A guide to the Lake District

A guide to the Lake District's most magical lakes

Kate W 14 January 2019

The beauty of the Lake District is world-renowned, and it will come as no surprise that its glittering lakes and sky-high fells have sparked myths, caused legends to unfold, and inspired many writers and artists for decades. If you’re looking for a purely scenic escape, take a peek at our 10 most Instagrammable spots in the Lake District, or if you’re searching for activity and adventure in the Lakes then this is the guide for you. For magical escapes, read on…

Despite the plethora of mystical places throughout the region, we’ve narrowed this list down to a top five of the most magical Lake District lakes that you could visit. Each body of water below has made our selection for a different reason, whether that’s the phenomenal legends that have grown up around it or the sheer beauty of the place. If you are travelling to Cumbria and want to do something special, any one of these destinations would provide the opportunity for a wonderful getaway.

Which of these lakes would you like to visit? Peruse the beautiful bodies of water and let us know which is your favourite.

Ullswater: The resting place of the legendary King Arthur’s Excalibur


A few different lakes throughout England are believed to be the place where King Arthur was handed Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake, but Ullswater perhaps has the best claim due to the Lake District’s historical importance. As Hadrian’s Wall attests, this was an area where many battles were fought and so it would make sense for Arthur to have retrieved Excalibur from one of the area’s famous Lakes before fighting the battle of Bedegraine.

Legend tells that one of the knights of the round table, Sir Tristram, is buried at Tristamont beside this lake. If you visit this legendary lake, be sure to walk up to the crashing waters of Aira Force, a waterfall owned by the National Trust.

Grasmere: Wordsworth's favourite place


A magical spot enclosed on all sides by fells and an important place for Wordsworth who settled here, calling it 'the loveliest spot that man hath found’, Grasmere is a scenic escape in the fells of the Lake District, drawing poets and writers from all over looking to follow in the footsteps of the great Romantic poet.

Wordsworth's home, Dove Cottage, is open to the public so if you ever make it to this breathtaking valley, stop by to investigate Wordsworth's life and read extracts of his poetry which will no doubt make you fall even more in love with this beautiful region.

Rydal Water: Swim in this tiny lake

Rydal Water

One of the smallest but prettiest lakes in the Lake District at 3/4 mile long, 1/4 mile wide and 55 feet deep, Rydal Water deserves your time. It’s one of Cumbria’s best-kept secrets and another of Wordsworth’s favourites places, follow the beautiful trail that skirts the lake.

But the real reason to come here is for the wild swimming. Brace yourself and delve into the cool waters for a swim in an unforgettable location. Or if you would prefer a quieter activity, step into the shallows for a paddle and watch the ripples distort the crystal-clear reflections of your surroundings on the surface of the lake. While here, you could also step inside the beautiful Rydal Cave.

Bassenthwaite Lake: Place of the elves

Bassenthwaite Lake

Bassenthwaite is perhaps the most mysterious on our list. Reputedly the home of magical creatures, this lake lays claim to two secret fairy sites. The first is Castle How Fort, an Iron Age hillfort where there have apparently been unusual sightings, and the second is the Elva Hill on the banks of the lake. The name, Elva Hill, could have been derived from the Viking’s to mean home of the Elves and it is said to hide a gateway to the Otherworld.

For a fairy tour of the fells, visit the old Roman road that is Harknott Pass, Fairy Rock on the coast at Saltom and Fairy Steps in the village of Beetham.

Windermere: Home of Nessie’s long-lost cousin and the Tizzie-Whizzies


The largest body of water in the Lake District, Windermere, has two magical mysteries associated with it; that of Bownessie also known as the Beast of the Lake District, and that of the Tizzie-Whizzies.

Bownessie is a mythical creature, said to resemble Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, that lives in the depths of Windermere. Over the years there have been several sightings but, like Nessie, no one has yet taken a clear shot of the creature.

Meanwhile, the Tizzie Whizzie is a peculiar and unique creature, said to have the body of a hedgehog, wings of a dragonfly, antennae of a bee, and a fluffy squirrel tail. It seems the legend of these creatures were made up by boatmen looking to earn a living from tourists, yet people in the area still claim to hear the unique squeaking sound made by these creatures. If you ever visit Windermere, keep an eye out to see if you can spot anything unusual in the water.

Magic and myth in the Lake District

Mystical Aira Force

Which of these Lake District lakes do you consider to be the most magical? Let us know!

There is so much to see and do throughout this beautiful region, you will be spoilt for choice. Take the time to visit each magical lake on this list during a getaway to Cumbria or create your own exciting itinerary with a variety of trips. Read through our Lake District guides for more ideas - you’ll find posts on everything from arts and culture and fine dining to activity and adventure ideas for your holiday.

Inspired to take a trip to this unforgettable region? Peruse our collection of Lake District cottages, holiday homes and Cumbrian getaways. 

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.

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