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Lakes, Waters and Meres of the Lake District

Bassenthwaite Lake

Bassenthwaite Lake is the most northerly of the lakes found in the Lake District National Park and the only lake in the Lake District with 'lake' in its name, all the others being waters (e.g. Derwent Water) or meres (e.g. Buttermere). Bassenthwaite is fed by, and drains into, the River Derwent. The lake lies at the foot of Skiddaw and Dodd Wood, near the town of Keswick. It has no major settlements on its shores.

Bassenthwaite Lake is one of the largest at four miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide, but also one of the shallowest (70 ft). There is a shore path which runs the length of the west shore, but there is no access to the east side except at Mirehouse.

Bassenthwaite is home to the vendace, a rare and endangered fish species found only here and in Derwentwater.


Buttermere is situated in the north-west of the English Lake District and surrounded by fells, notably the High Stile range to the southeast, Robinson to the north, Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks to the northeast and Grasmoor to the northwest. Buttermere is around 2km in length , 500m wide and 100m deep. There is a footpath running round the perimeter of the lake, and lovely walks to the summits of Haystacks and Red Pike.

The village of Buttermere stands at the southwest end of the lake and in the little Church of St. James, is a stone tablet set into the windowsill of a south window as a memorial to Alfred Wainwright, the famous walker and author of guidebooks. The window looks out on his favourite place to walk, Haystacks, where at his wish his ashes were scattered. The lake is owned by the National Trust and is part of the National Trust property called Buttermere and Ennerdale

Coniston Water

Coniston Water ( known simply as Consiston ) is the third largest of the lakes at around 8 km in length, 800 m wide, with a maximum depth of 56 m. It covers an area of 1.89 square miles or 4.9 km˛ and has three small islands. It drains to the sea via the River Crake. Coniston Water is an example of a ribbon lake formed by glaciation. The lake sits in a deep U-shaped glaciated valley scoured by a glacier in the surrounding volcanic and limestone rocks during the last ice age. Immediately to the west of the lake sits the Old Man of Coniston, the highest fell in the Coniston fells group.

The Victorian artist and philosopher John Ruskin owned Brantwood house on the eastern shore of the lake, and lived in it from 1872 until his death in 1900. Ruskin is buried in the churchyard in the village of Coniston, at the north end of the lake.

Children's novelist Arthur Ransome based his book Swallows and Amazons and some of its sequels on a fictional lake but which drew much of its inspiration from Coniston Water. Some of Coniston Water's islands and other local landmarks can be identified in the book's landscape.

Sir Malcolm Campbell chose Coniston for his attempt at the water speed record in 1939, which he achieved at over 141.74 miles per hour. On his death, his son Donald Campbell took up where his father left off. His aim was to better 300 miles per hour, which he did on 4th January 1967, but the craft, the turbo-jet engined 'Bluebird K7', shot up into the air and disintegrated into the lake. His body and the remains of the craft were not recovered until 2001.

Crummock Water

Crummock Water is situated in the north-west of the English Lake District between Loweswater and Buttermere. It is two and a half miles long, three quarters of a mile wide and 144 feet deep and is a clear, rocky bottomed lake. The lake is fed by numerous streams including the beck from Scale Force, which with a drop of 170 feet is Lakeland's tallest waterfall.

The hill of Mellbreak runs the full length of Crummock Water on its western side; as Alfred Wainwright described it 'no pairing of hill and lake in Lakleland have a closer partnership than these'.

Crummock Water is owned by the National Trust.


Derwentwater is situated in the northern part of the Lake District immediately south of the town of Keswick. It measures approximately 4 km in length by 1.5 km wide and is some 22 metres deep. Derwentwater is fed by the River Derwent and drained by the River Derwent. The lake has four islands.

Derwentwater is surrounded by hills fells, and many of the slopes facing Derwent Water are extensively wooded. A regular passenger launch operates on the lake, taking passengers between various landing stages. There are two lakeside marinas, one at Keswick and one at nearby Portinscale, from which boats may be hired. Recreational walking is a major tourist activity in the area and an extensive network of footpaths exists within the hills and woods surrounding the lake.

The Keswick—Borrowdale road runs along the eastern shore of the lake and carries a regular bus service. There is a lesser, or unclassified, road along the western shore between the villages of Grange and Portinscale.


Elterwater lies at the junction of the Great and Little Langdale valleys and is the smallest of the sixteen at around 500m in length. Elterwater - lake of the swans - has silt and other river-borne material building up around the shoreline which effectively is reducing the size of the lake.

Ennerdale Water

Ennerdale is the most westerly of the lakes. It lies nestled in a valley also known as Ennerdale. It is a deep glacial lake, 3.9 kilometres long, between 700 and 1500 metres wide and 148 feet deep. Ennerdale is situated relatively close to the port towns of Whitehaven for which it acts as a reservoir and Workington and is a popular destination for hikers, tourists and cyclists, but not by any means as popular amongst tourists and visitors as other lakes in the National Park, and thus has not been spoiled by construction, activity on the lake or any other trappings of intensive tourism.

Due to the clarity and exceptional freshness of the lake water Ennerdale contains a wide variety of freshwater fish. Bowness Knott, is home to a large breeding population of the once endangered Peregrine Falcon, whose conservation and population is maintained by the RSPB. The small village of Ennerdale Bridge lies near to the lake. Containing little more than a shop, a couple of pubs and few houses, it is a typical small Cumbrian village.

Esthwaite Water

Esthwaite Water - the lake by the eastern clearing - is one and a half miles long and nearly half a mile wide and lies a short distance south-east of Hawkshead. It's outlet, the Cunsey Beck, feeds Windermere.


Grasmere at 1 mile long, half a mile wide and 75 feet deep, would be an attractive and popular tourist area even without its Wordsworth connections. The small island in the middle of the lake was his favourite destination while he was staying at nearby Dove Cottage.


Haweswater is a reservoir some 6km long and 600m wide. Submerged beneath the waters of Haweswater Reservoir lies the old settlement of Mardale Green, drowned in 1940 when the valley was dammed , flooded and the water-level raised by 96 feet. The controversial construction of the Haweswater dam was started in 1929 after Parliament passed an Act giving Manchester Corporation permission to build the reservoir to supply water for the urban conurbations of north-west England. At the time there was much public outcry about the decision as the valley of Mardale was populated by the farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green and the construction of the reservoir would mean that these villages would be flooded and lost and the population would have to be moved. In addition the valley was considered one of the most picturesque in Westmorland and many people thought it should be left alone.

The village church was dismantled and the stone used in constructing the dam; all the bodies in the church yard were exhumed and re-buried at Shap. Today when the water in the reservoir is low, the remains of the submerged village of Mardale Green can still be seen as stone walls and the village bridge become visible as the water level drops.

The Haweswater valley is the only place in England where Golden eagles nest: there is a RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) observation post in the remote valley of Riggindale where the pair have their eyrie. A pair of eagles first nested in the valley in 1969 and the male and female of the pairing have changed several times over the years, sixteen chicks have been produced. The female bird disappeared in April 2004 leaving the male on its own. However, the RSPB are hoping a replacement female will be drawn to the area.

The lake is also home to a rare silvery fish known as a schelly (skelly).


Loweswater, one of the smaller lakes, nestle in a wooded valley in the far west of the Lake District, in the Vale of Lorton. At approximately 1 mile in length, half a mile wide and 60 feet deep, it provides an excellent lake circuit for walkers. Loweswater remains relatively untouched by tourism, and is much quieter than the neighbouring lakes, Buttermere and Crummock Water. The immediate vicinity of Loweswater is very genteel and is consists mainly of rolling hills, in contrast to the rocky, more aggressive mountains found elsewhere in the Lake District (though Mellbreak, part of the Loweswater Fells, is steep and craggy).

Loweswater is unique within the Lake District, as it is the only lake that drains towards the center of Lakeland - to Crummock Water which it was once joined to.

Loweswater is also the name of a village at the foot of the lake, home to the well known Kirkstile Inn.

Rydal Water

Rydal Water is the second smallest of the sixteen lakes at three quarters of a mile long, quarter of a mile wide and with a depth of 55 feet. Steps lead up from the western end of the lake to 'Wordsworth's Seat' - reputedly the poet's favourite viewpoint. There is a pleasant walk round Rydal Water which can also include Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, two of Wordsworth's homes, and which also passes Rydal Cave - a large cavern in the hill above the lake.


Thirlmere, at three and a half miles long, and almost one and a quarter mile wide and 158 feet deep, was originally two smaller lakes, which were purchased by Manchester City Corporation Waterworks in 1889. The area was dammed with a dam whose greatest height is 104 feet, and the area became one vast reservoir. In the process, the settlements of Armboth and Wythburn were submerged, the only remaining building being the little church at Wythburn The lake is best appreciated from the little road that threads its way along the west shore line. The lake, now owned by North West Water, has recently been opened to the public. There is access at the several lay-bys and car parks along the west road. Thirlmere is a reservoir in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria, England.

Thirlmere is sometimes also applied to the whole valley, which connects Grasmere in the south with the Vale of Keswick in the north. The highest point in the valley is Dunmail Raise.

The Helvellyn ridge lies to the east of Thirlmere


Ullswater is the second largest lake in the English Lake District, being approximately 9 miles (14.5 kilometres) long and 0.75 miles (1200 metres) wide with an average depth of around 200 feet (60 metres). Ullswater is often considered as the most beautiful of the English lakes. It is a typical Lake District narrow "ribbon lake" formed after the last ice age when a glacier scooped out the valley floor, the deepened section filled with melt water when the glacier retreated, and it became a lake. The surrounding mountains give Ullswater the shape of an elongated "Z" giving it three separate segments (or "reaches") which wend their way through the surrounding hills.

Ullswater is clear but deep, and in the deepest part lives a curious silvery fish called a schelly (skelly), a sort of freshwater herring. Possibly the best lakeshore walk is found on Ullswater's south eastern shore, between Howtown and Glenridding.

The waterfall of Aira Force (65 ft/20 m high) and Helvellyn Mt. are nearby. Gowbarrow, west of the lake, is said to have been the inspiration of William Wordsworth's poem “Daffodils.”

The village of Glenridding is situated at the southern end of the lake, popular with tourists of all kinds but especially mountain walkers who can scale England's third highest mountain, Helvellyn, and many other challenging peaks from here. The village has ample accommodation including two Youth Hostels and good camping sites. The village of Pooley Bridge is at the northern extremity of the lake. Its narrow 16th-century bridge straddling the River Eamont as it flows out of Ullswater, it is overlooked by Dunmallard Hill which was the site of an Iron Age fort. For much of it's length Ullswater forms the border between the traditional counties of Cumberland and Westmorland.

One of the great attractions of Ullswater is the lake steamers which offer tourist trips around the lake calling at Pooley Bridge and Glenridding, and also at Howtown during the summer. The steamers were originally working boats which from the 1850s moved mail, workers and goods to and from the Greenside lead mine at Glenridding which closed in 1962. Today there are three steamers plying the waters of Ullswater, "Raven", "Lady of the Lake", and "Lady Dorothy". Many people catch the steamer from Glenridding to Howtown during the summer and then return on foot back along the lakeshore to complete one of the most popular and scenic low level walks in the Lake District.

Ullswater is very popular as a sailing location with sailing marinas situated around the lake. At weekends especially the lake is dotted with many yachts but there are facilities also for diving, rowing and motorboats. Another of Ullswater's attractions is the spectacular waterfall of Aira Force midway along the lake on the western side. (Ullswater lies partly within the National Trust's Ullswater and Aira Force property.) Close to the falls is Lyulph's Tower, a pele tower or castellated building, built by a former Duke of Norfolk as a shooting box.

Just south of Pooley Bridge on the lake's eastern shore is Eusemere, where anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson (1760–1846) lived; the house gives one of the best views of the lower reach of Ullswater. William and Dorothy Wordsworth were friends of Clarkson and visited on many occasions. After visiting Clarkson in April 1802 Wordsworth was inspired to write the poem "Daffodils"' after seeing daffodils growing on the shores of Ullswater on his journey back to Grasmere. Wordsworth once wrote of Ullswater: "it is the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur, which any of the lakes affords".


Situated in the Wasdale Valley, this lake, once know as Broadwater, is 4.6km long, 600m wide and 79m deep, and the deepest of all the lakes. Wastwater is perhaps the most awe-inspiring of all the lakes. Surrounded by mountains, Red Pike, Kirk Fell, Great Gable and Scafell Pike - England's highest mountain.

Extending the length of the south-east side of the lake are the Screes, consisting of millions of fragments of broken rock and rising from the floor of the lake to a height of almost 200 feet, giving the lake an ominous appearance. A popular path runs the length of the lake, through the boulders and scree fall at the base of this craggy fell-side. On the north-western side are the cliffs of Buckbarrow (a part of Seatallan) and the upturned-boat shape of Yewbarrow.

There is a National Trust campsite at the Wasdale Head end of the lake. At the other end is the Wasdale Hall Youth Hostel.

The lake is named "Wast Water" on Ordnance Survey maps, but the spelling "Wastwater" is used with roughly equal frequency, including by its owner the National Trust, the Cumbria Tourist Board, and the Lake District National Park Authority.

Wasdale Head is a small village in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England. It is located at the "head" of the valley of Wasdale, and is surrounded by some of England's highest mountains: Scafell Pike, Sca Fell, Great Gable, Kirk Fell and Pillar. For many centuries it has been a starting point for walks and climbing trips into the mountains. Today, it is the recognised starting point for the ascent of Scafell Pike as part of the National Three Peaks Challenge.

Close to the village is St Olaf's Church, which has a reputation of being the smallest church in England. The village claims to be home of the highest mountain (Scafell Pike), deepest lake (Wastwater), smallest church and biggest liar in England. The latter claim is based on a former landlord of the Wasdale Head Inn, who proclaimed himself as such.


Windermere, at twelve miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep, is the largest natural lake in England. The lake is drained from its southernmost point by the River Leven. It is replenished by the rivers Brathay, Rothay, Trout Beck, Cunsey Beck and several other lesser streams, and is entirely within in the Lake District National Park. It is almost divided in the middle by Belle Isle, the largest of the lake's fourteen islands.

Windermere has been one of the country’s most popular places for holidays and summer homes since 1847, when the Kendal and Windermere Railway built a branch line to it.

There are two towns on the lake, Ambleside and Bowness-on-Windermere. The town of Windermere, confusingly, does not directly touch the lake. Known as Birthwaite prior to the arrival of the railway, it is about a fifteen-minute walk from the lakefront, and has now grown together with Bowness. Windermere railway station is a hub for train and bus connections to the surrounding areas, Manchester, Manchester Airport, and the West Coast Main Line.

The lake is largely surrounded by foothills of the Lake District which provide pleasant low-level walks; to the north and north-east the higher fells of central Lakeland commence.

A road ferry service runs across the lake from a point south of Bowness on the eastern side of the lake to Far Sawrey on the western side of the lake.

For many years, power-boating and water-skiing have been popular activities on the lake. In March 2000, however, the Government controversially decided to put in place a compulsory 10 knot (11.5 mph, 18.5 km/h) speed limit, technically starting in 2000, but enforced in practice from 29 March 2005. Many organisations, including the Lake District National Park Authority, support the move, primarily on the grounds of restoring the tranquil nature of the lake and making it safer and more accessible for all users. Opponents, particularly those interested in the affected sports, are concerned by the lack of other suitable inland waters to which to move these activities.

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