Suzanna Cruickshank is your guide to the high temple of places to wild swim in the Lake District
Black Moss Pot is one of the best-known places to wild swim in the Lake District. Seasoned wild swimmers might roll their eyes at yet another route to this swimming spot. So why rehash what has already been written before?
Well, like so many other popular locations Black Moss Pot is seeing a lot of traffic, and there is no sign of its popularity waning. It’s impossible to reduce visitor numbers, but it is possible to ensure future visitors have the information to access this location in a safe and responsible manner.
No matter how sunny it might be when you set off, the area around Black Moss Pot is a bit of a wind trap and it’s rare that a sunny day alone will warm you up. I always pack a hat, gloves, spare layers and a duvet jacket for this swim.
How to get to Black Moss Pot
Parking in Stonethwaite is limited to a few places in laybys. You can help reduce traffic in the Borrowdale valley and guarantee a stress-free visit by taking the bus from Keswick.
Sit back and enjoy the stunning views from the top deck. It really is an unbeatable journey and takes the stress out of driving the narrow road yourself.
The bus stops at the top of the road to Stonethwaite and from here it is a straightforward walk through the hamlet and past the pub. Bear to your right and slightly uphill to take the track around the outside edge of the campsite. Along here you can catch glimpses of red squirrels and during late spring you’re guaranteed to hear a cuckoo.
The track around the campsite eventually meets a vague junction. You can avoid adding to erosion here by sticking to the path and walking single file.
Bear right past the large marker stone climbing slightly on a path that often runs with water, passing through a gate till you reach a bridge. If you are in a hurry, you can keep going straight here but I prefer to take my time and use the quieter route.
Cross the bridge to the other side of the valley and take the rambling path through ancient glacial debris and keep going till you can hear the booming splashes and screams.
On this side of the valley, options for entering the pot are limited to an 20ft jump off the cliff. As every sensible outdoor swimmer knows, you should never jump straight in unacclimatised and unaware of what lies beneath. So keep walking a little further to cross up stream and climb down on the other side. It’s handy to have a pair of water shoes with you, not just for clambering into the pot, but to cross the river.
The fellside around Black Moss Pot is an important area for Herdwick sheep where the hoggets are released to graze on their own. Don’t light fires or move rocks in this area – or anywhere in the Lake District.
For a double dip, head back down the valley to Galleny Force and the fairy pools. These pools are located a few minutes’ walk beyond the footbridge you crossed earlier, and can be accessed from either side of the valley.
Weekends and sunny days will be busy. If you arrive and find the pot and other pools busy, try not to add to it. Come back on a quieter day, or perhaps grab your map and set out in search of other places. Plenty of spots like Black Moss Pot exist but lack the status or are further to walk.
Safety note: beware of Stoppers
Both Black Moss Pot and Galleny Force have stopper features. Stoppers are rocks below the surface that swimmers have to clamber over to reach the base of the falls.
In period of low flow, confident swimmers can happily splash around beneath the falls but caution is advised.
Stoppers create a washing machine effect beneath waterfalls that you cannot swim out from beneath. Children or weak swimmers could be pinned against the stoppers or under the water and be unable to get out.
It can happen to strong or confident swimmers too, particularly as your body is less buoyant in aerated water.
The Borrowdale Rambler No. 78 leaves Keswick every 30 minutes in high season or every hour at other times of year and stops at the junction for Stonethwaite. Check with Stagecoach for an up-to-date timetable.
Book a guided swim with Suzanna Swims; suzannaswims.co.uk
This article originally featured in the July 2022 issue of Outdoor Swimmer. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.