9 Lake District Waterfalls to visit during your Lakeland Retreat

While the Lake District can’t boast anything on the scale of Niagra Falls (the highest is Scale Force, near Buttermere, which has a drop of around 170 feet), we do have our fair share of impressive waterfalls – or forces, as they’re known here – that offer adventurous walks to reach, awe-inspiring views when you get there and, in some cases, magical plunge pools for a refreshing wild swim.

Home > Lake District Guide > 9 Lake District Waterfalls to visit during your Lakeland Retreat

Can you feel the force? 

We’ve rounded up a few of our favourites – a mixture of the well-known and not-so-well-known – to visit while you’re in our beautiful county. If you need a place to stay while you’re here, the perfect retreat is only a few clicks away.

The best-wet weather walks

And remember, waterfalls are usually at their roaring best after rainfall – and we do tend to get quite a lot of that up here. Lucky us. So, whatever the weather, let’s head out and explore our 9 Favourite Waterfalls in the Lake District – if it’s sunny, don’t forget your swimmers!…

1.  Aira Force

When you’re standing on the stone footbridge looking down at the cascading torrent of Aira Force, you’ll be following in the footsteps of thousands of others, as this is the most-visited waterfall in the Lake District. And with good reason.

Located in National Trust-owned Gowbarrow Park, near Ullswater, the dramatically beautiful drop (around 70 feet) has inspired Wordsworth to wax lyrical in several poems, and is surrounded by glorious woodland.

There are several trails up to the force, but the easiest and best-maintained starts at the main Aira Force car park.

Can I swim at Aira Force?

Not at the bottom of Aira Force, but if you venture higher, to the High Cascades, there are several swimming holes you can take a dip in.

Make sure you go well prepared (it will be cold in the water) and not after heavy rain when the water will be foamier and murkier and the currents stronger.

2. Forces Falls

Home to a number of high falls and deep pools, commonly known as Forces Falls, in the secluded Swindale valley near Haweswater is one of the lesser-visited valleys in the Lakes. But, if you do make the effort to get there, you’ll be rewarded with a series of beautiful waterfalls in a peaceful setting along Mosedale Beck. 

If you’re lucky, you may even have them all to yourself.

Can I swim at Forces Falls?

Definitely – there’s a mixture of shallow pools for paddling, and deeper pools you can take a proper plunge in.

3. Stock Ghyll Force

Just a short stroll from the centre of Ambleside, and an easy climb up through the woods, the spectacular 70-foot double-drop Stock Ghyll Force cascades in a V shape back down the hill towards the village, flowing under the famous Bridge House.

There are several railed viewing points along the route, to the top that make perfect stops for a few pictures. Harking back to Cumbria’s industrial past, the crashing falls used to power 12 local watermills – you can still see the remains of some of the buildings.

Can I swim at Stock Ghyll Force?

Unfortunately not – there is no access to the base of the falls and Ghyll Scrambling is no longer allowed due to conservation efforts attempting to maintain the ecosystem of the river.

4. Whorneyside Force

Dropping around 70 feet into a crystal-clear round pool – perfect for cooling off in after the hike up, Whorneyside Force can be found in the shadow of Crinkle Crags in the breathtakingly beautiful Great Langdale Valley.

Located about 3km from The ODG (Old Dungeon Ghyll) there’s the nearby Stickle Ghyll Car Park, a moderate walk takes you to one of our favourite spots – just don’t tell everyone!

Can I swim at Whorneyside Force?

Yes – it’s a perfect spot for a wild dip. The emerald green water is not too deep and the views of the waterfall and the surrounding countryside are a sight to behold.

5. Rydal Falls

When you’re sitting on the window seat at Rydal Grot – a simple stone viewing hut built in 1668 – and looking out at the falls cascading into the pool below, you’ll feel like you’re in a magical fairy tale. 

You can find this gorgeous woodland spot, which has inspired Wordsworth to poetry and John Constable to whip out brush and canvas, in the grounds of Rydal Hall near Ambleside – and it’s free to visit too.

Can I swim at Rydal Falls?

For environmental reasons, you’re not allowed to swim in the pool here.

6.  Scale Force

When you’re gazing at the glorious Scale Force tumbling into the narrow moss-lined chasm below, it’s hard to imagine you’re still in the UK. The highest waterfall in the Lake District, with a drop of around 170 feet, this dramatic torrent is hidden away in a tree-lined gorge near Crummock Water.

You can park at Buttermere and then it’s a mostly flat walk with a climb at the end and a rocky scramble to the upper part of the falls (where you’ll get the best views) – just over two and a half miles in all. Believe us – it’s well worth the effort.

Can I swim at Scale Force?

You can, but the water in the small pool at the base is icy cold all year round so it’s not for the fainthearted. 

That being said, the view looking up at the falls and the cliff walls is so otherworldly, the shivers and goosebumps are a small price to pay.

7. Galleny Force

Close to Stonethwaite in beautiful Borrowdale, in an ancient wooded gorge, with shallow, crystal clear plunge pools fed by small cascades, you’ll find a area known as Fairy Glen. 

As its name suggests, it’s a dreamy spot for the whole family to swim, relax and take in the beautiful scenery. Take a picnic as you may find it hard to tear yourself away in the warmer months.

Can I swim at Galleny Force?

Yes – there are several pools to take the plunge in, but they’re best avoided after heavy rainfall due to the strong currents.

8. Stanley Ghyll Force

Hidden away among sheer rock faces and tropical-looking foliage, pretty-as-a-picture Stanley Force in Dalegarth, near Eskdale, is an eye-catching sight – no wonder it’s one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Lake District. 

Tumbling 20 metres into a deep plunge pool, you can get breathtaking views of the falls and the surrounding landscape from the newly-built viewing platform, which extends five metres out over Stanley Ghyll.

Can I swim at Stanley Ghyll Force?

It’s not recommended at the moment because of the danger of falling rocks from the cliffs.

9. Ritson’s Force

It’s easy to get to Ritson’s Force – named for tall-tale teller and first landlord of the Wasdale Head Inn, Will Ritson

The trail starts behind the inn, and a short, picturesque walk later, you arrive at a number of small and inviting plunge pools and the attractive cascades that make up Ritson’s Force. And when you’re done, you can walk back to the pub and get the beers in.

Can I swim at Ritson’s Force?

You certainly can. The clear blue waters positively encourage it.

Our must-swim pool is the cave waterfall pool, which is the biggest and the deepest of the pools you’ll encounter as you head upstream.

Where to stay

Which waterfall will you visit first? This is just a small selection of the forces you can find in the Lakes – there are loads more to discover, so you’ll have to keep coming back.

And, if you need somewhere to stay on your next visit, we’ve got comfy cottages all over the Lake District to plan your watery trips in.

Furthermore, if you really can’t bear to be far from water, check out our river and lakeside cottages.

Discover more of the Lake District

With weekly articles highlighting the very best of the Lake District, there’s always something to get you inspired for your next trip!

If you’d like to be the first to hear of our guides, all our new property listings, events around the lakes, and our last-minute deals

6 Walks From Grasmere

6 Walks From Grasmere

If you’re staying in or near Grasmere – lucky you – you won’t have to get in the car to start enjoying the breathtaking scenery on your doorstep.

View more >

This website uses cookies
This site uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience. We use necessary cookies to make sure that our website works. We’d also like to set analytics cookies that help us make improvements by measuring how you use the site. By clicking “Allow All”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
These cookies are required for basic functionalities such as accessing secure areas of the website, remembering previous actions and facilitating the proper display of the website. Necessary cookies are often exempt from requiring user consent as they do not collect personal data and are crucial for the website to perform its core functions.
A “preferences” cookie is used to remember user preferences and settings on a website. These cookies enhance the user experience by allowing the website to remember choices such as language preferences, font size, layout customization, and other similar settings. Preference cookies are not strictly necessary for the basic functioning of the website but contribute to a more personalised and convenient browsing experience for users.
A “statistics” cookie typically refers to cookies that are used to collect anonymous data about how visitors interact with a website. These cookies help website owners understand how users navigate their site, which pages are most frequently visited, how long users spend on each page, and similar metrics. The data collected by statistics cookies is aggregated and anonymized, meaning it does not contain personally identifiable information (PII).
Marketing cookies are used to track user behaviour across websites, allowing advertisers to deliver targeted advertisements based on the user’s interests and preferences. These cookies collect data such as browsing history and interactions with ads to create user profiles. While essential for effective online advertising, obtaining user consent is crucial to comply with privacy regulations.