Lake District

The Best Watersports in the Lake District

The Best Watersports in the Lake District

Home to 16 official lakes and many more waters, meres, pools, rivers and tarns – not to mention 26 miles of coastline and estuaries – the Lake District National Park is the home of watersports in the UK. From paddleboarding to diving to white water rafting, the choices are as wide-ranging as they are thrilling and offer up something for all generations of water-lovers. 

Perfect for both experienced and novice sports-folk alike, there are all sorts of opportunities for solo and group adventure in the Lakes. Leading the way, a good number of outdoor activity centres also provide guided tours and water-based adventures. Experts in all things Lake District, these guides know all the best places to go, as well as the various rules and safety advice for each body of water – so this is an excellent choice if you are still finding your flippers. 

If you are planning a holiday in the Lake District and are looking forward to getting stuck into your favourite activity while you’re there, we’ve put together a list of all the best watersports you can dive into. 

Canoeing and Kayaking

Canoes on the banks of Coniston Water in the Lake District

Two of the most popular and accessible water sports in the Lake District, canoeing and kayaking are possible on a variety of lakes throughout the National Park. Whether you’re bringing your own canoe or kayak, hiring one from a local rental centre or heading out with a qualified guide, you can enjoy a fantastic day out on the water. Some of the best places for canoeing and kayaking in the Lake District include Windermere, Ullswater and Coniston Water. Cumbrian Kayaking and Windermere Canoe Kayak each offer guided tours, ideal for family groups and beginners. 

White Water Rafting

A group of paddlers take on the froth, white water rafting together

If you’ve already tried your hand at kayaking and canoeing and fancy taking on the frothy rapids and whirling eddies of white-water rafting, you’re in luck. A brilliant way to see you the sights, get some exercise, bond with your friends and create life-long memories, white water rafting combines exhilarating fun and skill for an unforgettable experience. The jaw-dropping background of the Lake District is certainly an encouragement too. For taster sessions and tours, get in touch with companies such as Lake District White Water Rafting and make the most of expert tuition.   


A sailing boat on Lake Windermere with Langdale Pikes behind

With the clue being in the name, the Lake District National Park is full of lakes that make for idyllic places to sail. For youngsters and those looking to refine their skills, Ullswater Sailing School offers dinghy sailing taster sessions and personal coaching. If you already know the ropes, you can also hire boats at Derwentwater, Ullswater, Windermere and Coniston. Meanwhile, for something a little more luxurious, you can hire private sailing experiences with firms like Sail n’ Dine and Windermere Lake Cruises and enjoy care-free hours of exploration with the wind in your sails. 


Wild cold-water swimming in Wastwater in the Lake District

Home to the longest and deepest lakes in England, not to mention dozens of smaller lakes and tarns, the Lake District is one of the best places to wild swim in the UK. From Windermere to Wast Water, and from Buttermere to Bassenthwaite, there are lakes of all shapes and sizes where you can take the plunge. For a bit of a challenge, you can also take part in organised swims, such as the Great North Swim – the UK's biggest open water swimming event – which includes six different open-water swimming challenges to suit all ages and abilities of cold-water swimmers.


Diving is a sport that can be practiced in the Lake District National Park

From old quarries to the country’s deepest lake, the Lake District is a well-known destination within the UK diving scene. With secret gnome gardens, large freshwater fish and amazing scenery, there is an array of curiosities waiting to be discovered. Needless to say, you should always dive in groups and, if you are new to the sport, join up with reputable diving companies. For introductory and refresher courses, Carlisle and District Divers are the longest established BSAC club for Carlisle and the surrounding area and offer a safe environment in which to try scuba diving

Canyoning and Scrambling 

Canyoning and scrambling are two popular sports activities in the Lake District

Ghyll scrambling and canyoneering are two of the most popular water-related activities in the Lake District, involving lots of jumping, sliding, climbing and plunging through the park’s fells, waterfalls, rivers and streams. Same-same but different, the two activities comprise a lot of similar adrenaline-fuelled activity, though crucially ghyll scrambling involves going up stream and canyoning involves going down. If you’d like to give it a go, some of the best operators include the family-run Crags Adventure in Windermere, Keswick Adventures in Keswick and Adventure 21 in Coniston. 


Paddleboarding on calm water - A top Lake District water sport

Quickly becoming one of the most popular watersports in the world, stand up paddleboarding (or SUP) has captured the attention and interest of all generations. As with all watersports, there are safety concerns to consider, but it’s a superb sport that everyone can have a go at – young in years and young at heart. It’s even a dog-friendly activity four-legged friends can enjoy too. Lake District Paddleboarding offer lessons and SUPfaris on Derwentwater, Ullswater, Windermere and the River Derwent. You can also book paddleboard hire on Coniston at Coniston Boating Centre.


A rubber tube ready to be ridden and floated downriver

If you’ve never heard of river tubing, you’re in for a treat. Brilliantly fun, tubing is an outdoor activity which entails sitting in the hollow of an inflatable ring (aka tubes, biscuits and donuts) and riding a river downstream, letting the flow of the water carry you along. Either leisurely and relaxed or fast-paced and thrilling depending on your chosen route, the activity provides a thoroughly novel way to explore lesser-known sites in the Lake District and see hard-to-reach places. We recommend only tubing with an experienced guide, like Keswick Extreme

Wakeboarding, Wakesurfing and Kneeboarding

Wakeboarding on a lake

Wakeboarding is where a rider balances on a board and is towed behind a motorboat across its wake. Naturally, speed is of the essence with this sport, which is a problem in the Lake District due to lake speed restrictions. To solve this, a purpose-built wake park in Haverigg on the outer reaches of the Lake District was opened for unmissable wakeboarding opportunities. Wakesurfing (like wakeboarding, minus the tow) and kneeboarding (like wakeboarding, but on your knees) are made accessible with activity organisers such as Low Wood Bay Watersports Centre and Wake and Surf

Water Parks 

An inflatable waterslide within a lake aqua park, great fun for all the family

Situated just beyond the southern fringes of the Lake District National Park is the Lakes Aqua Park. A family-friendly waterpark that’s home to a huge floating playground in the middle of a freshwater lagoon, it boasts a series of inflatable slides, slopes, jumps, ladders, a trampoline, bridges, seesaws, bouncers and more – all floating atop the cool waters of the lake. Whether you’re travelling with kids or are simply a big kid at heart, this fun-filled water park will keep all your party thoroughly entertained as they climb, slide, bounce, dip and dunk their way around the course.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in the Lake District and Cumbria here

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