Top spots for kayaking in the Lake District

Activity, Watersports, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Kate W on 22nd November 2020

Kayaking the Lake District

The best way to see the Lake District is to get out on the water! And what better way to do that than by exploring in a kayak?

Originally invented for hunting by the Inuit and Aleut tribes in countries including Iceland, Greenland and Alaska, the kayak had to be lightweight, agile and silent…  

Today’s designs vary, with a wide range of kayak types being used all over the world, but the concept remains the same. Easy to manoeuvre, great for one person or two, with no noisy motor so you can enjoy the sounds of the water and wildlife; they offer the kayaker a fantastic amount of freedom!

Kayaking in the Lake District is ideal for getting out on the water and back to nature, whether you are embarking on a day’s trip exploring the hard-to-reach, hidden places throughout Windermere, or planning a fun, family outing along the shores of Coniston.

Explore the Lake District

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Kayaking Ullswater

Top kayaking tips

Before we begin, here are a few quick Lake District kayaking tips…

  • Always wear a buoyancy aid: Even the most experienced kayakers always wear safety equipment. If you book a tour, these should be provided.
  • Dress for the water (not the weather) and have a change of clothes ready: If you fall in, a wetsuit/waterproofs will keep you relatively dry while fresh, dry clothes will warm you up fast!
  • Bring sugary treats: When you’re out in the elements and being active, chocolate bars and cakes can provide a welcome energy boost and provide much-needed sustenance if you run into trouble.

If you’re new to kayaking, has some great resources for beginners. 

Whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned pro, the Lake District is overflowing with excellent places to explore in your kayak and a whole host of companies that can offer guided tours and hire you all the equipment necessary for a great day of adventure.

Read on to discover the top spots for kayaking in the Lake District, or check out our guide to the best places to kayak across the UK.

Beginners: Kayak lessons and tours in the Lake District

Kayaking on Windermere


It will come as no surprise that Windermere is one of the best places to kayak. With lots of quaint villages set on the shores, there are plenty of intriguing places to dock up at the end of your experience. A favourite holiday destination year-round with fantastic attractions, places to eat and local legends to uncover, Windermere is just the place for a water sports holiday or a day trip.

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After paddling your way around the shores with an instructor or a couple of mates, the village of Windermere is just the place to visit for a well-deserved meal.

For an elegant evening out, visit The Lamplighter Dining Rooms or head to The Little Chippy for a hearty feast of fish and chips.

Retreat to Windermere

Kayaking on Coniston


Arthur Ransome’s acclaimed adventure book ‘Swallow and Amazons’ was based on locations around Coniston, giving you an idea of the fantastic scenery and intriguing territory that’s waiting to be explored. While kayaking or canoeing in the Lake District, paddle your way around the tranquil waters taking in the rugged banks with the Old Man of Coniston rising in the distance.

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Head to The Black Bull at the bottom of Coniston’s famed fell, a 400-year-old pub that serves a range of tasty dishes including the catch of the day.

It even has its own microbrewery so you can enjoy a refreshing pint after your kayaking adventure.

Holiday by Coniston

Kayaking on Ullswater


With 9 glorious miles of water for you to explore, Ullswater is the second largest body of water in the Lake District. Due to its size, there are several quaint and characterful villages around the edge. Launch off from one of these waterside locations or people-watch as you paddle past. 

Ullswater also provided the setting for Wordsworth’s famous ‘Daffodils’ poem:

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Visit during the spring when these flowers have sprung up on the shores of the lake for a tranquil morning out exploring Ullswater by kayak.

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The two biggest villages are Glenridding and Poole Bridge, and both happen to be either end of this expansive lake.

Up in Pooley Bridge, on Ullswater’s northern shore, you could roll into The Crown Inn for cosy lakeside dining, while down south in Glenridding you’ll find a welcoming, traditional pub: The Traveller’s Rest, perfect for a big dinner after your kayaking adventure out on the water.

Cottages in Ullswater

Kaying on Derwentwater


Propel yourself through the waters of exquisite Derwentwater where much of the scenery is made up of wooded fells. There are several marinas around this large lake, with the most popular being Keswick, Portinscale and the Lodore Falls – we’d certainly recommend you stop at that last one to see the beautiful waterfall.

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There is a whole host of wonderful pubs and other welcoming places to eat throughout the lakeside market town of Keswick, but Fellpack has got to be the top choice for explorers.

Their strapline: ‘Fuelling Lakeland Adventures’ gives you an idea of what they’re all about. Besides good food and drink, you’ll no doubt find yourself sitting side-by-side with other explorers dropping by for a bite to eat before heading back out into the beautiful wilderness. 

Escape to Derwentwater

Kayaking on Wastwater


Discover one of the most rugged regions of the Lake District; Wastwater is the deepest lake in the national park and has some awe-inspiring fells towering over it on either side. As you paddle across the water, look out for the peaks of Lingmell, Scafell Pike, and Great Gable. These three fells are so impressive and iconic to the area that they were chosen as the symbol of this national park making for fantastic views while kayaking in the Lakes.

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It’s a rather remote region with no bustling towns or villages sat on its shores but there are two wonderful pubs you could stop at when you’re ready to eat.

Wasdale Head Inn is an old country inn set at the base of several incredible mountains including Scafell, so it provides a great place to eat for walkers and climbers too. At the opposite end of the lake, you’ll find the stylish Strands Brewery, a friendly pub that has its own microbrewery.

Discover Wastwater

Experienced kayaking in the Lake District

Kayaking lakes

If you are experienced on the water and are planning an outing for just you and a couple of friends without an instructor or guide tagging along, then you could always visit one of the below options for a morning’s kayaking in Cumbria that’s a little out of the ordinary.

Bassenthwaite Lake

You’ll need a permit for this one. It is right up in the beautiful north of the Lake District and has useful flat banks where it’s easy to push off in a kayak. It’s also one of the largest yet shallowest bodies of water in the national park at approximately 4 miles long and up to 70ft deep.

Ennerdale Water

Again, you’ll need a permit to go kayaking on Ennerdale Water but it’s worth the preparation. This is the most westerly lake in the Lake District and generally regarded as the most remote, making it a bucket-list destination for anyone kayaking in the Lake District National Park.


As far as we can tell, you don’t need a permit (but always double-check). It’s a beautiful, popular and central reservoir that’s easy to get to no matter where you’re staying in the Lakes, and you can access the water via the village of Armboth.

Whitewater kayaking in the Lake District

Whitewater kayaking in the Lake District

Now for the ultimate kayaking tour for experienced kayakers. Go careering down rapids along the winding rivers of the Lake District National Park for an adventure you’ll never forget with Into the Outside.

Dan and Becki who run this adventure company are passionate about the outdoors and can tailor the trip to you – they also offer tranquil river tours for less experienced kayakers as well.

Go kayaking in the Lake District

Get close to the natural world and get active with a kayaking adventure across the glistening bodies of water that dominate the Lake District National Park.

Lake District kayaking

With towering fells and lush forests acting as the backdrop to a wild day out, you’ll come away from your holiday to the Lakes feeling reinvigorated and refreshed. Besides kayaking in Cumbria, there’s an insane variety of wonderful water sports that you could get involved in – from paddleboarding to water skiing – as well as a whole host of top attractions on land too. 

We have a fantastic selection of holiday cottages in the Lake District for you to choose from for your trip. You could escape to a romantic lodge with a hot tub ideal for two, a cosy, family-friendly cottage with a wood burner or a large property with a games room for a big group getaway. Start browsing our collection of cottages, lodges and retreats throughout this world-renowned national park and find your perfect Lake District holiday.

Visit this national park

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.