The UK is home to many beautiful lakes, lochs, and reservoirs. In fact, according to recent research, there are more than 40,000 lakes across the UK and around 390 of these are larger than five hectares – that’s the equivalent of about 12.5 football fields!
Looking out across a vast lake can be a wonderful way to escape the busyness of everyday life. Whether you’re seeking adventure, activity, or a place to connect with nature, many lakes offer everything from inspiring walking routes to unique wildlife hubs and watersports – so there’s usually something to interest everyone.
With that said, here are 12 of the most beautiful lakes to visit in the UK.
1. Loch Lomond, Stirling
In Scotland, lakes are called lochs. And Loch Lomond in The Trossachs National Park is one of Scotland’s most beautiful and tranquil.
Containing around 30 islands (some of which form a Special Area of Conservation), the loch is home to an abundance of wildlife, including otters, golden eagles, and black grouse. Plus, there’s a birds of prey centre on site, which is a haven for nature lovers.
Despite its peaceful outlook, Loch Lomond is known as one of the best UK destinations to enjoy watersports like water skiing, kayaking, and jet skiing – so there’s plenty of opportunity for a thrill.
There are also mountains, glens, cycle paths, waterfalls, and forest trails to explore; as well as boat tours, segway safaris, and a high-ropes course. You certainly won’t run out of things to do here!
For more ideas on how to make the most of this Scottish jewel, check out our article; 6 things to do in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
2. Rutland Water, Leicestershire
With the aim of bringing people together, Rutland Water – the UK’s largest manmade lake – was created during the 1970s.
Whether you’re seeking outdoorsy-fun or a relaxing break, Rutland Water has it all. There are many different walking and cycling trails, watersports, fishing, and even an aqua park to enjoy.
Though, among its many offerings, Rutland Water is arguably most famous for its spectacular wildlife. In fact, it’s such a highlight here that Rutland’s 1,000-acre nature reserve was designated before the reservoir had even been built!
Home to the Rutland Water Osprey Project, Rutland Water is an incredible place for birdwatching – and otters are often spotted too! To fully immerse yourself, why not join one of Rutland’s wildlife tours? You’ll find a full events calendar on the Rutland Water Nature Reserve website.
3. Lake Windermere, Cumbria
Ten and a half miles long and around 200ft deep, Lake Windermere is England’s largest lake and arguably the Lake District’s most famous sight.
Lake Windermere is one of the prime destinations for watersports in the Lake District and there are lake cruises available for a scenic tour – including buffet and evening cruises during the summer months.
There are a number of local viewpoints that offer breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Windermere and more distant mountains. Many of these can be reached by walking through enchanting woodland paths and meadows, and over flowing streams.
Windermere is also the name of a small town, which sits just over a mile from the lake shore. It’s been a magnet for visitors since Victorians times and is a joy to visit.
4. Lough Erne, County Fermanagh
The Fermanagh Lakelands is the second largest lake system in Northern Ireland that comprises a vast network of over 150 islands.
Lough Erne is the twinkling centrepiece of the area and is technically made up of two connected lakes: the Lower and Upper Lough. These are joined together by the River Erne.
The Lough Erne area is known for being mythological, and there are popular tales of warrior queen Meabh, various high kings, and even giants visiting.
Any foodies will want to check out the Lakelander Food Experience. And The Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail – nicknamed ‘the stairway to heaven’ – is well-worth the climb for spectacular views over the County Fermanagh countryside.
Nearby, you can also venture underground for a unique experience in the Marble Arch Caves. A subterranean world of stalagmites, stalactites, and dark recesses that formed over 340 million years ago, you won’t have seen anything like this before!
5. Kielder Water, Northumberland
Home to northern Europe’s largest man-made lake and England’s largest forest, Kielder Water and Forest Park is one of Northumberland’s greatest attractions.
The lake was built between 1975 and 1981 and is a haven for nature lovers and explorers alike.
Kielder Water and Forest Park has miles of beautiful walking trails suitable for all abilities, as well as more off-the-beaten track mountain bike routes. One of the most popular trails, Lakeside Way, encircles the lake’s shimmering shoreline and is multi-use – so walkers, cyclists, horseback riders, and wheelchair users can all enjoy it.
There are several geocaches dotted around the park too if you fancy going on a treasure hunt – as well as a Dark Sky Park for an unforgettable night of stargazing.
Kielder Water and Forest Park is also an ideal base for exploring the rest of Northumberland, Cumbria, Hadrian’s Wall Country, and the Scottish Borders, for those wishing to explore further afield.
6. Llyn Idwal, Conwy
Llyn Idwal is a small glacial lake supplied by the freshwater that flows from the Glyderau mountains of Snowdonia (Eryri) National Park.
Significantly smaller and much more low-key than many of the lakes on this list, Llyn Idwal isn’t necessarily the place to go if you’re looking for an activity-packed itinerary.
Rather, as the oldest National Nature Reserve in Wales, Llyn Idwal’s crystal clear waters, dramatic scenery, and surrounding world-famous rock formations make it the ideal destination for a peaceful escape.
Geologists, walkers, and rock climbers in particular are drawn here – as well as plant-enthusiasts, due to the variety of rare Arctic-alpine plants.
7. Loe Pool, Cornwall
Loe Pool is the largest natural freshwater lake in Cornwall – and possibly the most beautiful and picturesque nature reserve in the south west.
Situated not too far along the coastline from Porthleven, Loe Pool is a hotspot for walkers and nature lovers. Tout, wild birds, and even otters are commonly spotted here.
Loe Pool’s various myths and legends also offer intrigue. Over the years, it’s been fantasised as the location of buried treasure, dragons, and even the famous sword of King Arthur.
However, while extremely inviting, visitors are warned against swimming in Loe Pool. Due to the long, thick weeds that grow in its depths, it’s officially deemed too dangerous for a dip.
8. Loch Shiel, Fort William
Only accessible by boat, Loch Shiel is the-fourth largest loch in Scotland and one of the country’s most inspiring and unspoiled natural treasures.
Loch Shiel was carved out by retreating glaciers over successive ice ages – and since then, it’s thought to have hardly changed. Supposedly J.K Rowling’s inspiration for the fictional Black Lake near Hogwarts School in Harry Potter, it’s difficult not to feel inspired by this vast 18-mile stretch of water.
The loch is also home to a diverse bird population, including golden eagles, kestrels, falcons, and throated divers, and has been made a designated Special Protection Area. So, if you’re interested in birdwatching, this is the place to go.
The surrounding mountains are ideal for hiking, and during the summer months there are boat tours of the loch too.
9. Wimbleball Lake, Somerset
Surrounded by rolling hills and beautiful countryside, Wimbleball Lake is a hub of colour in the south-east corner of Exmoor National Park.
Home to beautiful and diverse wildlife, keep your eyes peeled for wildfowl, hedgehogs, weasels – and if you’re particularly lucky – the iconic Exmoor red deer.
The vast 530-acre site of Wimbleball Lake has something to offer everyone. There are various walking and cycling trails; watersports like kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and sailing; as well as non-water based activities, such as archery and a high ropes course.
Exmoor National Park is also Europe’s very first designated International Dark Sky Reserve – and Wimbleball itself is a Dark Sky Discovery site. For this reason, you might like to consider giving stargazing a go – perhaps staying overnight at Wimbleball’s campsite for the full experience.
10. Carsington Water, Derbyshire
Fed by the River Derwent, Carsington Water sits in the south-east region of the Peak District in Derbyshire and is the ninth largest reservoir in England.
With over 12km of traffic free trails, it’s an ideal place to walk, run, cycle, or horse ride. Cycling around the resevoir’s eight-mile perimeter is a particularly popular activity.
Watersports like paddleboarding, kayaking, and row boat hire are also available; and there are plenty of picnic spots and cafes overlooking the water if you’d prefer to relax.
Look out for some of the bees, butterflies, insects, and 200 species of birds that Carsington is home to in the surrounding wildflower meadows, ponds, woodlands, and reedbeds.
11. Loch Ness, Inverness
Scotland’s magnificent Loch Ness is, by depth, the UK’s largest lake – containing more water than all of the lakes of England and Wales combined.
This corner of the Scottish Highlands is renowned for its dramatic landscape, nearby castles, and excellent adventure sports – including canoeing and kayaking.
Famously, Loch Ness is steeped in mystery – with over 1,000 sightings, eye witness accounts, and unexplained evidence of a sea creature, known locally as Nessie. During your visit, why not take a boat trip or special ‘Nessie cruise’ to see for yourself?
If you’d like to stay over and wake up to Loch Ness’ stunning scenery, there are plenty of accommodation options, including quaint loch-side cottages and welcoming B&Bs.
12. Bala Lake, Gwynedd
Also known as Llyn Tegid, Bala Lake is the largest natural body of water in Wales and one of Snowdonia’s most popular attractions.
The lake is cloaked in tales of mythology and is known by some as the home of the Loch Ness monster’s Welsh companion, ‘Teggie’. However, Teggie is yet to scare off visitors, since Bala Lake remains a top spot for walking, swimming, and a choice of watersports.
The popular Bala Lake Railway will take you on a nine-mile return journey through the magnificent scenery of Snowdonia National Park. And nearby is the historic market town of Bala. Surrounded by the high mountains, fast-flowing rivers, deep valleys, vast waterfalls, and the forest of Penllyn – Bala is a region known for its vibrant Welsh culture.
There’s something about standing on the edge of a vast lake, taking in the natural scenery that’s incredibly inspiring.
Whether you decide to hike, cycle, stargaze, search for wildlife, or even stay overnight, the UK is home to many beautiful lakes that are well worth exploring.
For further reading on some of the best the UK has to offer, check out our articles; 22 inspiring places to visit in the UK, 16 of the best woodlands and forests to visit in the UK, and 6 of the best UK road trips. Alternatively, head over to the travel section of our website where you’ll find more UK travel inspiration, as well as European and long-haul travel experiences.