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10 Best Lakes to Go Paddle Boarding in the Lake District

We’ve asked local expert John McFadzean for his favourite spots to go paddle boarding in the Lake District. If you want to know the best Lake District SUP spots, then read on!

OK, there are only ten lakes to paddle board on in the Lake District. Although there are sixteen large lakes here, we are only permitted to paddle board on ten of them. Here are all the details you need to enjoy the best days out paddle boarding in the Lake District, from parking, to launch points, to some of my favourite routes.


paddle boarding lake district

John McFadzean

Travel writer specialising in paddle boarding

John McFadzean is on a lifetime quest to stand up paddleboard (SUP) in every country in the world. Recent lockdowns and travel restrictions have allowed him the opportunity to explore closer to home. John spent much of 2020 and 2021 adventuring in the Lake District, close to his home in the northwest of England.


1. Paddle Boarding on Windermere in the Lake District

At close to 15 square km, Windermere is the largest lake in England and surely the best known of all in the Lake District. On such a large body, the water conditions can be affected by wind, not to mention the numerous pleasure craft zipping their way across the surface. If you’re seeking flat water, or peace and solitude, perhaps the largest lake isn’t for you.

But for me, there are two very special places to go paddle boarding on Windermere.

paddleboarding in the lake district

Book online and in advance for a parking space at Fell Foot National Trust Park. Right at the southern tip of Windermere and with direct water access, you simply cannot go wrong here. Turn left when you get on the water and head down the River Leven to Newby Bridge and the Swan Hotel. Turn right and head up through the moored boats and out onto the lake proper. Or, do both if you have time. Then take some time out to relax post paddle on the sloping grassy banks of Fell Foot. 

In summer months you can hire paddle boarding equipment here and it’s one of the most interesting places to go paddle boarding in the Lake District.

My other favourite spot on Windermere is right at the other end, at Ambleside Waterhead. Crossing over the road from the Lakeside car park, you’ll find yourself on a small gravel beach with a jetty to one side. A perfect spot to get on the water and head south, hugging the eastern shore of the lake. Just 6km later and you’ll be at the Windermere Jetty Museum. Pull your board ashore here and treat yourself to coffee and cake at the water’s edge café. Then continue down the eastern side of Windermere, or head back to Waterhead.

Ambleside Waterhead is the scene of some of the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen anywhere in the world. Time your return journey correctly and you may just be blessed with a spectacular palette of orange and red, with perhaps a dash of purple, to finish your day off nicely.

In Bowness, you can hire everything you need from Windermere Canoe and Kayak.

2. Paddle Boarding on Ullswater in the Lake District

An expansive splash of water running from the southwest to the northeast, with a couple of bumps and bends, Ullswater is the second largest in the Lake District. Ullswater can be blustery, with strong winds whipping up large waves on the surface of the water. But why not use that to your advantage? Take a downwinder while you’re paddle boarding in the Lake District.

lake district paddleboarding

Parking up at the Glenridding Steamer Terminal, you can easily access the lake from the beach next to the pier. Journey the full 12km northeast to Pooley Bridge with the wind at your back and enjoy being pushed along by the waves.

And when you get to Pooley Bridge? Well, you could paddle back, into the wind. If you want to. Or take a much better option. Deflate your board and catch the Ullswater Steamer back from Pooley Bridge to Glenridding. 

(You can of course reverse this trip depending on the direction of the wind on the day).

paddleboarding in ullswater

If you’re looking for a more sedate paddling adventure on Ullswater, you can park your car and access the water for £5.00 per day at Park Foot Campsite at the Pooley Bridge end of the lake. Open 11 months of the year.

If you need to hire equipment, Ullswater Paddleboarding will be able to assist.

3. Paddle Boarding on Coniston Water

Coniston Water is perhaps best known as the location of Donald Campbell’s unsuccessful attempt to break the water speed record on his boat The Bluebird in January 1967.

paddleboarding lake district

Coniston is also a delightful place to go stand up paddle boarding. My favourite route begins at Brown Howe car park which is a one-minute walk from the lakeside. Turning left and paddling north, a couple of hours of gentle effort will take you to the Bluebird Café. Grab some lunch here before crossing over to the other side and paddling back down towards Brown Howe, passing Brantwood, the striking lakeside home of the 19th Century philanthropist, John Ruskin.

Lake District water

Before you cross back over and return to Brown Howe, call in at Peel Island which was the inspiration for Wild Cat Island in Arthur Ransome’s renowned novel ‘Swallows and Amazons’.

Top Lake District paddleboarding tip: An alternative parking spot, and a favourite of mine at busy times, is Coniston Hall Campsite where you can park all day with direct lake access for a mere £5. Perfect if the other car parks are full.

4. Paddle Boarding on Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District

Surprisingly, Bassenthwaite is the only actual lake in the Lake District. All of the others are ‘waters’ or ‘meres’, as in Derwentwater or Windermere. So if anyone ever asks you ‘How many lakes are there in the Lake District?’, the correct answer is ‘One’.

In my opinion, that fact alone is good enough reason to go stand up paddle boarding on Bassenthwaite Lake.

paddling in the lake district

To SUP at the north of Bassenthwaite, look out for two small parking areas on the B5291, just south of Ouse Bridge. Steps lead down onto the lake. Staying at this end of the lake might provide you with some protection on a windy day.

Alternatively, park up at the bottom of the lake in the layby on the A66. From here you can paddle across to the centuries-old Church of St Bega. A monument to a tenth-century Irish princess who fled her homeland to avoid an arranged marriage with a Viking warrior and settled here at Bassenthwaite.

You need a permit to paddle board on Bassenthwaite, for £7 per day, obtainable from the Lake District National Park website.

There are two small areas on Bassenthwaite that are designated as no boating zones, to protect their fragile ecosystems. These areas are shown on the webpage above.

5. Paddle Boarding on Wastwater in the Lake District

Buzz Aldrin, the second human to set foot on the moon, described the lunar landscape as ‘splendid desolation’. He could have been speaking about Wastwater. The southeastern shoreline anyway. Paddling past the rugged scree slopes, you might as well be on another planet. Maybe that is why Wastwater is my personal favourite place to go paddle boarding in the Lake District.

where to paddleboard in Lake District

There is a minor road running alongside the water on the northwest side, where you will see a few small parking areas. It’s a good idea to arrive as early as you can and please park considerately. You can easily access the water from here and paddle over to the Wastwater Screes opposite. Then turn right and paddle along the side of the lake until you reach the River Irt. Paddling a short distance downstream you will reach an open bay where you can play on the rope swing before returning to your starting point.

lake district paddle board

After your paddle on Wastwater, drive up to Wasdale Head and sample the delicious steak pie from Ritson’s Bar, at the Wasdale Head Inn.

6. Paddle Boarding on Grasmere in the Lake District

Whereas Wastwater is rugged, Grasmere is simply pretty. Grasmere is tiny and hard to access – you might be tempted to leave it off your list. But that would be a terrible mistake. You can often find shelter on Grasmere even when the rest of the area is being ravaged by wind.

lake district paddle board

There are two small car parking spaces on the A591 as it skirts past the lake. You might be lucky and get a spot. If not you’ll have to park at Rydal Water car park and take the long walk beside the River Rothey and down to a silver beach at the foot of the lake.

Feel the outside world fade away as you relax on this most beautiful body of water. Paddle around the island but be aware that it is privately owned and you are not allowed to land.

paddleboarding lake district

Before you leave the area, you must call into Grasmere village and enjoy some delicious gingerbread from Sarah Nelson’s renowned shop. Go on! You deserve it after burning all those calories carrying your board to the water’s edge.

7. Paddle Boarding on Derwentwater in the Lake District

Cumbria paddleboarding

Lying in the shadow of the famous Catbells, and with the busy tourist town of Keswick at one end, Derwentwater is a favourite lake for many paddlers. Kettlewell car park has direct water access, but is small and fills up quickly. I prefer to park at the Lakeside car park in Keswick and walk for two minutes to the beach at Crow Park.

where to go paddling in the lake district

With its many beautiful and sheltered bays, Derwentwater is ideally suited for a 13km paddle around the perimeter. But beware of the motorised launches that serve the active tourist industry here. As you travel around the outside edge, look out for the millennium stones. Clue: you will find them between Calf Close Bay and Broomhill Point.

You can hire SUP equipment from Derwentwater Marina.

8. Paddle Boarding on Loweswater in the Lake District

Loweswater is small, secluded, and sheltered. A perfect choice on a day when the rest of the Lake District is suffering from weather!

lake district paddleboard

At a little over half a km squared in area, Loweswater is tiny in comparison to its more famous neighbours and is the smallest of my ten Lake District lakes. But I do adore this little oasis of tranquillity. Hidden from the rest of the world by narrow roads and the surrounding fells, you might well find calm waters here most days of the year. You may as well paddle the full perimeter of this tiny gem, stopping to relax at one of the small beaches you will find on your journey.

I’ve whiled away many happy moments lying down on my board here on a sunny day and enjoying life in the moment.

paddleboarding loweswater

The best place to park is at the Loweswater National Trust car park. There is only enough room for a dozen cars here so I recommend arriving early (or late). The good news is that the parking is free, somewhat of a rarity in this part of the world. Beware of the cattle as you take a ten-minute walk through Watergate Farm to reach your launching point close to the farmhouse.

After paddle boarding on Loweswater, pop into the neighbouring Kirkstile Inn and enjoy homemade soup and a sandwich. It’s one of the best days out in the Lake District.

To paddle board on Crummock Water, Buttermere, or Loweswater, you require a permit from the National Trust at a cost of £5 per day. You can purchase one from the ticket machines at the National Trust car parks at Buttermere or Lanthwaite Wood. The machines accept coins only so be sure to bring a plentiful supply!

9. Paddle Boarding on Crummock Water in the Lake District

Crummock is beautiful at any time of year, but an autumn paddle, surrounded by the orangey browns of the nearby fells is my personal favourite. Crummock is less than an hour from the busy town of Keswick, yet it is deserted in comparison. You might meet a kayaker or a wild swimmer on Crummock Water. Perhaps you will see some fell runners panting away in the distance. But there is a good chance you will have this beautiful body of water all to yourself when you’re in the Lake District, paddle boarding.

paddleboarding lake district

There are a few parking spaces on the B5289 at the southeast end of the lake, with straightforward access down a small slope. From here, head right up to the top end of the lake. You may have to hug the eastern bank to hide from the wind. As you reach the top of Crummock you will hear and see a small weir.

To the right of the weir is a beach with some wooden benches where you can enjoy that picnic you brought with you, before heading back down the lake to your car. A very pleasant 8km round trip for paddleboarding in the Lake District.

paddle in lakes

To paddle board on Crummock Water, Buttermere, or Loweswater, you require a permit from the National Trust at a cost of £5.00 per day. You can purchase one from the ticket machines at the National Trust car parks at Buttermere or Lanthwaite Wood. The machines accept coins only so be sure to bring a plentiful supply!

10. Paddle Boarding on Buttermere in the Lake District

Buttermere is a personal favourite of mine. If you don’t mind a ten-minute walk to the water then I know you will love it too.

The best place to park is in Buttermere Village to the north of the lake, but you can also park at Gatesgarth Farm to the south. Either way, you will have to walk to the water. And either way, you will be glad you did. On a windy day, you will likely find more shelter at the north of the lake. If you are there in the summer months and paddling along the eastern shore, you might just spot an outdoor wedding taking place by the side of the lake.

day out on the lakes

At the top of the lake, look out for the famous lone tree of Buttermere, the Kim Kardashian of the Lake District, and star of so many social media posts. Make sure you take a photograph!

paddling in buttermere

To paddle board on Crummock Water, Buttermere, or Loweswater, you require a permit from the National Trust at a cost of £5 per day. You can purchase one from the ticket machines at the National Trust car parks at Buttermere or Lanthwaite Wood. The machines accept coins only so be sure to bring a plentiful supply!

Looking after the Lakes when paddle boarding

If you plan to paddle on more than one of our beautiful lakes here, it’s important that you thoroughly wash and dry your board and equipment after each lake to prevent the spread of non-native invasive species. Please do your part in protecting our environment when you’re paddle boarding in the Lake District.

Looking after yourself paddle boarding in the Lake District

Many of the bodies of water in the Lake District are deep and the water below the surface can be cold, even in summer. A jacket-style PFD could save your life in the event of cold water shock. Apart from that, the usual safety precautions for inland lakes:

  • Check the weather forecast before you go.
  • Don’t go out if the conditions are beyond your level of expertise.
  • Wear suitable clothing, including a change of clothes if appropriate.
  • Tell someone where you’re going.
  • Take a fully charged mobile phone inside a waterproof case.
  • Consider paddling with a friend.
  • Remember that weather conditions can change in an instant.
  • Wear a suitable leash.
  • Make sure your equipment is in good order and that your board is properly inflated.
  • Give a wide berth to any powered craft you might encounter.
  • Look out for open water swimmers, they may not be able to see you.

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