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Our guide to wild swimming in the UK features all the essential tips, from what to wear to where to go, so that you can connect with nature like never before!

Wild swimming is a refreshing way to experience the great UK outdoors, whether you enjoy exercise or relaxing dips! This pastime allows you to engage with British landscapes and nature in an entirely new way. You can plunge into some of the country’s most gorgeous waters on your own or use it as a fun way to spend quality time with those who mean the most.

Read on to uncover all you need to know about wild swimming in the UK…

What is wild swimming?

If you’re a newbie to wild swimming, don’t worry, we’re here to explain what it’s all about. Wild swimming is the pastime of outdoor swimming in any natural area of water, including lakes, ponds, rivers and the sea!

The idea of going for a wild swim has been popular for hundreds of years, with the activity being linked to stress reduction. The best part about it is that it can be enjoyed by all ages and many swimming spots are easy to find.

What you need for wild swimming

You don’t need any intricate or specialist gear for an outdoor swim, but it’s always wise to be prepared. Perhaps you need a wetsuit for the chillier months or swim boots for rocky surfaces? We’ve compiled a list of recommended items for the best wild swimming experience possible, all-year-around:

  • Wetsuit/swimming costume
  • Swimming cap
  • Goggles
  • Swim boots
  • Earplugs
  • A towel
  • Tow floats
  • Spare, dry clothes

Our wild swimming safety tips

While this is a thrilling hobby, you must take care when doing it. Due to it taking place in natural spaces, it’s vital to keep these safety tips in mind before, during and after your wild swim.

  1. Check the water’s condition – This is absolutely vital. Make sure the water’s clear before going in, otherwise you could get tangled in reeds or slip on blue-green algae. Before going for a dip, do some research beforehand and check its likeliness of containing any bacteria, too.
  2. Inspect the current – You can do this quickly before jumping in. Toss a twig or branch into the flowing water and if it flows faster than your swimming pace, give it a miss!
  3. Have an exit plan in place – An incredibly important thing to remember, especially when it comes to rivers. Make a mental note of any shallow spots and escape routes.
  4. Beginners shouldn’t swim alone – If you’re new to outdoor swimming, make sure you go for an alfresco dip with friends or a club. If something bad were to happen, you can rely on a swim buddy to keep you safe.
  5. Keep warm – Cold water shock is a scary thing and can even be life-threatening! Remember to take wetsuits with you on cooler days when the water temperature is below 15°C. After swimming, wrap up in a towel, then change into dry clothing to stay warm.
  6. Pay attention to boundaries – Keep this in mind, particularly when swimming in the sea. Swimming for lengths of time can cause cramps, if you’re far from the shore you can end up in a dangerous position. So, keep an eye out for buoys or markers, and don’t go past these.

13 spots for wild swimming in the UK

Wild swimming is the perfect activity for the warmer months, and there are so many places throughout the country to try it! Dive into this list of the best wild swimming UK spots to get some inspiration for your next wild swim.

1. Buttermere, Lake District

people wild swimming in buttermere lake district

There is no shortage of wild water swimming spots in the Lake District but our top choice has to be Buttermere! You can uncover this 2-kilometre delight by embarking on a circular hike from the nearby Bridge Hotel’s car park.

This lake is a beautiful location for wild swimming, however, it does feature several deep areas, making it suitable for intermediate swimmers only. Buttermere enjoys a lack of boats, so you can relish a hassle-free swim while taking in the sights of High Stile and Red Pike.

Suzanna Swims, a swimming organiser, provides guided wild swimming in Buttermere along with several other lakes within the national park. Whether you choose to embark on a guided swim or a free swim with friends, you can look forward to a post-dip treat at the nearby Syke Farm Tea Room.

Suitable for: Adults
GPS co-ordinates: 54.5300182, -3.2697452

2. Three Shires Head, Axe Edge Moor

three shires head peak district

Three Shires Head is one of many spots for wild swimming in the Peak District. However, this place is extra special because it sits on the River Dane, and is one of many Peak District waterfall walks.

To enjoy a wild swim here, you’ll need to embark on a walk from the Derbyshire Bridge car park. This hike takes you down a grassy valley, where you’ll discover a group of pools and a waterfall. Alternatively, you can park by The Cat & Fiddle Inn; however, space is limited.

For the most part, Three Shires Head is shallow, making it a lovely space for families to dip their toes. But if you can manage a deeper swim, be sure to plunge into the cool waters of the seven-foot waterfall pool!

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates: 53.2138, -1.9869

3. River Wey, Shalford

River Wey near Shalford

When it comes to the bustling city of London, you’ll be surprised to know there are many wild swimming options nearby! Our chosen swimming spot is the winding River Wey near Shalford. The location’s perfect for beginners, offering shallow waters lined by sandy banks and meadows.

You can reach this stretch of the river via a short walk from The Manor Inn‘s car park, past Broadwater Park. With historic bridges and mills peppered along the banks, this is a wonderful place to enjoy a relaxing swim.

The river also connects with the Surrey Cycleway, so why not turn your swim into a day out and bring along your bike?

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates: 51.197829, -0.587072

4. Loch Morlich, Cairngorms

Loch Morlich and Cairngorm Mountains

When it comes to wild swimming in Scotland, Loch Morlich is a must. This award-winning loch boasts sandy beaches, pristine waters and views of the Cairngorms’ snow-topped summits.

A fantastic spot for families to go for a wild swim, Loch Morlich is accessible by the beach and Loch Morlich trails. Additionally, a car park, the Glenmore Forest Park Visitor Centre and toilets rest nearby, making swimming here stress-free.

After swimming laps or splashing about with the little ones, stretch out on the golden sands before dining at the picnic area. Alternatively, turn your swim into an exhilarating afternoon by hiring a kayak or canoe from Loch Morlich watersports!

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates: 57.1666775, -3.7087548

5. Scaleber Force Waterfall, Yorkshire Dales

Scaleber Force Waterfall

Scaleber Force waterfall is a 12-metre cascade resting within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This has made our list of best wild swimming spots in the UK because it is an easily accessible and stunning place for a swim!

To reach the waterfall, you’ll need to park on High Hill Lane’s lay-by before walking along Scaleber Wood’s marked path. As you near the wild swimming location, you’ll hear the idyllic sounds of the waterfall, enticing you in for a cool dip.

After unwinding in the enchanting pool’s clear waters, re-energise with a woodland hike or cycle. If you’d prefer to rest your legs, make your way to Settle or Malham for a bite to eat.

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates: 54.0588501, -2.24478544

6. River Avon, Bitton

River Avon near Bitton

The River Avon is another wonderful river to add to this list! A wild water swimming destination near Bristol, you can reach this spot by wandering along the canal from the city towards Bath. Continue along the canal path until you reach Bitton’s railway bridge, where you’ll find a river crossing and a picnic area.

Make your way down the bank to the water and jump in via a wooden pontoon. After splashing around, kick back and relax as you take in the vistas of the passing narrowboats and steam trains.

Please be aware that whilst this is a serene area, the water itself is very deep and is only ideal for skilled wild swimmers!

Suitable for: Adults
GPS co-ordinates: 51.4174023, -2.4595242

7. Carn Marth, Cornwall

Carn Marth

An array of amazing locations for wild swimming in the UK can be found in Cornwall, including Carn Marth. A gorgeous pool, Carn Marth sits 235 metres high, at the site of a former Cornish Granite and Freestone quarry.

You’ll discover Carn Marth by hiking the short trail up an ancient hill. On this walk, you’ll pass a range of historic landmarks that showcase the area’s mining history as well as a breath-taking open-air amphitheatre.

It’s nice and shallow, so this is the place to come with family and canine companions! Due to the pool’s elevated position, it offers panoramic views over Redruth. The best time to visit is in the evening when these views are accompanied by the sunset.

Suitable for: Families and pets
GPS co-ordinates: 50.223310, -5.202315

8. Shilley Pool, Dartmoor National Park

Shilley Pool

This hidden gem has made this list of best spots for wild swimming in the UK due to its seclusion and beauty. You’ll discover this delight by venturing along the moorland road between Throwleigh and South Zeal. Before you reach Moor Farm, pull up at its parking area and follow the marked path along Blackaton Brook.

You’ll soon reach the pretty area of Shilley Pool. Here, you can while away the afternoon by paddling in its waters and sunbathing on its rocky slabs. Due to its shallowness, children can enjoy this pool, too!

Afterwards, why not follow the brook further to the historic Cosdon Hill Stone Rows? Alternatively, The Kings Arms Inn resides in South Zeal, where hearty meals and local ale await.

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates: 50.704852, -3.909269

9. Buscot Weir, Lechlade

Buscot Weir

After a family-friendly spot for summertime wild swimming in the UK? This scenic weir rests within easy reach of the Cotswolds and is the ideal place for a wild dip!

Free parking greets you on arrival; however if you’d prefer to walk, you can follow part of the riverside trail from The Trout Inn. The hike will lead you through the lush greenery surrounding the River Thames, including the lovely Cheese Wharf.

Once you’ve reached Buscot Weir, you can look forward to relaxing on its large, grassy lawn while the little ones jump into the river from the rope swing. Buscot itself rests moments away, where you can treat your loved ones to an ice cream from the Buscot Tearoom.

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates: 51.6794711, -1.6720025

10. Linhope Spout, NorthumberlandLinhope Spout Pool

Another spot for best wild swimming in the UK is this Northumberland wonder, Linhope Spout. To experience this 18-metre delight firsthand, you’ll need to embark on the Linhope Spout walk.

This trail transports you from Hartside, through Linhope and up to the waterfall. Here, you can settle down to a picnic with the kids and furry friends before dipping your toes in the six-foot plunge pool.

While families can access the waterfall, you’ll need to supervise children around the plunge pool.

Suitable for: Families and pets
GPS co-ordinates: 55.4478166, -2.0671024

11. Llyn Padarn, Snowdonia National Park

Llyn Padarn

Llyn Padarn is the perfect place for any wild swimming enthusiast to experience when they’re in North Wales. This Snowdonia lake covers 2 miles, offering plenty of space for wild water swimming and watersports. There are handy facilities nearby, such as parking and free toilets; making for a stress-free swim.

This glacially formed lake is surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains for you to admire and is home to the renowned Lonely Tree. After swimming, be sure to take a snap in front of the iconic sight!

After relishing Llyn Padarn’s clear waters and amazing panoramas, why not head into Llanberis to find a range of attractions?

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates: 53.1293049, -4.1278788

12. Sgwd-y-Bedol Waterfall, Waterfall Country

Horseshoe Falls

This wonderful Waterfall Country cascade can be found near the Brecon Beacons National Park. Due to its unique, circular shape, Sgwd-y-Bedol is often referred to as ‘Horseshoe Falls’.

A glorious place for a wild swim, Sgwd-y-Bedol alongside four other waterfalls can be found by hiking along the Elidir Trail. Once you reach this stunning sight, you’ll be mesmerised by its semi-circular ledges of cascading water.

When it comes to paddling in its depths, the large drops make this suitable for adults and expert swimmers only.

Suitable for: Adults
GPS co-ordinates: 51.7567388, -3.5935239

13. Carding Mill Valley Reservoir, Shropshire

Carding Mill Valley Reservoir

Finishing up this list of top spots for wild swimming in the UK is the charming Carding Mill Valley Reservoir. This attractive spot is ideal for any wild swimmers visiting Shropshire Hills!

This vast body of water sits moments away from the Carding Mill Valley Car Park. However, if you’d prefer to walk to the reservoir from Church Stretton, you can follow the path along the Carding Mill Valley Walk.

The reservoir backs onto a man-made ‘beach’, where you can rest your legs after splashing about in the glistening water. The best time to visit this spot is in the mornings; this is when it’s sunniest!

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates: 52.546266, -2.832449

Ready for a swim? Get your wild swimming getaway started by booking one of these waterside breaks. Alternatively, browse these cottages with swimming pools, where you can enjoy a soothing swim from the comfort of your holiday home.

Image Credits: Dave DunfordCC BY-SA 2.0; Alan HuntCC BY-SA 2.0; Jim CornwallCC BY-SA 2.0; Des BlenkinsoppCC BY-SA 2.0; Lucky EverettCC BY-SA 4.0; Guy WarehamCC BY-SA 2.0; Des BlenkinsoppCC BY-SA 2.0; David SquireCC BY-SA 2.0; PetersrockpicsCC BY-SA 2.0; Mick LobbCC BY-SA 2.0; Mr M EvisonCC BY-SA 2.0

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