‘Crummock Water? Is that on the way to Buttermere?’ Often described as a lesser-known gem of the Western Lakes, Crummock Water is definitely quieter than its more popular neighbour, Buttermere. It has no village or town on its shores and there are just a handful of dwellings. It is a place I frequently see drivers quickly pulling over to take photos; a quick stop on the Lakes tour before the main prize. And what a gem people are passing by. Crummock Water is twice as long as Buttermere and shares its dramatic scenery. The two lakes were once joined and now an alluvial plain separates them.
It creates an optical illusion from the water where Buttermere dips out of view and the mountainous scenery at the head of Buttermere becomes absorbed into the landscape of Crummock Water. Its relative wilderness is part of the attraction for me. On high days and holidays Crummock Water will be much quieter as ice cream day-trippers stream into Buttermere. Surrounded by some of my favourite hills, I feel quite at home out in the middle of Crummock Water.
I love the unique perspective it gives on a familiar mountain landscape. These hills – Grasmoor, Whiteless Pike, Whiteside and its majestic ridge to Hopegill Head, and of course darling Mellbreak – were my playground before I took time out to care for my dad during his illness. During that period I didn’t have time to climb them, but I could swim out to gaze up at the summits; the kick of cold water was as good as topping out on Grasmoor after a long climb through Gasgale Gill. A big tick for Crummock Water is the sheer ease of access.
Crummock Water Map – Crummock Water Camping Photo Gallery
There are several rudimentary car parks along the eastern shore, all free to use, and you can be in the water within minutes. On the western shore the entire lake is there for the taking, simply by breaking trail wherever you feel like it. In some respects this was a tough list to compile as so much of the shoreline is easily accessible. Some lakes boast a superlative or diminutive statistic to impress you, others have boat rides and visitor attractions. Or maybe Wordsworth was inspired to write a poem about them. Crummock Water doesn’t have a hook to lure you in. It doesn’t need one. Take my word for it – Crummock Water is a stone-cold classic.
Low Ling Crag
I’m not given to having definitive favourites but I’ll make an exception for Low Ling Crag. The walk starts with a bucolic wander down a lane through Highpark passing the monolith face of Mellbreak which wouldn’t look out of place in an alpine landscape. The path climbs through Green Wood and pops out above Crummock Water to a sublime view down the lake to Rannerdale and the Buttermere fells beyond. Continue along the lakeshore path to the obvious promontory of Low Ling Crag. Low Ling Crag is a rare Lake District example of a tombolo. Over time, sediment has built up between a rocky mound in the lake and the land forming two perfect crescent beaches on opposite sides. The smooth shingle found here makes it a joy to walk into the water barefoot. It’s a place I escape to on busy summer days. This swim and walk is not complete without a pint of Loweswater Gold, best drunk in the beer garden of The Kirkstile Inn gazing up at Mellbreak.
Lanthwaite Wood & the boathouse
The beach at Lanthwaite Wood is a place to really appreciate the water clarity as it washes over the rocky shingle that lines the shore. It’s the first glimpse of Crummock Water as you walk from the National Trust car park, making the beach very popular with visitors and locals alike. It stays relatively shallow here with no shelves to watch out for, ideal for paddling, however you should avoid swimming or paddling too close to the strong tugging current feeding into the weir and fish ladders. Signs around this area indicate United Utilities ownership – swimming around the weir is prohibited. The beach is quite public. If it is busy, I walk the extra five minutes to the boathouse which also benefits from the shore being gentler underfoot. Sometimes I swim to the line of Scots pines on the opposite shore but mostly I like to swim just far enough to gaze up at the unique view of Grasmoor as it looms above Lanthwaite Wood. On a windy day it’s often calmer close to shore here, protected by the small wooded headland at this narrow neck of the lake. Before the modern B5289 road existed travellers used a packhorse route that crossed a low shoulder on Rannerdale Knotts. A path remains so you can continue to follow this old way; it is the perfect vantage point over Crummock Water. With the advent of motorised charabancs which ferried tourists along scenic routes, rock was blasted to build a road hugging the hillside instead of going over it. This created an exposed edifice which has long attracted local teenagers who compete to make the most elaborate leap into the water. If, like me, you’d rather not teeter on the narrow ledge, you’re in luck. A small beach is tucked away below the road, perfect for a more civilised entry into the water. Don’t be alarmed if you see bubbles appearing beside you. It’s just a warning sign that a member of the West Cumbria diving club is due to surface nearby (and they will be just as surprised to see you!). Hause Point and Low Ling Crag mark the narrowest part of Crummock Water. A width of the lake here crosses the deepest part of the lake. As you swim out from Rannerdale, about halfway across the lake, and start to approach Low Ling Crag you may become aware of a slight current. It is quite minor but on occasion I’ve had to swim a little harder to stay on course as I approach the opposite shore.
This is one of my regular pull-up-and-swim places – it offers a near perfect opportunity to jump out of the car and straight into the water. I swim here all year round. In winter we shiver on the shore contemplating a fast and furious thrash to the island and back again. In summer we enjoy lazy laps of the islands being careful not to graze knees on the just submerged rocks. Extend the swim and adventure out to Holme Islands and Scale Island to complete the island trilogy. Lots of birds nest on these islands, beautiful oystercatchers, bean geese, Canada geese and goosanders. I steer clear during nesting season when geese will sail past like angry, feathered galleon ships, giving you a haughty honk if you stray too close.
MAXIMUM DEPTH 43.9 metres AVERAGE DEPTH 26.7 metres LENGTH 2.53 miles MAXIMUM WIDTH 0.53 miles PRIMARY INFLOWS Buttermere Dubs, Scale Beck, Mill Beck OUTFLOW River Cocker.
As with Buttermere, I recommend leaving your car behind and taking the Honister Rambler (77/77A), Easter to October only, which runs along the eastern shore of Crummock Water. All the swimming locations apart from Low Ling Crag are within walking distance and the driver will let you off at an unscheduled stop if the road is clear. Cyclists can approach from Lorton or over Whinlatter Pass (a challenging option) or from Buttermere. Parking is available at the National Trust car park at Lanthwaite Wood (parking charge) which is north of Crummock Water, and at Lanthwaite Green, Cinderdale Common and Rannerdale on the eastern shore. There is limited roadside parking near Woodhouse Islands.
» New House Farm Tearoom, Lorton. This is often closed for weddings but if they’re open, make time to call in and take afternoon tea in the cattle byres.
» Lorton Village Shop is an asset to the local area. You can buy most basics here with a strong local and environmentally friendly flavour. Coffee and cake are also available, and you can pick up a locally made souvenir. Stock up for a picnic!