Walking along the shores of Britain’s most beautiful stretches of water can be quite magical; you’ll find yourself in some very special locations close to nature and wildlife.
Top of the list may be the Lake District, but we’ll mention a few equally stunning destinations you may not have thought of.
Stocks Reservoir, Lancashire (image ref 912139120)
The history of Stocks Reservoir is as interesting as the walk itself. Built between 1922 and 1932 it was a major construction feat of its time and opened by the then Prince George. It required the building of its own temporary construction village to house the workers and their families which unfortunately is no longer there.
Now it is the largest fly fishery in the North West of England and a great place for spotting wild fowl, osprey in spring or autumn or the protected Bowland hen harriers. One of Lancashire’s hidden gems, with no crowds to spoil the peace and quiet, there is a cafe at the Fishing Lodge, half way round the 8 mile circuit, with breathtaking views over the reservoir towards Gisburn Forest.
Take time out to visit nearby historic Slaidburn, brimming over with quirky charm, a 15th century church, a 14th century pub, pretty cafe on the village green, a Youth Hostel and shops.
Rutland Water, Rutland (image ref 509251270)
Known as the playground of the East Midlands, Rutland Water is perfect, boasting a nature reserve, water sports plus cycling and walking. Formed when the twin valleys of the River Gwash were flooded in the mid-1970s it became Europe’s largest man-made lake in England’s smallest county and is now internationally recognised for its diverse wildlife habitats all year round.
There are 3 walks to choose from ranging from 7 to 26 miles, the shortest is the 7 mile Hambleton Peninsula Circular Walk taking you right out into the centre of the lake. There are shorter circular routes branching off and passing through pretty places like Exton, one of the most attractive villages in Rutland.
There are lots of picnic spots with great views along the easy to navigate route as well as tea rooms, cafes and country pubs close by serving traditional food and drink. Stay a while to watch the setting sun, which can be spectacular with the evening bird.
Lake Bala, Gwynedd
At 150ft deep and 4 miles long, Lake Bala is the largest natural body of water in Wakes and is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, deep valleys, effervescent streams, deep rivers and the waterfalls of Snowdonia National Park.
There’s a permanent whitewater site for kayakers, and the area is a magnet for walkers. The 14 mile route right around the shores of the lake can easily be spilt into two more leisurely linear walks of 8 or 6 miles with a return on the popular Bala Lake Railway. With walks suitable for all ages and abilities, there really is something for everyone.
For the more strenuous and a better view you can branch off to climb any of the surrounding mountain ranges, Aran, Arenig or Berwyn, with summits up to 3,000ft high boasting panoramas over the lake and North Wales.
Kielder Water, Northumberland
The biggest artificial lake by capacity in the United Kingdom, surrounded by the largest man-made woodland in Europe, covering an area of 600 square kilometres in total.
Around the lake’s shoreline is a 27 mile multi-user trail to be explored in whole or in sections. As well as being surrounded by dramatic open countryside, you will come across up to 20 art & architectural features installed over the last 25 years, reflecting the area’s unique environment and fascinating history.
On the tranquil north shore is the Janis Chair, 3 king size seats which can be rotated to capture great views. Peering through the trees towards the lake is a giant timber head, Silvas Capitalis. Made from European larch, you can walk through its gaping mouth, climb up the stairs and peer through its eyes!
If you really want to experience the water enter the Wave Chamber where an image of the water is projected onto the floor of the chamber and the stone walls echo the sounds of the water, most effective on sunny windy days.
This is a lakeside trail like no other. If you really don’t want to miss seeing anything, join a guided tour – there are walks suitable for all abilities.
Loch Ness Area, Highlands
Loch Ness is a massive body of freshwater. Perhaps most famous for its mythical monster ‘Nessie’, the whole area is definitely home to some fabulous walking and, if you want to ‘bag’ 3 lochs in one day, try the Three Lochs Circuit.
The start is at Loch Duntelchaig where you will go uphill through pretty birch and pine woodland revealing lovely views of Loch Bunochton. This tranquil stretch of water is popular with birds, particularly grebes and the occasional angler.
After passing Dunlichity Church, with strong connections to the famous ‘Battle of Culloden’ in 1745, you will skirt pretty Loch a’ Chachain before finishing back at Loch Duntelchaig. This is a very special walk where you can see otters, majestic red deer, golden eagles, pine martens and red squirrels all in one day!
Norfolk Broads, Norfolk
This is the largest of the Broads and a fantastic area for wildlife. Look out for the red and Chinese water deer, otters and a plethora of birds, including the common crane, marsh harrier and Cetti’s warbler. You’ll pass over Hickling Heath and along part of the Weaver’s Way long distance trail to the River Thurne. Here you can make a detour to Potter Heigham and the tea rooms.
Carrying on you can also include Horsey Windpump and Horsey Mere or Fleggburgh and Filby Broad. Still following the Weaver’s Way and the River Bure you will arrive at the lively market town of Acle with the only bridge across the river.
You will never tire of the Norfolk Broads and Barton Broad. The second largest Broad, has a boardwalk easily accessible for people with limited mobility and wheelchair users. The walk takes you through swampy woodland brimming with wildlife to unveil stunning views over Barton Broad.
Lake District, Cumbria
Recently designated a UNESCO world heritage site, this is an outstanding destination for walking and home to 14 glorious lakes. There aren’t many walks here that don’t touch a lake, river or tarn at some point, and here are two to tempt you.
Ennerdale – this is a true lakeside walk and quieter than most in the National Park due to its remoteness. The 6.5 mile track is easy to follow and best walked on a summer’s evening to watch the sun setting over the hills in the west in complete peace and tranquillity.
Rydal Water –This is a small body of water connected to the larger lake of Grasmere by the River Rothay and also a great inspiration for poet William Wordsworth. A short climb to ‘Wordsworth’s Seat’ is a must with stunning views of the lake and surrounding fells. There are two delightful villages at either end of the walk – perfect for sampling some local food and drink.