Of all the lakes, I have never actually seen anyone else swimming in Loweswater. I don’t often see more than a handful of people walking around Loweswater either. It’s the place to go for a reliably quiet experience. The pastoral lake and village are tucked away in the north-western corner of the Lake District in a much quieter, less dramatic landscape. The lower slopes of Burnbank Fell are densely wooded right down to the lakeshore. In spring, the slumberous woodland is carpeted with bluebells. On the northern shore overhanging trees line the road giving you only tantalising glimpses of water as you pass by.
Life is oh so peaceful here, private and intimate. Loweswater nearly didn’t feature in this guidebook. Not only did I struggle to find anyone willing to say that it is swimmable, the lake regularly suffered from blue-green algae blooms. Algae flourished during the warmer months, turning a lurid green at the height of summer, rendering the water unsuitable for swimming. I canvassed opinion from local residents, fell runners and fellow swimmers with responses ranging from ‘Och no, it’s fine’ to ‘Eww. No thanks’. Still unsure, Ali and I walked through the woods to Holme Wood Bothy on a crisp spring day.
Map of Loweswater Lake Photo Gallery
We hopped on the rope swings and gazed across to a snow-clad Grasmoor. The view, coupled with the calm water, was irresistible. We came back at the first opportunity, cap and goggles in hand. Just through the gate into the wood we set our bags down in the lee of the wall and waded in. After establishing that no, it was not as cold as we thought it would be (it never is), we struck out for the bothy swimming parallel to the shore.
The subject of blue-green algae has been much discussed and is often misunderstood. It’s important to note that algae can and does appear in many lakes and it is not always the toxic variety. Historically, algae blooms were more prevalent due to Loweswater’s small size and unique ecological situation. In previous years you could reliably find swathes of algae blooms around the edges of the lake. Now, thanks to hard work by members of the Loweswater Care Programme, the National Trust and local farmers, Loweswater is an ever-improving picture. On my most recent visit after a long dry spell, the perfect conditions for algae growth, there was very little sign of blooms in the water. Come on in, the water is lovely!
At either end of the lake is private land, but the northern shore is accessible. A minor road runs along the northern shore; there are a few lay-bys to park in close to Waterend necessitating a short walk along the quiet, narrow road to get to the water. A path from the road soon dips down to follow the shore and then it’s just a case of picking your spot in the stony bays between overhanging boughs. You are more likely to encounter stagnant water on this side of the lake, particularly through the summer, as very little fresh water enters the lake due to the lack of becks and streams running off the fells. In autumn, the view across the lake is a perfect Lakeland scene: golden woodland beneath twin fell tops that catch the morning sun.
Holme Wood cloaks the lower slopes of Blake Fell and Burnbank Fell. Beautiful in all seasons, it really comes to life in autumn when the Loweswater Pheasant appears. The wood was planted in a pattern of deciduous trees and evergreens to reveal the point of a beak, an eye patch and a wing. The best views are from the track to Watergate Farm or from the slopes of Darling Fell where you can also take in the view towards the Cumbrian coastal plain. Park at Maggie’s Bridge and walk along the farm track towards Watergate Farm and the lake (950 metres). Pass through the gate into Holme Wood and a swimming spot with a small beach appears straight away where you can leave bags and get straight in.
Wade over the gravel lake bed which gains depth slowly, leaving no chance of an unwitting plunge. A small stream trickles in from higher up in the wood, keeping this particular corner fresh. Follow the path further into the wood to the gravel beach in front of Holme Wood Bothy. You can hire the bothy from the National Trust to stay overnight – perfect for an early morning constitutional! Another small beck, originating from higher up in the wood, flows in by the beach, keeping the lake topped up and the temperature cool. The water is deep here and always chilly so non-swimmers and paddlers should be wary.
Continuing along the path there is a gravel peninsula where Holme Beck flows into the lake. The beck originates from higher up the fell. It is worth a diversion to walk deep into the wood to see Holme Force, a beautiful waterfall that splits into two long falls and many pools. Back at the beach, pop your clothes on the bench and plunge in – the constant flow of fresh water provides great conditions for cooling off on a hot day.
MAXIMUM DEPTH 16 metres AVERAGE DEPTH 8.4 metres LENGTH 1.04 miles MAXIMUM WIDTH 0.34 miles PRIMARY INFLOWS Dub Beck, Holme Beck OUTFLOW Dub Beck.
There is no public transport going directly to Loweswater; the Honister Rambler (77/77A), Easter to October only, stops at Brackenthwaite which is a two-mile walk from Loweswater, mostly on the road. Loweswater is on National Route 71 of the National Cycle Network. There is a small, free car park for a handful of carefully parked cars at Maggie’s Bridge, at the eastern end of Loweswater. Cross the cattle grid and walk along the track through the meadows towards Watergate Farm to get to the water. The wonderfully named road Fangs Brow is high above the lake and has magnificent views on the approach. Park up here and combine a circular walk on the old coffin route with a swim. There is further parking in a few small lay-bys near Waterend at the western end of Loweswater; it’s a short walk along the road to the wooded lakeshore path.
There are no facilities at the lake itself.
» The Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater. This traditional inn is just half a mile from the lake; a visit is not just recommended, it is practically obligatory.
» The Grange Country House, Loweswater. Evening meals are served, bookable in advance. Situated a short walk from Waterend. General Notes on Loweswater Rowing boats can be hired from Watergate Farm; permits are required to launch your own boats. Holme Wood Bothy can be booked via the National Trust.