A Britain of Lakes, Lochs, Loughs And Tarns

Tuesday 19 May 2020

As I travel through Britain on many a hike or climb it can be very hard to not come across a body of water in some shape or form. Why even a National Park, the Lake District is named from bodies of water. That being said only one lake there is called lake by name (Bassenthwaite Lake), all the rest named mere, water, tarn and reservoir etc.

Bassenthwaite Lake by morebyless

I get asked a lot what the difference is, and although for the pedants etc I could write here an encyclopedia explaining there is the shorter more simple answer: Lake - A body of water that is enclosed inland except for maybe a river in/out. Lough/Loch (Irish/Scottish for lake respectively) - As above but can also be a sea inlet a la the Norwegian Fjords. Llyn - Welsh for lake Tarn - Seen on many a mountain or fell up towards summits. These are ponds/small lakes left behind when the glaciers melted and disappeared. Mere - A lake that is shallow compared to its relative size. What can be said though is that they contribute to the beauty and majestic views throughout the United Kingdom. A great walk around a lakes edge, the mountains, hills behind reflecting on the water, has captured many a nature seeker. Below are a few unique examples to tempt new excursions. Seek everywhere and find the water.

Loch Lomond

Photo by Mike

Every time I venture North into Scotland and have passed through Glasgow I look forward to hitting the banks of Loch Lomond. Great Britain's largest lake by area. 24 miles long, in parts 5 miles wide. In all weathers it is an unbelievable vast sight. Popular for visitors and accessible to many. It is one of those 'must visits' of Scotland.

Loch Ness

Photo by Dave Connor

Loch Ness - Scotland, the largest body of water in the UK.... by volume. A beautiful Loch situated in the Highlands. A wonderful retreat for escapism and nature. Made even more famous due to the Nessie Monster sightings of course. At 21.8 sq miles, 23 miles long and with a depth of about 230 m (755 ft) the water volume is almost twice as much as all the rest of lakes in England, Scotland and Wales put together!


Photo by Mark Kent

Heading down to The Lake District now and Windermere, England's largest lake. Popular? I should say so. Visitors to the Lake District can escape to the mountains and smaller more remote lakes but many also find the time to drop by the shores here. It has inspired a lot too. Arthur Ransome loosely based the book Swallows and Amazons on this body of water amongst others. Beatrix Potter famously bought a farm close by basing many of the classic stories and characters on life there. An attraction you can visit there called The World Of Beatrix Potter allows you to escape into the tales with the countryside.


Photo by Andrew Hayward

A favourite place of mine. England's deepest lake, nestled in Wasdale and surrounded by some of the larger and iconic mountains. See previous seperate post here.

Rutland Water

Photo by Duncan Harris

Rutland Water, England's largest reservoir at nearly 5 square miles. It is also one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe. It provides to the water needs of the most densely populous and driest part of Britain down to the South East and Anglia. However, to visit it you get away from all the hustle and bustle. man made or not the nature and charm is there. As the water drains and fills the banks are teaming with wildlife and birds. Surrounding there are many protected woods. Around the water there is a 25 mile track that has been made perfect for bike hire or a long walk.

Lake Bala

Photo by Emma Websdale

Wales, a truly gorgeous country. The largest body of water there being Lake Bala or in Welsh - Llyn Tegid. Situated in Gwynedd it is known for having deep and clear waters. Of course the first thing I would do is take in and marvel whilst walking the 14 miles around the shores. But there is so much more adventure to be had too. Climbing, mountain biking, abseiling, canoeing, kayaking and of course many a hill walk to name a few things. Explore.

Lough Neagh

Photo by Bobby McKay

Now then time for a biggie. The largest lake in the British Isles cannot be missed on any map. Lough Neagh sits to the East of Belfast in Northern Ireland. Its size is 151 square miles (383 square kilometres). That being said the average mean depth of it is only 9 metres. Full of legends and most certainly full of fantastic scenery. Wildlife in abundance, a calmness away from the towns, tranquility beyond imagination. Due to the size you van imagine there are a tremendous amount of nature trails and walks. Or even canoeing on the water itself. Cycling, sailing, angling all catered for.

If you would like to see more of Paul Steele's ramblings both in Britain and around the world you can follow him on Twitter @paul_steele, his Blog BaldHiker, and Huffington Post.

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