There are said to be 16 official ‘lakes’ in the Lake District, although in fact only one of these bodies of water – Bassenthwaite Lake – is officially called a ‘lake’. Others such as Windermere, Coniston Water, Ullswater and Buttermere are known as either meres, tarns and waters. Exploring the region, you will also stumble across lots of pretty, smaller tarns that have not even been named.
The Howbeck Hotel offers the ideal base for touring the Lake District’s most spectacular lakes and waters, but with so much choice we’ve put together our list of favourites to help you plan your trip.
Accessible to everyone and extremely popular, Windermere is England’s largest lake and the closest body of water to the Howbeck Hotel. It has been one of the country’s favourite holiday destinations since the arrival of the Kendal and Windermere Railway’s branch line in 1847, surrounded by stunning and varied scenery. Long and narrow, this 10.5-mile-long ‘ribbon lake’ is surrounded by attractive foothills which are full of relatively easy, low-level walks, while the lake itself is a major hub of activity – with steamers, launches and ferries offering passenger services and lake cruises throughout the day. These passenger services connect a whole host of tourist attractions along the lake shore, including the award-winning Lakes Aquarium, the Lakeside and Haverthwaite steam locomotive, and the World of Beatrix Potter.
Just a short, 12-mile drive from Windermere, Coniston Water is the third largest lake in the Lake District, another ribbon lake formed by glaciation that stretches about five miles in length, and half a mile wide. It is the ideal spot for canoeing and kayaking, with a number of good launch sites and beautiful surroundings. Alternatively, you can hire private boats in various sizes or, during the summer, take a cruise on the opulent Victorian Steam Yacht Gondola (March to November). The traditional timber craft of Coniston Launch also offer regular hourly sailings all year round to jetties around the lake, including Brantwood, the former home of Victorian philosopher John Ruskin, which is today a popular tourist attraction.
With its long literary and historical heritage, tranquil Derwentwater is best known for its beautiful, moody landscapes that change dramatically with the weather. Situated about 25 miles from Windermere, you’ll find walking trails winding around the shoreline and motor launches operating around the lake, stopping at Ashness Gate, Lodore, High Brandlehow, Low Brandlehow, Hawes End and Nichol End. Despite this activity, Derwentwater manages to retain a peaceful atmosphere that’s ideal for quiet family picnics and gentle walks, and it’s an incredibly photogenic setting.
A pleasant 30-mile drive north of Windermere, Bassenthwaite Lake lies at the foot of Skiddaw, near the town of Keswick. It is another of the area’s largest bodies of water, at four miles long and three quarters of a mile wide, although it is very shallow. Head for the west shore where a path runs the entire length of the lake, and look out for cormorants and herons fishing the fertile waters.