If you’re a fan of being in the water but haven’t yet tried wild water swimming, what are you waiting for?! For those of you who don’t know, wild water swimming is a type of swim in a natural outdoor space. So, instead of a swimming pool, think of open water such as lakes, reservoirs, canals, and seas amidst sandy beaches.
It’s not just a great way to experience some of the UK’s best landscapes but studies show that wild water swimming can have huge benefits for your physical and mental health too. Even better is that you don’t need to travel across the globe to find the best wild swimming spots. Here, we reveal some of our favourite places in the UK.
Where? Lake District
Best for: Impressive views
As the largest natural lake in England, it probably won’t surprise you that Lake Windermere tops our list for best wild swimming spots. It measures just over 10 miles long and is also up to 220 ft deep in some parts. For this reason, it’s important that you know where to swim safely – one of the best places being Miller Ground. Here, you can wade in shallow waters, jump off jetties and, of course, take in incredible views of the Lake District National Park.
Best for: Family-friendly fun
On a sunny day, families and couples flock to the River Derwent in Derbyshire to splash in the waters and enjoy picnics by the side. The river is also popular with wild swimmers who typically head upstream to find quieter spots. The bottom weir is where you’ll want to stay if you prefer to be close to others but wherever you choose the staggering backdrop, which includes Chatsworth House, is sure to impress! For something truly memorable, why not try an early morning swim? This is when the majority of Chatsworth’s wildlife comes alive, heading to the water for food and drink.
Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds
Best for: Long days in the sun
Just picture it now: London is enjoying one of its summer heatwaves, the cool bag is packed with delicious food and drink, you’re surrounded by all your favourite people, and the waters of Hampstead Heath glisten in the background. Here, there are 30 ponds and three of them are designated for wild swimming. There’s even a men’s and ladies’ pond as well as a mixed one so you can take your pick. Children under 8 are also not allowed in the ponds which make it a slightly more relaxed option compared to other nearby lidos.
Sky Fairy Pools
Where? Isle of Skye, Scotland
Best for: Incredible scenes
You might want to invest in a pair of swimming shoes for this place but these rock pools in Scotland will definitely offer a swim to remember. For starters, the pools themselves give off a pink and green hue. Two are even linked by an underwater arch which, if you swim under, is covered in pieces of quartz! It might be cold but this swimming experience really does feel like something out of this world. And, there are a few cafes and pubs close by for you to warm up afterwards.
Best for: A British day out
Okay, hear us out on this one. The Thames might not be the first place when you think of wild swimming but way before it reaches London, around Goring and Pangbourne, the waters are perfect for a dip. Surrounded by meadows and parkland, it’s also the perfect place to enjoy a picnic – with Pimms, of course. Just be mindful that you’ll probably be sharing the waters with a few swans and the odd boat.
Best for: Intense exercise
Popular with serious swimmers, the River Dart runs through Devon and offers plenty of opportunities for wild swimming. The Dart 10K begins here, and ends near the sea so if you fancy giving it a go, why not? Those who would prefer to take it slow or simply want to dip a toe should head upriver to Staverton. Here, you’ll find the perfect place to plunge into with steps carved out of an ancient oak tree.
Best for: All abilities
Roger Deakin was a pioneer of wild swimming and made no secret of the fact that the River Waveney in Suffolk was his favourite spot. For this reason, we couldn’t not include it on our list. The river actually creates a two-mile loop route around Outney Common which is in the town of Bungay. It’s a great choice for swimmers of all abilities and, once dried off, Bungay deserves a visit too. Here, you’ll find lots of shops, cafes and restaurants.
St Nectan’s Kieve
Best for: Tranquil experiences
This swimming spot requires a small entrance fee to be paid to access it but it’s definitely worth it once you’re there. There’s a beautiful waterfall ideal for cooling off in, after a day in Cornwall. Kieve means plunge pool too so be careful as the waters can be deeper than they look. The area is also a holy place with many coming to pray and to visit the shrine room. Whatever you have planned though, you’re sure to enjoy the peaceful settings.
Bude Sea Pool
Best for: Your first wild swimming experience
Head to Summerleaze Beach in Bude, Cornwall, and you’ll find this part man made and part natural sea pool. It was built in the 1930s and is filled by the Atlantic’s tides. It’s also open all year round to the public so if you fancy a brisk winter dip, there’s nothing stopping you. Pool staff are only on watch from Easter to October so if you’re swimming outside of these times, be sure to stay safe.
Best for: Feeling like you’re abroad
Wales’ premier wild swimming spot looks like it could be somewhere in Iceland so it’s no surprise that it’s popular with wild swimmers and those looking to get the winning shot. The lagoon itself boasts colours of sapphire and turquoise against a backdrop of cliffs. Some choose to jump into the lagoon from the rocks whereas others paddle in the shallow waters. Either way, it’ll be a swim to remember.
Where? Snowdonia, Wales
Best for: Picture-perfect moments
This expanse of water is shaped like a heart, and we’re really not joking. The waters are crystal clear and the surrounding beauty of Snowdonia is incredible, whatever season you’re visiting. Whether you’re an experienced wild swimmer or are looking for somewhere to spark some romance, this is the spot. King Arthur hid Excalibur here and his body was later carried away by boat so there’s a few stories to bring to life too.
Best for: Jumping and dive
This wild swimming spot really is unlike anything else out there. For starters, there’s a 60ft chute of water followed by a plunge pool – perfect for diving and jumping off the 6ft high ledge. It’s also nestled deep within the Northumberland National Park so the surrounding landscapes are really special. The only downside is that the pool isn’t that big so, if you want to experience it, we say get there nice and early.
Walpole Bay Tidal Pool
Best for: Lazy summer days
Margate’s tidal pool is favoured with wild swimmers and those in search of a dip on a hot day. But, at high tide, it’s impossible to see. This is because it’s only visible when the sea flows away from the shore. It’s four acres in total and completely enclosed. On a winter’s day, you’ll see brave swimmers facing the chilly North Sea waters and, in summer, it won’t surprise you that locals and tourists flock here.
Where? The Highlands, Scotland
Best for: Plenty of activity
You can swim in nearly all of Scotland’s lochs and Loch Morlich is a great place to start if you haven’t dipped your toes into wild swimming before. You’ll find it in Cairngorms National Park, Scotland’s biggest mountain range. There’s also Britain’s highest beach where people come to relax, picnic and enjoy the loch’s waters. Don’t worry if you don’t fancy wild swimming though as the on-site activity centre offers kayaks, canoes and paddle boards so that you can still enjoy the water.
Lower Ddwli Falls
Where? Brecon Beacons
Best for: Out of this world experiences
Head to the Brecon Beacons and you’ll find Waterfall Woods, which boasts more than 20 plunge pools in just five miles of river. Some attempt to dip their toes in every one, others choose their favourite and set up for the day. One of the most popular is Lower Ddwli Falls, a huge expanse of water with an impressive waterfall. On a sunny day, the reflection means rainbows are created almost everywhere. Close by, Horseshoe Falls has its very own rope swing which is guaranteed to unleash the big kid in everyone.
So there you have it – if you fancy wild swimming in the UK, there’s plenty of opportunity. Plus, with our range of luxury accommodation and hot tub breaks, you can really make something out of your swimming trip and enjoy a staycation to remember. Browse our selection of properties today and we guarantee you’ll find the perfect pad after a day exploring the UK’s most impressive hidden gems.
Wild swimming FAQs
Is wild swimming legal in the UK?
Wild swimming is legal in the UK, but it’s a bit of a grey area. In England and Wales, there’s no specific law against it, but you could potentially get in trouble for trespassing or causing a public nuisance. In Scotland, there’s a right to access most bodies of water for recreational purposes, but there are some restrictions.
While wild swimming can be a fantastic way to connect with nature and get some exercise, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved. The water can be cold, deep, and unpredictable, and there may be hidden currents or obstacles to watch out for. Make sure you’re a confident swimmer and always take safety precautions like wearing a wetsuit and swimming with a buddy.
At Hot Tub Breaks, we love a good swim as much as the next person, but we always want to make sure our customers stay safe and legal. Happy swimming!
What do I need for wild swimming in the UK?
Wild swimming in the UK can be a fun and invigorating experience, but it’s important to be prepared and have the right gear to stay safe and comfortable. Here are some things you might want to consider bringing:
- A wetsuit or drysuit – especially if you plan to swim in colder water or for longer periods of time.
- Swim cap and goggles – to protect your eyes from the water and to help you see where you’re going.
- Footwear – to protect your feet from rocks or sharp objects in the water.
- Towel and warm clothes – to dry off and warm up after your swim.
- Sunscreen and a hat – to protect your skin from the sun, even on cloudy days.
- Water bottle and snacks – to stay hydrated and fuel your body before and after your swim.
- A waterproof bag – to keep your belongings dry while you swim.
Is open-water swimming safe in the UK?
Open-water swimming in the UK can be safe if proper precautions are taken. It’s important to be aware of the potential risks and to prepare accordingly. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Water temperature: In the UK, water temperatures can be quite cold even in the summer months. Make sure you have a wetsuit or other appropriate gear to keep you warm.
- Water quality: Some bodies of water in the UK may have poor water quality due to pollution or other factors. Check local advisories and avoid swimming in areas with known issues.
- Underwater hazards: There may be underwater hazards such as rocks, debris, or strong currents. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid areas with known hazards.
- Weather conditions: Changes in weather can quickly affect water conditions, so it’s important to be aware of the forecast and any warnings or advisories.
- Swimming alone: It’s always best to swim with a buddy or in a group, as it can be difficult to call for help if needed.
Check out The Rivers Trust guide to wild swimming in the UK.
What is the difference between wild swimming and open-water swimming?
The difference between wild and open-water swimming is that wild swimming typically refers to swimming in natural bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, or the sea. On the other hand, open water swimming can refer to swimming in any body of water that is not a pool or indoor facility, including both natural bodies of water and man-made features such as reservoirs or open water swimming pools.
Where is the warmest place to swim in the UK?
The warmest place to swim in the UK is Birling Gap Beach, East Sussex. Nestled in the southern county of East Sussex is the scenic Birling Gap Beach, which our research found is the sunniest beach in the UK, averaging 5.8 sunny hours per day in Autumn.
Where is the warmest water to swim in the UK?
The warmest water to swim in the UK is Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall. Expert research found that Porthcurno Beach in Cornwall is the warmest beach in the UK outside of summer, making this a must-visit during your Cornwall vacation.
- Cornwall – located in the southwest of England, Cornwall benefits from the Gulf Stream and tends to have warmer water temperatures in the summer months.
- Pembrokeshire – located in the west of Wales, Pembrokeshire has several sheltered coves and bays that can have warmer water temperatures, especially during the summer.
- Loch Lomond – located in Scotland, Loch Lomond is one of the larger bodies of freshwater in the UK and can have warmer water temperatures in the summer months.
- Lake District – located in the northwest of England, has several large bodies of water, such as Lake Windermere, that can have slightly warmer water temperatures in the summer.