The 10 Largest Lakes in the United Kingdom

January 26, 2024

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Millarochy Bay on Loch Lomond, Scotland.

There are more than 40,000 lakes in the UK of varying sizes and with different functions. Some are used in a practical capacity — to provide vital water supply, for example — while others are used for recreation.

The UK’s best well-known lakes include Loch Ness, for its legendary monster, and Lake Windemere in the Lake District.

But what are the UK’s largest lakes? Well, that depends on how you’re measuring them. If we’re talking about the deepest lake, it’s Loch Morar. In terms of water volume, Loch Ness comes out on top. In this article, however, we reveal the 10 largest lakes in the UK according to their surface area.

1. Lough Neagh

View of Randalstown Forest on Lough Neagh, County Antrim
Randalstown Forest on Lough Neagh
Area: 383 km² | 148 sq mi
Volume: 3.5 km³
Maximum Length: 30 km | 19 mi
Maximum Depth: 25 m | 82 ft
Location: Northern Ireland

At 383 km², Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland is the UK’s largest lake. 

Located 20 miles west of Belfast, it is surrounded by the towns of Craigavon, Antrim, Randalstown, Lurgan, and Magherafelt, and it is so big that it stretches into five of Northern Ireland’s six counties.

A freshwater lake, it is responsible for about 40 percent of the country’s water supply. It might surprise you to learn, then, that Lough Neagh is the shallowest lake on this list. While its deepest point is 82 feet, it is mostly shallow, with an average depth of about 30 feet.

A wide variety of bird species can be seen in and around the lake, attracting birdwatchers from all over the world. For centuries, eel fishing has been a major industry here, thanks to the vast numbers of European eels that make their way into Lough Neagh from the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the other fish species that can be found in the lake are salmon, perch, and trout, including dollaghan — a type of brown trout that’s native only to Lough Neagh.

Interesting fact

Lough Neagh may be the UK’s largest lake, but it only comes 33rd on the list of the largest lakes in Europe.

2. Lower Lough Erne

Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen is located between Castlehume Lough and Lower Lough Erne
Lough Erne golf resort in winter
Area: 110 km² | 42 sq mi
Volume: 1.3 km³
Maximum Length: 29 km | 18 mi
Maximum Depth: 62 m | 203 ft
Location: Northern Ireland

The second-largest lake in the UK is Lower Lough Erne, with a surface area of 110 square kilometers. 

Again, the lake is located in Northern Ireland, but it lies entirely within the county of Fermanagh.

Lower Lough Erne forms part of the Lough Erne lake system along with Upper Loch Erne, which also appears on this list. A short stretch of river separates the lakes, and the town of Enniskillen can be found on an island in the river. There are more than 150 islands on the lakes, about 109 of which are located on Lower Lough Erne. The largest island on the lake is Boa Island, but two larger islands can be found on Upper Lough Erne. All three are inhabited by humans, comprising multiple townlands.

Many vulnerable bird species can be found in the area around the lakes, such as the garden warbler, curlew, lapwing, golden plover, and redshank, as well as various mammals, including red squirrels and otters.

Interesting fact

Lough Erne played a vital role in World War II as the UK’s westernmost seaplane station.

3. Loch Lomond

Green hills slightly obscured by clouds behind the blue waters of Loch Lomond
View of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Area: 71 km² | 27 sq mi
Volume: 2.6 km³
Maximum Length: 36 km | 22 mi
Maximum Depth: 190 m | 623 ft
Location: Scotland

Measuring 71 square kilometers, Loch Lomond is the third-largest lake in the UK and the largest lake in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales).

Located roughly 23 kilometers northwest of Glasgow, the lake is widely considered to be the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and the Scottish Highlands. 

Surrounded by hills and forming part of the Trossachs National Park, Loch Lomond is popular with hikers, climbers, and cyclists. Tourists also visit the lake to see Inchmurrin — the UK and Ireland’s largest freshwater island.

The lake’s most common fish species is the powan, but brook trout, common roach, flounder, lampern, lamprey, loach, and perch can also be found living in its waters. Other wildlife in the area includes golden eagles, pine martens, red deer, water voles, and various types of wading birds, as well as a family of beavers released by the RSPB Scotland in January 2023.

Interesting fact

A colony of red-necked wallabies can be found on Inchconnachan, one of the islands on Loch Lomond.

4. Loch Ness

Ruins of Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Area: 56 km² | 22 sq mi
Volume: 7.5 km³
Maximum Length: 39 km | 24 mi
Maximum Depth: 230 m | 755 ft
Location: Scotland

With a surface area of 56 square kilometers, Loch Ness is the UK’s fourth-largest lake.

One of the main tourist attractions in the Scottish Highlands, it is surrounded by charming villages, as well as the historic ruins of Urquhart Castle.

As mentioned, Loch Ness is the largest lake in the UK in terms of volume, and with a deep point of 755 feet, it is the second-deepest lake in the UK after Loch Morar. High peat content in the surrounding soil means water visibility is extremely low, with some people believing that the infamous Loch Ness Monster — known more affectionately as “Nessie” — hides in the murky waters. Unlike the other lakes on this list, there is just one island on Loch Ness, Cherry Island, which is located at the southwestern end.

The area surrounding the lake plays host to an abundance of wildlife, such as red deer, golden eagles, black grouse, red squirrels, pine martens, and woodpeckers.

Interesting fact

With a volume of 7.5 cubic kilometers, Loch Ness holds almost twice as much water as all of the lakes in England and Wales combined.

5. Loch Awe

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe on a clear and sunny day
Kilchurn Castle on the bank of Loch Awe
Area: 39 km² | 15 sq mi
Volume: 1.2 km³
Maximum Length: 41 km | 25 mi
Maximum Depth: 94 m | 308 ft
Location: Scotland

Loch Awe is the UK’s fifth-largest lake, measuring 39 square kilometers.

Another lake that’s situated in the Scottish Highlands, Loch Awe is surrounded by the villages of Dalavich, Inveraray, Oban, Lochgilphead, and its namesake Loch Awe.

There are several ruined castles on the lake’s islands, one of which is Kilchurn Castle — one of Scotland’s most photographed castles. Loch Awe’s beautiful landscape is ideal for walking and cycling and is a popular fishing destination. The lake is notorious for its trout fishing, with salmon also passing through the loch — although they are very rarely caught.  

Aside from fish, some of the animal species that live in and around Lake Awe include the golden eagle, osprey, pine marten, and white-tailed eagle.

Interesting fact

At 41 kilometers, Loch Awe is the longest lake in the UK.

6. Upper Lough Erne

Belle Isle Castle on Upper Lough Erne
Belle Isle Castle on Upper Lough Erne on a grey and overcast day
Area: 34 km² | 13 sq mi
Volume: 0.4 km³
Maximum Length: 19 km | 12 mi
Maximum Depth: 60 m | 197 ft
Location: Northern Ireland

As already mentioned, Upper Lough Erne is one of two lakes that make up Northern Ireland’s Lough Erne lake system. Even though it is the smaller of the two, it is still the sixth-largest lake in the UK, thanks to its surface area of 34 square kilometers.

It is estimated that 90 of the lake system’s 150-plus islands are located on Upper Lough Erne. Two of these islands — Inishmore and Galloon Island — are the lake system’s largest.

In addition to the bird and mammal species mentioned earlier, some of Lough Erne’s other inhabitants include fish species like roach, bream, pike, and perch.

Interesting fact

Even when combined, Lower Lough Erne and Upper Lough Erne don’t come close to the UK’s largest lake, which is more than two and a half times bigger.

7. Loch Maree

Slioch rises up to the clouds above Loch Maree
Vew of Slioch from the shores of Loch Maree
Area: 29 km² | 11 sq mi
Volume: 1.1 km³
Maximum Length: 20 km | 12 mi
Maximum Depth: 114 m | 374 ft
Location: Scotland

The UK’s seventh-largest lake according to surface area is Loch Maree, at 29 square kilometers. 

Again, the lake is located in the Highlands of Scotland and is a popular tourist destination thanks to its stunning scenery and fishing opportunities.

There are five large wooded islands in Loch Maree, as well as more than 60 smaller ones. The islands are a haven for dragonflies, with 12 species of the insects having been recorded there.

The loch is also important for other types of wildlife. For example, it is the site of one of Britain’s largest breeding concentrations of black-throated divers, and it is home to a large number of otters. The sea trout and salmon that live in the loch’s waters play an important role in the ecosystem of the area, as they are a source of food for the birds and otters, both of which are protected species.

Interesting fact

Many of Loch Maree’s islands have their own small lochs, with the largest island, Eilean Sùbhainn, featuring a loch with another island on it.

8. Loch Morar

Loch Morar at sunset with Isle of Eigg in the distance
Looking over Loch Morar as the sun starts to set
Area: 27 km² | 10 sq mi
Volume: 2.3 km³
Maximum Length: 19 km | 12 mi
Maximum Depth: 310 m | 1,017 ft
Location: Scotland

The eighth-largest lake in the UK is Loch Morar, which measures 27 square kilometers. With a maximum depth of more than 1,000 feet, it is also the UK’s deepest lake.

Located in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, Loch Morar separates the districts of North Morar and Moidart.

Consisting of white sandy beaches, lush woodlands, open hillsides, and cattle pastures, the lake’s picturesque landscape attracts hikers and wildlife spotters all year round.

Some of the animals that can be seen in the area surrounding the lake include red deer, sea eagles, golden eagles, and otters, while species of salmon, trout, minnow, and eel live in the lake itself.

Interesting fact

Loch Morar is almost deep enough to fully submerge New York’s Chrysler Building.

9. Loch Tay

Three men in canoes paddle up Loch Tay
Canoers on Loch Tay
Area: 26 km² | 10 sq mi
Volume: 1.6 km³
Maximum Length: 23 km | 14 mi
Maximum Depth: 150 m | 492 ft
Location: Scotland

The Scottish Highlands features on the list of the UK’s largest lakes once again — this time for Loch Tay, which has a surface area of 26 square kilometers.

The loch’s still glassy waters make it a hotspot for watersports enthusiasts, with all sorts of activities available, from kayaking and sailing to paddleboarding and wild swimming.

Wildlife enthusiasts have reported sightings of rare species of birds in the Loch Tay area, including the red-backed shrike, short-toed snake eagle, and ring-billed gull.

Anglers are also attracted to the loch thanks to its excellent salmon fishing. 

Interesting fact

Loch Tay was the inspiration for the traditional Scottish ‘Loch Tay Boat Song’, which was recorded by Irish folk singer Liam Clancey, as well as Scottish folk group The Corries.

10. Loch Shin

The Wee Hoose, a tiny cottage that sits on as islet of Loch Shin
The Wee Hoose on Loch Shin
Area: 23 km² | 9 sq mi
Volume: 0.4 km³
Maximum Length: 28 km | 17 mi
Maximum Depth: 49 m | 161 ft
Location: Scotland

With a surface area of 23 kilometers, Loch Shin is the last entry on the list of the 10 largest lakes in the UK.

Located in — yes, you guessed it — the Scottish Highlands, it is the largest loch in the Sutherland area, running from the northwest to the southeast.

The loch is surrounded by mountains, the most notable of which are the UK’s northernmost summits: Ben More Assynt and Ben Klibreck.

Sheep farming is prolific in the area around Loch Shin, but in terms of wild animals, nature lovers can spot otters, pine martens, wildcats, osprey, and sandpipers. The lake is also a popular trout and salmon fishing spot.

Interesting fact

In the 1950s, the loch’s water level was raised more than 30 feet with the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Overview: The UK’s largest lakes

Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland is the UK’s largest lake, followed by Lower Lough Erne in second place and Loch Lomond in third.

The 10 largest lakes in the UK are as follows:

RankLakeLocationArea (km²)Area (sq mi)
1Lough NeaghNorthern Ireland383148
2Lower Lough ErneNorthern Ireland11042
3Loch LomondScotland7127
4Loch NessScotland5622
5Loch AweScotland3915
6Upper Lough ErneNorthern Ireland3413
7Loch MareeScotland2911
8Loch MorarScotland2710
9Loch TayScotland2610
10Loch ShinScotland239
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