Five seriously beautiful mountain lakes

From hard-to-reach Welsh wonders, to Scandinavian salmon spots, Will Robson rounds up our favourite lakes

1. Best for climbing: Llyn Bochlwyd, Wales

Lyn Bochlwyd 1

Llyn Bochlwyd is best viewed from the peaks that loom over it |Photo


Deep within Snowdonia National Park, Llyn Bochlwyd is not your typical picture postcard mountain lake. You have to earn your view of it and if you’re really keen, you climb Tryfan, one of Snowdonia’s most challenging non-technical peaks to get there.

Sometimes called Lake Australia, because of its shape, Llyn Bochlwyd lies at 1,821ft, to the west of, and hundreds feet below, the looming boulder-strewn west side of Tryfan; and north of the even more vertiginous north face of Glyder Fach.

Llyn Bochlwyd reminds you why Snowdonia is such a great place for climbers. It has a bleak beauty, set amidst peaks that offer a mix of technical rock-climbing or challenging hiking.

Best for wildlife spotting: Loch Affric, Scotland

Loch Affric L-scape (1)

Bring your binoculars: The land surrounding Loch Affric is teeming with wildlife | Photo Paul Tomkins

Deep in the Scottish Highlands lies Loch Affric, a magical centrepiece at the upper reaches of Glen Affric, itself a stunning mix of landscapes. The Loch makes it onto the list not for its cultural or water sport opportunities but because it’s a nature lovers’ and walkers’ paradise.

It’s one of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves and found gambolling amongst and above the ancient pines are Osprey, Otter, Red Deer, Red and Black-throated Divers, as well as wild Brown Trout in the Loch itself.

We’d very much recommend staying at the SYHA at Allt Beithe. This is no ordinary hostel. It’s five miles up the glen from the Loch, reachable only on foot or mountain bike. The hostel also puts you within reach of 15 Munro peaks, including the nearby Carn Eige (1183m) and Mam Sodhail (1181m). So pack your midgie spray (“Avon Skin So Soft”, for the uninitiated) and head for Loch Affric, before you need a visa.

Best for fishing: Lake Vänern, Sweden

Explore one of Europe's largest lakes | Photo via creative commons

Explore one of Europe’s largest lakes | Photo via creative commons

Lake Vänern is one of the biggest holiday destination secrets in Europe. At over 5,600 square kilometres and 140 kilometres long it’s also one of Europe’s largest lakes. If you hiked every inch of its shoreline you’d cover over 5,000kms.

The lake itself is a paradise for water sports, ranging from kayaking to kite surfing, with 22,000m islands, islets and skerries to sample while away from the shore there are small mountains and ridges to hike to and take in spectacular views, such as Kinnekulle and Halleberg.

If that all sounds too exhausting, go boat or lakeside fishing for the Salmon, Trout, Smelt and Vendace that abound in the lake. No licence is needed, but you’re limited to catching no more than three trout or Salmon a day.

Best for hiking and biking: Lakes of Killarney, Ireland


The Lakes of Killarney make up about a quarter of the 26,000 acre Killarney National Park in County Kerry and are, collectively, deserving of a place in our top five.

Mountains, waterfalls, ancient ruins and Yew forests surround Lough Leane, Muckross Lake and Upper Lake. Together they create a ridiculously picturesque and uniquely lush Irish landscape. Hire bikes to circuit Lough Leane and Muckross Lake in a few hours or haul yourself up the four-mile Gap of Dunloe behind Purple Mountain to the west of the Lough Leane. The even longer climb up to Moll’s Gap lets you sweep down past Upper Lake towards Muckross Lake for a well-deserved cream tea at Muckcross House and gardens.

On the lakes themselves, you can hire a kayak or take a daylong boat trip round all three lakes, stopping off at some of the many islands. It’s a craic-addicts paradise.

Best for boating: Coniston Water, England

Coniston Water is a great springboard (not literally) for the country’s finest hill walking and scenery |Photo

Coniston Water is a great springboard (not literally) for the country’s finest hill walking and scenery |Photo

Coniston Water is the setting for Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Need we say more? OK, younger readers, maybe we’ll qualify that. Coniston is an idyllic stretch of water in the southern Lake District where long summer holidays can be whiled away sailing, camping, hiking and generally larking about. Which is what happens in Swallows and Amazons.

The lake is five miles long and a skinny half a mile wide, reaching a depth of 184 feet. One famous former visitor is Sir Donald Campbell, whose Bluebird world speed record boat piled in at over 320mph and sank, with him in it, in 1967. He wasn’t found until 2001.

But the lake offers far safer ways to get about, and if you’re a sailor who knows his sheets from his downhauls, then Coniston Boating Centre will let you hire a Wayfarer or Hawk 20 for £40 for two hours. In fact, they have almost every sort of waterborne craft from 100-year-old rowing boats to Canadian canoes. And let’s not forget that Coniston Water is a great springboard (not literally) for the country’s finest hill walking and scenery, including Grizedale Forest, the Old Man of Coniston and the country’s highest peak, Scafell Pike.