-half hours; from Cardiff four-and-a-half hours.
 
Read more about Wales. 
 

Scottish Lochs.   

Mystical legends, traditional songs and poetry have all found their inspiration on the banks of Scotland’s lochs (lakes).   

Bring your binoculars, your camera and a side order of optimism and set out to find ‘Nessie’, the fabled monster said to live in the depths of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, south of Inverness. However, it’s not just Nessie you should be looking out for; from on board a boat on this majestic stretch of water (37kms/22miles long) you can spot Urquhart Castle, as well as small villages and farms and watch out for leaping trout and salmon.

Getting there: Loch Ness is just over a three-hour drive from Edinburgh, or a 40-minute drive from the international airport at Inverness.

Read more about Inverness and Loch Ness.
 


 

Not far from the bustling city of Glasgow is the serene Trossachs National Park, home of Loch Lomond (lochlomondtrossachs.org), the largest surface area of fresh water in Britain. Mountains loom to the north, while a scattering of islands can be found at the south end of the loch. Pretty villages such as Luss line the loch’s western shores, all of which inspired the traditional Scottish song The Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lomond.

The area was also much loved by Scottish writer and poet Sir Walter Scott, whose famous poem The Lady of the Lake was inspired by Loch Katrine in the National Park, which you can cruise on the steamship SS Sir Walter Scott (visitscotland.com/about/nature-geography/canals-rivers-lochs).
 

A huge variety of fish can be found swimming in Loch Lomond, making it an ideal habitat for anglers. Salmon and sea trout return up the River Leven into the Southern reaches of the Loch, while brown and rainbow trout, pike, perch, roach, chub and dace offer variety for every angler. A glorious surrounding to practice your sport, there's plenty of opportunity for casting off in glimmering waters.  

Getting there: Loch Lomond is less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow.
 
See also nice pictures from Scotland.
 

The loughs of Northern Ireland.   

Where can you go if you’re sports mad but travelling with a history buff? Head to the banks of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, Britain’s largest inland lake with a shoreline of more than 145kms/90 miles. Not only is it a watersports fan’s dream – canoe in its many bays and inlets around the lough or the huge expanse of open water, or powerboat, jet-ski,  water-ski and even learn to fly a light plane across it all.

The shore is also sprinkled with ancient relics that will delight lovers of history. For a true sense of Northern Ireland’s ancient past visit Antrim round tower, the remnant of a tenth-century monastic site standing 28m high, and Ram’s Island round tower (discoverloughneagh.com)
 

Getting there: Lough Neagh is a 40-minute drive west of Belfast city centre and just 15 minutes from the city’s international airport.

Fermanagh Lakelands are a lush, aquatic portion of Northern Ireland that is ribboned by rugged woodland and freckled with Lilliputian islands and watery coves. It provides an extraordinary backdrop for thrill seekers to enjoy not one but three water trampolines, all connected by various walkways and logs floating on the beautiful Upper Lough Macnean (fermanaghlakelands.com).

For a spot of five-star luxury on a lakeside shore, Lough Erne – two connected lakes in County Fermanagh – is home to the Lough Erne Resort. After indulging in the resort’s luxury indoor facilities, it provides a great spot from which to explore the lake. Helicopter and seaplane tours can introduce the lake from up high, while cycling, horse-riding, watersports, caving and golf – the resort has two Championship courses – are all available (lougherneresort.com).
   

Getting there: Lough Erne is around a two-hour drive west of Belfast.

Read also Belfast travel guide.

Author: Visit Britain 2016.


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See also

United Kingdom > General information > Britain’s Islands
United Kingdom > General information > Visiting Northern England’s ports

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Lake District, Llyn Tegid, Loch Ness, Loch Lomond, and Lough Neagh. Find here a travel guide to the main lakes of Britain.