Top secret wild swimming holes in the Lake District

Daniel Start, author of the new Wild Guide to the Lakes and Dales, reveals his top 6 favourite hidden places to wild swim in the Lake District.

There is little more satisfying than jumping into a pool of cool water on a hot summer's day. With these great wild swimming spots you can enjoy the cool natural waters while taking in the spectacular scenery that is all around you.

To help you find these 6 hidden gems, simply click the links below for each one, and use OS Maps to find a direct route to the spot. There's a 7-day free trial too, so you can access all of Great Britain anytime, anywhere.

1. ​Tongue pot, Upper Eskdale

Tongue Pot - Image: Daniel Start//

Tongue Pot - Image: Daniel Start//

The legendary Tongue Pot forms a long emerald pool beneath a roaring waterfall in a cleft of the mountain stream, just beneath a mountain packhorse bridge. A pebble beach shelves down on one side of the pool into the crystal clear water and an oak tree overhangs. On each side sheer rock walls rise up, making the place famous for jumps. When the sun is shining there is no better place on earth to be.

Pass the Woolpack Inn in Boot (CA19 1TH) to park by the telephone at the bottom of Hardknott Pass. Follow the riverside path up for 2 miles to the bridge and confluence with Lingcove Beck.

Coordinates: 54.4212, -3.1926

​Tongue pot location in OS Maps

2. Galleny Force, Stonethwaite, Borrowdale

Galleny Force - Image: Daniel Start//

Galleny Force - Image: Daniel Start//

With grassy knolls and ancient rowan trees, perfect clear water and flat rocks for sunbathing, these are mountain waterfalls to surpass all others. The perfect place for a plunge in nature’s Jacuzzi. There are two pools here, and the lower ones are often overlooked. Head on up the valley for Black Moss pot where the brave dare each other to jump into a deep water-filled chasm.

After Rosthwaite, turn L at crossroads with post box in wall signed Langstrath Country Inn (carry on along lane beyond CA12 5XG) and follow lane to Stonethwaite. If you are planning to camp, continue on rough track for further 600m to park at Stonethwaite riverside campsite (0176 87 77234). The path above the campsite leads through the woods ½ mile to find first set of pools, below on L, followed by the main pool after another 200m. 15 mins.

Coordinates: 54.5073, -3.1234

Galleny Force location in OS Maps

3. Kailpot Crag, Ullswater

Kailpot Crag - Image: Daniel Start//

Kailpot Crag - Image: Daniel Start//

This high, craggy cliff beneath Hallin Fell plummets into deep water. Great for jumps and snorkelling. Wood behind, beach alongside; it’s a great spot.

Take the ferry to Howtown and follow the shore path a mile SW. Or take Howtown road from Pooley Bridge at N end of Ullswater; you will pass several beaches en route and Park Foot camping (CA10 2NA, 0176 84 86309) has lakeshore pitches. Follow 4 miles to Howtown pier (tricky parking) or approach from Sandwick Bay. This should take around 20 mins.

Coordinates: 54.5763, -2.8734

Kailpot Crag location in OS Maps

4. Tranearth/Banishead Quarry, Coniston

Tranearth - Image: Daniel Start//

Tranearth - Image: Daniel Start//

This remarkable flooded quarry has a grand waterfall pouring into it where the adjacent stream has breached the leat banks. It’s a slightly tricky descent, but once down you can swim straight out into the very deep water. Look out for the adit tunnel, which reappears out of the quarry via a stream gorge. This swim is a real adventure.

Park at the junction 200m N of the Church House Inn on A593, for Crook Barn Stables (LA21 8BP). Head up the lane, past Scarr Head bungalow and up the track for 1 mile. This should take around 30 mins.

Coordinates: 54.3545, -3.1126

Tranearth location in OS Maps
Tongue Pot swimming spot - Image: Daniel Start// Kailpot Crag - Image: Daniel Start// Swiming at Galleny Force - Image: Daniel Start//

5. Stanley Gill Force, Lower Eskdale

Discover the elegant splendour of Stanley Gill Force, one of Lakeland’s most graceful falls, once revered by Victorian traveller but now well off the beaten track. With a shimmering chute falling 20m into a deep plunge pool, it’s hidden in a mossy and verdant tropical-looking ravine reached by crossing several wooden bridges and some final scrambling along a slightly tricky path. The brave can descend down to the pool for a dip in the cool waters. You can also swim in the deep pools beneath Dalegarth Bridge on the way up to the parking area – some jump from the bridge, and there are rope swings too.

Stanley Gill Force - Image: Daniel Start//

Stanley Gill Force - Image: Daniel Start//

Turn right off the road from Eskdale to Dalegarth, after Beckfoot station (CA19 1TF). Cross Dalegarth Bridge (deep pool below) and find the car park on the left after 200m. Carry on by foot up the road, bearing left. After 300m you’ll see a gate into the woods on the left. Follow the track upstream for ½ mile.

Coordinates: 54.3851, -3.2732

Stanley Gill Force location in OS Maps

6. Holme Fell Lake, Southern Langdale

Holme Fell lake - Image: Daniel Start//

Holme Fell lake - Image: Daniel Start//

This is one of our favourite little lakes, and a great escape on a sunny day. It’s an old reservoir on the route up Holme Fell, used for the mines below. It’s deep enough to dive in from the old dam wall, and small enough that it warms up nicely in the sunshine. The fell above is a lovely little-visited peak and very easy to reach, with views down over Coniston.

From the SE corner of Hodge Close quarry (itself an amazing place), a path leads up through woods to old mine ruins 300m. Keep climbing on the upward path (don’t bear R along the wall path) and you reach the lake after 300m more. This takes around 15 mins.

Coordinates: 54.4010, -3.0547

Holme Fell Lake location in OS Maps

Discover more

Discover more great hidden places to go in the Lake District with The Wild Guide to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales by Daniel Start. This brand new book contains over 800 wild and hidden places to explore.

Buy your copy today and get over 30% off with free P&P go to Wild Things Publishing and use discount coupon 'OS' at checkout.

Or check out other on-the-water inspiration here.

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