Guide to the Cotswold Water Park and lakes in the Cotswolds

Rural, Nature, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Kate A on 19th February 2021

Lake in the Cotswolds

Blanketing nearly 800 square miles of rolling hills, sweeping meadows and honey-hued villages, the Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales.

Peppered among this bucolic landscape is a series of glittering lakes, many of which can be found within the iconic Cotswold Water Park. This vast network of 150 interconnecting lakes is even larger than the Norfolk Broads and, as such, offers an abundance of recreational activities, from gentle lakeside strolls along tree-lined paths to exhilarating water sports.

We have therefore created a guide to the Cotswold Water Park and some of the other beautiful Cotswold lakes to inspire your next staycation in this glorious pocket of the English countryside.

Cotswold cottages

Cotswold Water Park

Cotswold Water Park

Naturally, with over 150 lakes spread over 40 square miles, which includes 14 different villages in the Cotswolds, the Cotswold Water Park is a major holiday destination in its own right, attracting thousands of visitors every year. Having evolved from old gravel pits, this beautiful lakeland area provides an important habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and offers extensive leisure activities for all.

Crystal-clear waters and no tides mean the Cotswold Water Park lakes are perfect for a vast array of water sports. Sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, windsurfing, water skiing and wakeboarding are just a few of the thrilling pursuits on offer, and there’s even an inland beach for family bathing, so there are plenty of places where you can dip your toes in the water!

No worries if you prefer to keep your feet on dry land though, as there’s also myriad well-marked walking and cycling trails, nature reserves and waterside pubs, or alternatively you could try archery, shooting, fishing, golf, paintballing, wildlife watching and rally driving. The options are endless!

Here are few of the best lakes in the Cotswold Water Park to visit during your stay:

Cleveland Lakes

Cleveland Lakes

Cleveland Lakes Reserve is made up of two of the Cotswold Water Park's larger lakes as well as the Waterhay Reedbed. Around 30,000 reeds have been planted in this wonderful wetland nature reserve to provide a haven for fish, birds, and insects. Take a wander along the 1.6 miles of footpath and cycleway around the lakes and visit one of the three bird hides where you might catch sight of herons, egrets, great crested grebe and tufted ducks, as well as otters, water vole and grass snakes.

Activities to try: Bird spotting, wildlife watching, walking, and cycling.

Stay nearby: Cooper's Lodge | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Spring Lake

Spring Lake

This one is for the adrenaline seekers! Spring Lake is one of the top lakes in the Cirencester Water Park for water sports, with an international half-mile-long water-ski course, wakeboarding and inflatable rides to enjoy. Head to Lakeside Ski and Wake to fuel your fun and glide across the 27 acres of water on one of the bouncy ringos, stingrays, UFOs or banana boats, or try a taster course in water-skiing or wakeboarding. And when you need to recharge your batteries, there’s a lakeside brasserie where you can sit back with a glass of vino and watch the action from the comfort of the deck.  

Activities to try: Water-skiing, wakeboarding, and inflatable rides.

Stay nearby: 9 Spring Lake | Sleeps 5

Summer Lake

Summer Lake

One of the quieter lakes within the Cotswold Water Park, Summer Lake is an idyllic setting for a romantic picnic or a waterside amble. Often, the only sounds you’ll hear are the whisper of the trees and the water lapping against the shore as boats sail by. This is a place to soak up the fresh, countryside air and switch off for a while.

Activities to try: Picnics, walking and photography.

Stay nearby: The Summer Lake Retreat | Sleeps 8

Windrush lake

Windrush Lake

For a little peace and tranquillity, relax beside the calm waters of Windrush Lake. Here, 40 acres of stunning lakeside scenery offer a blissful backdrop to unwind. If you fancy messing about on the water, you can join the swans and moorhens for a gentle row around the lake on a canoe or kayak. Or sit on the bank in the sunshine and cast out a line to delight in a leisurely afternoon coarse fishing for carp, tench and pike.

Activities to try: Canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

Stay nearby: Windrush Lakeside Retreat | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Cotswold Country Park and Beach

Cotswold Country Park and Beach

Perhaps you fancy a traditional bucket and spade day at the beach? In that case, head to Cotswold Country Park, home of the UK’s largest inland bathing beach. One of the top attractions in the Cotswold Water Park, there are two fun-filled lakes to enjoy here.

At North Lake, you can run, slide, climb, bounce and jump your way around the fantastic floating inflatable obstacle course at AquaVenture, or have a go at kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. And at South Lake, you can hire a pedalo, rowing boat or mini electric boat, or simply relax on the sandy beach before taking a dip in the swimming lagoon. For little ones, there’s a smaller children’s beach and for dogs, there’s a special dog swimming area, so everyone is well-catered for!

Activities to try: Open water swimming, water sports, boat hire, mini-golf, inflatable obstacle course, pedal karts, high ropes course, BBQ hire.

Stay nearby: Springview | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Isis Lake

Isis Lake

Perfect for families, Isis Lake not only boasts captivating views, but offers a wealth of activities for kids. While the adults soak up those vistas, children can expend some of their excess energy in the adventure playground, or you can all get competitive with a game of tennis, croquet, golf, cricket or boules. Well stocked with carp and trout, this is another of the best Cotswold Water Park lakes for fishing.

Activities to try: Adventure playground, ball games and fishing.

Stay nearby: Lake Haven | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Whelford Pools

Whelford Pools

Keen anglers will be in their element at Whelford Pools, a tranquil nature reserve home to one of the top day fisheries in the country. Consisting of three bodies of water, the Cotswold lakes at Whelford Pools Fishery are home to an abundance of large carp as well as tench, roach, perch, pike and bream. There is a fully stocked on-site Carp Tackle Shop for you to purchase bait, and day tickets are sold on a first-come-first-served basis. There are also two bird hides within the reserve from where you might be lucky enough to see great crested grebes commence their ‘weed dance’ courtship in the spring.

Activities to try: Fishing and bird watching.

Stay nearby: The House By The Lake | Sleeps 8

Cotswold Water Park cottages

Other lakes in the Cotswolds

Corsham Lake

Corsham Lake

Set within the magnificent grounds of the Elizabethan Corsham Court in Wiltshire, this 13-acre sparkling lake was designed by the famous landscape architect, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Once used for pleasure boating and ice skating in the 18th century, Corsham Lake now makes for one of the most picturesque Cotswold lake walks during a visit to the court’s staterooms, gardens and parkland which are open to the public.

Activities to try: Walking and wildlife watching.

Stay nearby: 23 Pickwick | Sleeps 12

Woodchester Park

Woodchester Park

Cradled deep in a secluded wooded valley are the remains of an 18th and 19th-century landscape park with a chain of five glistening lakes. Surrounding Woodchester Mansion - a Victorian Gothic masterpiece which was mysteriously abandoned mid-construction - is Woodchester Park, cared for by the National Trust. Several miles of walking trails lead you through enchanting woodland and around the lakes, one of which features a man-made island that is now a heronry. You will also discover a Boat House, built in the early 19th century and now the home of ten different species of bat. Of all the lakes in the Cotswolds, this is one of the best for observing local wildlife, with around 124 species of birds having been spotted here!

Activities to try: Walking, bird watching, wildlife spotting, kids play trail with balance bridges, rope swings and climbing frames.

Stay nearby: Porthole Cottage – Nailsworth | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Witney Lake

Witney Lake

Witney Lake, known locally as Ducklington Lake, is nestled within a 37-hectare country park on the doorstep of the historic market town of Witney. This beautiful, deep pool of water was once an active gravel pit and is now a haven for walkers, wildlife-watchers and anglers, with the southern half of the lake a nature reserve and the northern end sectioned as an area for public leisure, used for activities such as fishing and picnicking. There are surfaced paths around the lake which offer mesmerising views across the open water, with the opportunity to spot kingfishers, great crested grebe and a huge assortment of unusual invertebrates and wetland plants.

Activities to try: Walking, bird watching, wildlife spotting, picnicking and fishing.

Stay nearby: Thames View | Sleeps 2

Map of lakes in the Cotswolds

See the Cotswold lakes for yourself

These remarkable lakes in the Cotswolds are just waiting to be discovered. Why not pick out your favourite and jump in for an adventure on your next break? Our holiday cottages in the Cotswolds include everything from romantic chocolate-box cottages in the country to fun-filled waterside lodges in the heart of the Cotswold Water Park. Click the button below to browse our full collection.

Cottages in the Cotswolds

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.