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Three stunning Lake District waterfalls perfect for wild swimming

Three stunning Lake District waterfalls perfect for wild swimming

The Lake District is home to more wild swimming spots than you could ever count (probably) and is a waterfall lover’s dream. With deep and narrow canyons, cascading waterfalls plunging into pools of emerald water and meandering rivers and lakes, the Lake District really is the perfect place to hunt out your next wild swimming spot. These three waterfall spots are well-known, visited regularly and are probably ones you’ve seen photos of before but with good reason; they’re all easy to access and offer the opportunity to plunge into the icy water while enjoying a breathtaking Lakeland view at the same time.

Exploring these beautiful and popular locations is well worth your time and effort but unfortunately, an influx of visitors has seen some of these natural beauties left in a state of disregard with rubbish, drinks bottles and cans strewn around the area. As a fellow lover of the great outdoors, it’s important now more than ever that we make sure we leave these beauty spots clean, free of rubbish and safe for the next people to enjoy

Whorneyside Force

Beneath the shadow of Crinkle Crags, this secluded waterfall casts a watchful gaze over the spectacular Langdale Valley which is known for some of the most beautiful Lake District scenery. The waterfall cascades down into a large and crystal clear pool, drawing in sweaty hikers and keen wild dippers with the promise of a refreshing dunk. As you walk along the valley floor, you would have no idea of the hidden waterfall and it’s only once you get closer that you get your first glimpse of the water tumbling down the mountain.

Walk distance: 8km/5 miles

Estimated time: Around 2 hours (not including swimming time)

Starting location: National Trust car park at Stickle Ghyll (LA22 9JU). Additional parking slightly further up the road at Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

Click here for the interactive route on Komoot.

Click here for the route on OS maps.

Difficulty: Intermediate - Good fitness required, well-maintained but stony paths, suitable for all skill levels, uphill section towards waterfall is short.

Dog friendly: Yes if fit and healthy and used to uphill walks on uneven ground.

Whorneyside Force- The Direct Route

Whorneyside Force can easily be tied in with circular routes or longer hiking days if you wish but this is the shortest and quickest way to get there.

Starting from the National Trust car park at Stickle Ghyll, head out towards the road and follow a westerly direction alongside the road through the fields. As you near the end of the road, a tarmac path leads out in front of you towards Stool End Farm. I absolutely adore the breathtaking scenery along this section; from the untouched natural beauty to the surrounding mountains that thrust themselves out from beneath your feet on both sides of you, it’s hard not to live in the moment and be in awe of these giants. Be sure to look to your right to see the iconic dome of Pike O’Stickle with its hidden secret cave! More on that another day…

As you pass through the farmyard (this is correct, believe me!) and through the gate follow the path straight towards the river where you want to stick to the right hand side on the stony path. Pass the wooden bridge on your left and eventually the path will change to a well-trodden grassy oath which will start to head up a gradual incline. Keeping the river to your left you will eventually reach another bridge crossing the river.

Follow this then turn immediately right. From here, you can just make out the rush of water from Whorneyside Force.

The path from this second wooden bridge, follows the stream uphill and is a slightly eroded and well-used path. The path is easy to follow but can be slippery in some wetter weather so more care and attention is needed here than on the walk in. After a short few minutes of uphill walking Whorneyside Force will appear in full view in front of you.

After a dry weather spell, the water will trickle over the rocks into the shimmering, crystal-clear pool. Fortunately, the pool is deep enough to swim in even if there has been a lack of recent rain. In wetter weather, the waterfall turns into a raging torrent that I would definitely avoid swimming in. Entry into the water is simple and there are numerous entry points involving clambering over a few rocks before sliding into that icy cold water.


Sour Milk Gill

It’s a good job that what this waterfall lacks in its name, it definitely makes up for it in its offering as a not to be missed wild swimming spot. Getting its name from the swirling, white water, Sour Milk Gill is located on the beck which flows down from Easedale Tarn, a scenic glacier formed lake that sits in the centre of the Lake District. The waterfall on the way up to the tarn is a true gem and the water can be surprisingly warm as it faces the sunshine for much of the day. The emerald colour pool is deep enough for a few swim strokes but the location is so stunning that when we visited we spent a couple of hours dipping in and out of the pool and snacking on our picnic. The views looking up to the waterfall and back down the valley to the fells are superb making this an idyllic dipping spot.

Walk distance: 4.6km/2.9miles

Estimated time: 1.5 hours (not including swimming time)

Starting location: The Lancrigg car park (LA22 9QN)

Click here for the interactive route on Komoot.

Click here for the route on OS maps.

Cost of parking:  £6 for all day which can be redeemed against hot drinks in the cafe.

Difficulty: Easy -  easily accessible and well maintained paths, mostly flat until heading up towards the waterfall.

Dog friendly: Yes if fit and healthy and used to uphill walks on uneven ground.

Sour Milk Gill- Direct Route

Starting from The Lancrigg (a great little place to stop after your hike, sit in the gardens and enjoy some good food and a cuppa), head down through the garden to join up with a path that will take you down towards Easedale Road and the river. Before the road curves around to the left, you cross the river over a little bridge. The trail from here is flat and follows the little stream on your right-hand side and through a wooded area before opening up into farmland.

The track here is obvious and it gradually leads uphill; you’ll be able to see the huge waterfall in view in front of you.

Eventually the path joins the base of the waterfall and you have two options. Either cross the river over the footbridge and walk up the grassy bank alongside the waterfalls or just stay on the maintained track. Both will take you up to the swimming spot so it’s really up to you which way you choose. After climbing the track, eventually you’ll reach the swimming hole where you’ll find easy access and lots of places to sit and dry off afterwards. If you want a bigger swim, then Easedale Tarn isn’t too much further up the path.


The Thirlmere Infinity Pool

Next time you’re scrolling through social media and seeing video after video of luxurious Bali infinity pools remember that we have more than a few of our own right here in the Lake District! It might not be as warm or luscious but it’s definitely more interesting saying you’ve dipped in a mountain side infinity pool. I visited here on a wet, moody and misty day and the atmosphere created by the low hanging clouds was spectacular. The pool itself is relatively small with enough space for a couple of strokes so it’s definitely more of a lounging around in the water, admiring the view type pool. The waterfall at the edge of the pool tumbles down into another pool below and sitting at the end of the drop is a special experience you don’t want to miss out on.

Top tip: This is a VERY popular and VERY busy spot. Our visit at 9am on a rainy Saturday morning turned out to be a popular place and we shared it with 6 other people. It’s probably a good one to leave for a week day out of school holidays in some iffy weather if you want any chance of experiencing it peacefully.

Walk distance: 3km/1.9mile  round trip

Estimated time: 45 minutes each way, not including swimming time

Starting location: small free parking area at the north side of Thirlmere Reservoir where the A591 from Keswick  meets the B5322 at Back Lane. Find the Google Maps pin here.

Click here for the interactive route on Komoot.

Click here for the route on OS maps.

Cost of parking: free in roadside parking area

Difficulty:  Intermediate - the route starts off with a gradual uphill before flattening out along a rocky and uneven path. The path up to the waterfall is steep and very slippery in wet weather. The rocks to get down to the infinity pool are slippery too so caution is needed.

Dog friendly: Yes if fit and healthy and used to uphill walks on uneven ground.

There are many routes up to the Thirlmere infinity pool but this route is direct from the free parking area. After leaving the parking area, head up Stanah Lane towards some farm building where you’ll see a gate you want to go through. Once through the gate, turn right and follow the path alongside the stone wall and through the bracken (depending on the time of year you’re visiting).

All you have to do is keep following this path towards Thirlmere reservoir and eventually you’ll reach a wooden footbridge that crosses over Fisherplace Gill - the location of the infinity pool you’re heading to. After crossing the footbridge, turn left and head straight up the hillside using the path that has been carved out by many, many adventurous souls. This part of the walk is steep and very slippery in wet weather but it’s short lived and within 5 minutes you’ll be at the Lake District’s version of that Bali infinity pool. 

Upon reaching the infinity pool, head down to the rocks at the back and cross over to the other side as this is where the easiest entry is. Be sure to enjoy the moment here; the views, even though down to the main road, are beautiful down the valley and it’s easy to get wrapped up in getting photos rather than just enjoying the moment.

For more UK outdoor adventures, wild swimming, hiking routes and more, check my other blog posts here on MY URBAN TRAIL and follow me @Wild_0utdoors on Instagram.

Happy adventuring!

Izzy x