top of page

Wastwater Lakeside


Dawn reflections at Wastwater.

An early Summers sunrise with perfect glassy reflections at Wastwater!

Wastwater is definitely a place different to all other locations in the Lake District. I’ve often described this place to people as being ‘other-worldly’ and as cliche as that sounds, I actually mean it quite literally. There have been many times on a calm evening where I could hear conversations from people stood quite a large distance away from me. Something I can’t say I’ve experienced in any other location! Over the years, piles of rocks have fallen from the hump shaped mountain known as 'The Screes' that surround the Eastern side of the lake; creating a rather unique landscape that resembles something you would imagine to find on Mars! For the most part, people like to spend their time at the Western shoreline, about a quarter of the way along the lake. You'll find plenty of foreground interest here with different sized rocks along the waters edge and a little island which can work well for mid-ground interest. I'll mainly be focusing on this area in this guide, but there are plenty of other opportunities stretched up and down the entirety of this location. So if you have the time, I highly recommend having an explore!


Life on Mars, Wastwater.

A display of the stunning Winter evening light glowing red on the Western Fells!

Generally speaking, I’d recommend a visit to Wastwater at any time of year and in all weathers! However, it’s worth noting that some particular conditions are going to be subject to time of year. If you’re wanting that dramatic blood red light that illuminates Yewbarrow, Great Gable and The Screes then you’ll be looking at late Autumn/Winter evenings/sunsets. On the other hand, If you’re looking for that vibrantly toned skyfire, then a Summer morning/sunrise will be your best bet. It’s a bit of a catch 22 really; Summer is great for sunrise but not so great for sunset and Winter is amazing for sunset and pretty much a no go for sunrise!

Winter Shooting

My favourite time to shoot at Wastwater is definitely Winter! As mentioned previously, that blood red evening light is more than enough to get any landscape photographers taste buds tingling. Throw in the extra spices of Winter into the pot and well, you’ve got yourself the perfect ingredients for a real keeper! Unlike most other lakeside spots in the Lake District, Wastwater doesn’t need glassy reflections in the water for an image to work. In fact, the complete opposite can be argued for this location; with the rough waters tending to suit the rugged landscape that surrounds the lake. 

From late October - mid February the sun sets in a South-Westerly direction. With the horizon clear of any surrounding mountains and given you have a decent size gap from the clouds where the sun goes down; this will give way to the very last light of the day, casting that stunning red light onto the Western fells facing opposite the sunset! If you’re into your meteorology/reading synoptic charts, a cold front clearing overland from the West around the time of sunset would be the perfect weather conditions for this type of shot and given that a cold front generally means short but heavy downpours, you could be in with the lucky chance of getting a rainbow in your shot too!


Another thing to consider in terms of the weather is wind. Particularly the speed and direction. I talked previously about how rough waters can really work well at Wastwater. I’m still myself trying to get a shot here of some crashing waves but that’s a task proving quite difficult to achieve. The main reason for this is our winds generally come from the West off the Atlantic, especially in Winter. When facing the view of Yewbarrow and Great Gable, you’ll be facing a North-East direction and Westerly winds will blow in the same direction you are shooting in, resulting in the lack of any crashing waves. So, you’d be looking at the winds coming from a North-Easterly direction for this kind of shot to work which I’ve gotta tell you, after trying for some years now, doesn’t happen very often! That being said, if you do have choppy water, opting for a long exposure at this location can work some fantastic results! 

Full Rainbow, Wastwater.

A beautiful rainbow over Wastwater with golden evening light on the fells!


Screes Light, Wastwater.

An Autumn evening facing the Southern end of Wastwater as the sun casts some lovely light on to the Screes.


Rock Puddle, Wastwater.

Last light of the day casting on the surrounding fells of Wastwater with a small puddle used for foreground interest.

A bit of an all round tip which will apply to all seasons here; make sure to explore the little crags dotted around the lake to find a higher vantage point. I tend to do this when the winds are high enough to cause ripples on the water surface but low enough to not really give any motion in the water. There’s a small noticeable mound which boasts impressive views of the Southern end of the lake in one direction and Great Gable in the other. (See above images). It’s within very close proximity to the shoreline rocks and has a small shelter on the top of it which can really come in handy if the weather takes a turn for the worst! Other than this, you’ll find loads of small craggy mounds scattered along the lakeside, each with its own fair share of photographic potential! 

Summer Shooting

Shooting Wastwater in the Summer months, as mentioned above works best for sunrise. Logistically, sunrise shoots here can be quite challenging. On the shortest day of the year, the sun rises at 04:38AM. With the journey time from Central Lakes averaging at around an hour and a half added onto the time of your starting point, you’ll be looking at one hell of an early alarm. In some cases, maybe no alarm at all! For this reason, Wastwater often gets overlooked at this time of year but if you put in the extra effort on a morning with a strong forecast, you’ll hands down be strongly rewarded! There are camping facilities on the Wasdale end of the lake which I would definitely recommend for people traveling long distances and would even suggest people who live in the county to make use of! A few extra quid will go a long way for a good nights sleep!


Skyfire Rockpool, Wastwater.

A stunning sky over Wastwater on an early Summer morning.


Sunburst, Wastwater.

The rising sun over Great Gable on a stunning Summer morning.

In terms of what to shoot, most of the interest still lies with the view to the Northern end of the lake, in the direction of Great Gable and Yewbarrow. The major difference will lie with the angle of light. As mentioned previously, the season of Summer doesn’t really work too well for sunsets at this location, so I’ll only go into details for sunrise shooting for this section. 


In the early months of Summer, the sun rises just to the right of Great Gable. Not only does this offer a good opportunity to get amazing colours in the sky pre-sunrise, but it also offers a good opportunity for some beautiful golden light shafts illuminating the slopes of Great Gable! If you’re wanting a beautiful pink/red sky, be on the lookout for high altitude clouds with little to no low clouds in the forecast. It’s crucial that the Eastern horizon; where the sun will first come into sight is free of any cloud as the sun needs to be able to light up underneath the cloud to produce good colour! I use the app which gives a very good, detailed and reliable forecast for low, medium and high cloud coverage. Follow this link to read an article I have written on this fantastic app which I consider to be THE best weather app out there for landscape photography!

If you’re looking for the kind of shot with dramatic golden light breaking through dark moody clouds, then you may want to avoid mornings with high/medium clouds. As beautiful as a red sky fire can be, I’ve often found that after the colour has faded, the light often gets snuffed out in the cloud. There are exceptions to this when the gap is quite large and the light can often give a very red glow, but more often than not, this won’t last for very long. It’s a bit of a misconception that low level altitude clouds are the show stoppers for landscape photography. However, so long as you have a clearing in the clouds for the sun to get through, you can witness some fantastically unique weather conditions/light. As a bonus, these types of clouds take on very different textures and patterns (which is why there are so many different types of them). This will mean that they will generally hold colour for longer; meaning you can shoot longer into the golden hour! The rule of thumb in terms of reflections again is dependant on the feel of your image. Ripples on the water can still work but personally, Summer is the time of year where I’m probably going to be more inclined to shoot calm, tranquil waters!

Summer Dawn, Wastwater.

A group of rocks on the lake as the sun came over the fells.

Getting Here

Nearest Post Code - CA20 1EX

Getting here with a sat nav really shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Following the post code above will take you to Wasdale Head. Once you go over a cattle grid and the lake view comes into sight, you’ll carry on around the corner and a short drive will bring you to various lay-bys for the Western lakeside area.


The main thing you’ll want to consider will be your route. If you’re visiting in Winter conditions and are coming from Central lakes/South of the Lakes then the route the sat nav will take is more than likely going to be out of the question, with the small B road up Birker Fell often being closed. There is an alternative route which is a little longer in both time and distance, but is worth considering especially in bad weather. Winter Diversion: A short while after you pass Brougton-in-Furness on the A595, You’ll come to a set of traffic lights where you would usually turn right heading towards Ulpha. Stay on the A595 going over the bridge and follow this road for around 20 minutes until you come to a T junction with a view to the Western Coast straight ahead of you. Turn right here, staying on the A595 which will take you on a rather scenic coastal road with further stunning views of the coast. Not long after going past Ravenglass, you’ll approach an area called Gubbergill. You’ll leave the A595 here, turning right and joining a rural road called Kirklands which will eventually lead you to Santon Bridge. Here you will turn left and re-join the original route that your sat nav would lead you via Nether Wasdale.

bottom of page