Thirlmere - A Surprisingly Good Day Out

A Walk Around Thirlmere

Thirlmere is often overlooked as a destination for visitors to the Lake District. However, it has a lot to offer those seeking to distract themselves for a couple of hours or even a full day. In this article, we find out what to do and see on a visit to Thirlmere.



Official plaque on Thirlmere Reservoir commemorating its construction

Thirlmere is a reservoir between Keswick and Ambleside, near to St. John's in the Vale. It was built in the late 1800's in order to supply water to Manchester. In creating the reservoir, two small lakes and a hamlet were submerged. Today it provides 11% of the North West's water supply and is managed by United Utilities. In the last couple of years, United Utilities have much to open up access to the shore and surrounding area of Thirlmere. Thirlmere is a Red Squirrel Sanctuary and if you are lucky you may be able to spot them - see Red Squirrels here.


Islands in the mist on Thirlmere

Thirlmere is quite a small body of water, with a surface of 3.2 square km - compared with Windermere at 14 sq km and Derwentwater at 5 sq km. It is 6 km long and has a width of 178m. There are main islands Deergarth How Island and Hawes How Island.


There are seven car parks around Thirlmere, with four of them having toilet facilities. There aren't any cafes nearby, the nearest being in Keswick and Grasmere. In the main holiday season, you can find an ice cream van parked at The Swirls car park on the eastern side of Thirlmere.


The steep wooded slopes that enclose Thirlmere Reservoir

There are a variety of short circular walks or loops at various points around Thirlmere. And there is one main circular walk of approximately 10 miles around Thirlmere itself. The Benn Loop at the Dam Triangle Car Park is 3.2 miles in length and takes you through the wooded slopes at the northern end of Thirlmere. The Middlesteads Loop at Armboth Car Park is 4 miles in length. In addition, there are several excursions of 1 - 2 miles to specific vantage points or places of interest such as the Giant Tree and the Tottling Stone. A more difficult walk begins at the northern Dam Triangle car park and leads to Raven Crag and the Hill Fort.


Launchy Gill Waterfall in the Lake District

There are several waterfalls along Launchy Gill, which is reached from either Armboth or Dobgill car parks and a waterfall on the Harrup Tarn loop at Dobgill car park. Follow this link for a comprehensive list of waterfalls in the Lake District . 


Fishing is permitted on Thirlmere with Day Permits available from Youdales Newsagents in Keswick or online at Canoes and rowing boats are allowed on Thirlmere. You will need to obtain permission first from United Utilities by calling 017687 72334. The best launch point is at Armboth car park.


There is an excellent caravan and campsite at Bridge End Farm at the northern end of Thirlmere. Alternatively, there are self-catering cottages in Keswick.