Swimming pools, who needs ‘em. Chilly, chlorine clogged water. Screaming kids, stealthily ‘bombing’ the deep end. The old chap, who spends his towelling off time in the nud. Not to mention the price, which seems to go up year on year (I’m sure it used to cost 50p?)
Sadly, if you’re into your swimming, there’s no other option but to use the public baths. Or is there?
During my time as a writer in the world of UK holidays, I’ve come to realise that us Brits are pretty wild when it comes to swimming. What with the plucky few who race in the waters of Windermere, to the Irish who spend Boxing Day paddling in the Atlantic, it seems we’re a nation who aren’t afraid to get wet, however cold it may be.
With this in mind, we’ve come up with five places around Britain that are perfect for wild swimming. Naturally, this ‘sport’ isn’t for everyone, and we’d advise those who aren’t fans of getting wet and cold to remain firmly on dry land.
River Trent, Derbyshire
A river may not sound the safest place to take an alfresco dip, and rightly so. But choose your spot wisely and there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a leisurely swim. The River Trent in Derbyshire is famed for its safe ‘lagoons’, which offer a tranquil place to plunge- even for little’uns. Sure, the water will be cold, but it’ll be fresh too. Plus, it’ll be quiet, so quiet in fact that 6th century hermits and saints used to inhabit the nearby rocky grottoes to avoid being seen by unsavoury types, perfect if you forgot your swimwear…
Kailpot Crag, Lake District
Ullswater may be one of the most popular lakes in the Lake District, but stay clear of the tourist haunts and undiscovered corners remain, including Kailpot Crag. Characterised by its ancient, gnarly foliage, this west-facing outcrop has the makings of a great swimming spot, including a small cliff for fright-free diving. There’s a petite shingle beach too that’s ideal for drying off, and that westerly aspect means you can enjoy the sunset if you wish. The easiest way to access the crag is via a ferry which docks at Howton.
Loch Caoldair, Western Cairngorms
Bring a wetsuit and thermals if you plan on swimming wild in Scotland because take it from us, it’ll be pretty chilly. Don’t let that put you off though as, thanks to Scotland’s liberal open access laws, you’re allowed to swim in pretty much all of the country’s thousands of lochs. One of our favourites is Loch Caoldair, a tree lined waterway tucked in the western Cairngorms. Home to deep, black water and a lovely wee beach, Caoldair is ideal for an invigorating swim. What’s more, the loch is only a mile from the road, so you won’t have to hike far to enjoy a quick dip.
Lower Ddwli Falls, Brecon Beacons
Hidden in the south-west hills of the Brecon Beacons lies Waterfall Woods, an enchanting blend of natural pools and ancient woodland; prime territory for open-air swimming enthusiasts. Whilst photographers flock to the Sgws Gwladys- aka Lady Falls- intrepid bathers should make for the Ddwli Falls, where a huge, deep pool and powerful waterfall await. Revitalise in the spray, keeping your eye on the treeline for fleeting rainbows, or head downstream to horseshoe falls to make use of the jump and rope swing.
River Stour, Kent
Those that have visited Kent’s River Stour may consider this an odd addition, but bear with me. Setting out from the town of Fordwich-reputed to be England’s smallest town- will bring you to an exposed stretch of the Stour, but keep going, and things soon become more secluded. Awash with wildlife and containing a relatively weak current, this river is ideal for a relaxing paddle on a sunny afternoon. The calmest stretch of the river is located beyond the reeds of Stodmarsh nature reserve, easily accessible by canoe.