Affiliate Disclosure: We are reader-supported. We may earn a small commission from affiliate links at no extra cost to you. All of our reviews are independently conducted.
The appeal of kayaking in the Lake District is obvious. Think of hot summer days with endless lakes to paddle, hidden shores to find and little islands to explore, all under the shadow of the beautiful Lakeland Fells. For anyone who loves kayaking, the Lake District must be high on the list of places to visit.
But it’s not always obvious which lakes you are permitted to kayak on, and where you can access the water. So in this post, we’re going to attempt to clear that up and give you all the information you need to go kayaking in the Lake District.
Kayaking in the Lake District
Kayaking on Windermere
At over 10 miles long, Windermere is the largest lake in the Lake District and it is arguably the most well-known. Although all of the Lake District is popular with tourists, it’s Windermere that is the most visited and the lake can be very busy with boats of almost every description throughout the summer months.
As an introduction to kayaking in the Lake District, Windermere could be a great choice. There are plenty of places to access the water and there are even kayak hire facilities on the shore, near both Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside.
You do not need a permit or license to kayak on Windermere.
Kayaking on Coniston Water
Coniston Water is another lake that you don’t need a permit to paddle on, and this one is a personal favourite due to the small islands you can explore.
If you read Swallows and Amazons as a child, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I mention Wild Cat Island.
Arthur Ransome’s fictional island was actually based on his childhood memories of Peel Island, a small island near the eastern side of the lake. It’s a popular spot with kayakers and paddle boarders, but if you pick the right time you can have Wild Cat Island all to yourself and relive your childhood adventures.
At five miles long, Coniston is one of the larger lakes and there is plenty to explore, but much of the shoreline is privately owned and you will need to use the map linked below to find the access points.
Kayaking on Derwent Water
Derwent Water is another popular spot with kayakers and paddleboarders. Surrounded by the stunning fells of Skiddaw and Cat Bells, Derwent Water is around three miles long and roughly one mile at the widest point.
Through the warmer months, from April to October, there are great hire facilities at the Derwent Water Marina, and the lake is generally fairly busy with boaters enjoying the incredible views.
There are several islands on Derwent Water but some of these are privately owned. The map linked below details where you can and can’t access.
Kayaking on Ullswater
Ullswater is another stunning place to go kayaking in the Lake District and this one is on my list to visit this summer.
I recently walked the 20-mile Ullswater Way and spent much of that time looking down on the lake from the hills, daydreaming about how great it would be to paddle around.
You don’t need a permit to kayak on Ullswater, and there are plenty of places to launch with parking nearby, making this a popular spot for kayaking and paddle boarding.
Kayaking on Grasmere
Grasmere is one of the smallest lakes for kayaking in the Lake District but it’s a popular spot and you can hire kayaks here.
At just over a mile long, it won’t take you long to explore. There’s a small island on Grasmere but it is privately owned and landing there is not permitted.
Kayaking on Wastwater
The beautiful Wastwater is the deepest lake in England at 260 feet deep. It’s surrounded by stunning mountains and offers fantastic views up to Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.
You don’t need a permit to kayak on Wastwater and as this lake feels a little bit more secluded and remote, it’s a great experience, paddling in the shadow of the imposing mountains.
Wastwater is definitely one for the bucket list if you like your kayak trips to feel like they are out in the wilderness.
Kayaking on Buttermere
Buttermere is another beautiful place to go kayaking in the Lake District. With spectacular views over the surrounding fells, Buttermere is a much quieter place to go kayaking and you can often find yourself being the only person in the water.
Buttermere is owned by the National Trust and a permit is required for kayaking here. The permits cost £5 per kayak, per day and can be purchased in the car parks.
Kayaking on Crummock Water
Similar to Buttermere, Crummock Water is owned by the National Trust and permits to kayak on the lake cost £5 for the day.
Crummock Water and Buttermere were once one lake before erosion of the surrounding fells divided the lake into the two smaller lakes we see today.
If you’re looking for a peaceful spot to go kayaking, with epic views, Crummock Water is a great option.
Kayaking on Ennerdale
Ennerdale is the most westerly lake in the Lake District and it can feel quite remote and untouched. It’s a great place to go kayaking in the Lake District if you like to have the place to yourself.
You don’t need a permit to kayak on Ennerdale unless you are in a group of more than five, or you are a commercial activity provider.
The lake is surrounded by some of the highest fells in the Lake District, such as Great Gable and High Crag, meaning, of course, that there are spectacular views as you paddle out to the centre of the lake.
Make it a Weekend Adventure
There is simply too much to see and do in the Lake District to visit just for one day, so why not make it a weekend adventure and book a nearby hotel.