Close Icon
Llyn Padarn, a Wild Swimming UK spot

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 outdoors in the UK, 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… 

Skip ahead to:

Frequently asked questions about wild swimming
Wild swimming safety tips
Top Wild swimming UK locations
Wild swimming UK map

Frequently asked questions about wild swimming UK

What is wild swimming?

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 do I 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

Is it illegal to wild swim in the UK?

According to the River and Lake Swimming Association, you cannot swim in a river or lake if they are privately owned or in a public country park where the local authority has not given permission to wild swim. It’s always a good idea to check out the permissions surrounding a wild swimming spot before going!

How do I start wild swimming?

If you want to try wild water swimming but don’t know where to start, we have some tips for you to keep in mind. Firstly, stake out your local swimming spots and find ponds and lakes with calm, shallow waters.

After choosing your location, follow our wild swimming safety tips, so your swim goes as smoothly as possible. Don’t forget to bring along the items from our recommendations list!

Our wild swimming safety tips

While this is a thrilling hobby, you must take care when doing it. Due to swimming 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 wild 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! Consider taking 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 venture too 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.

17 Wild swimming UK locations

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 swim.

A 2022 study uncovered that cold water swimming is beneficial for physical and mental health, with participants being 44 more times likely to say outdoor swimming had a “positive impact” on their mental health. So, what are you waiting for? Venture down to one of these stunning spots.

1. Buttermere Lake, 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 Lake! 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; however, it does feature several deep areas, making it suitable for intermediate swimmers only. Buttermere Lake enjoys a lack of boats, meaning 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 swimming in Buttermere along with several swimming 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.

It’s little surprise to see this spot featured in our guide to wild swimming in the Lake District!

Suitable for: Adults
GPS co-ordinates: 54.5300182, -3.2697452
Parking: Bridge Hotel, CA13 9UZ
Parking charge:
Please check upon arrival

2. Hampstead Heath Ponds, London

Hampstead Heath Park

The Hampstead Heath Ponds are a superb spot, with several swimming lakes to jump into. This particular spot requires you to book in advance due to it being a popular place with wild swimmers. You can do this via the City of London website where season tickets are also available.

A perfect place for wild water swimming beginners, there are three significant ponds here. If you’re visiting with family, the Mixed Pond is ideal. Here, you can look forward to swimming amidst the ducks before unwinding on the bank with ice cream.

Coming for a girl’s day out? We recommend diving into the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond. Regarded as one of the city’s best open-air swimming locations, you can enjoy easy access to showers, changing rooms and toilets nearby.

Alternatively, if you’re going for a wild swim with the guys, go for a splash in the Highgate Men’s Pond, which also enjoys ample access to facilities.

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates:
51.5594926, -0.1679314
Parking: East Heath Car Park, NW3 1TH
Parking charge: 0-2 hours, £5; 2-4 hours, £10; each extra hour, £9

3. River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire Dales

Bolton Priory overlooking the River Wharfe

Deemed one of the best wild swimming rivers in the Yorkshire Dales, we’re delighted to add the River Wharfe to our list. When going for a swim here, expect ample rapids, pools and, of course, views!

The picturesque ruin of Bolton Priory overlooks the river, making for an amazing backdrop to your swim. A deep pool rests near the remains where relaxing dips amidst the views await. The iconic stepping stones are also moments away, so why not give them a go?

Despite being a river, this wild swimming UK spot boasts sandy banks; the perfect picnic spot. If you’d prefer to reward yourself with a meal out instead, you’ll be pleased to find several eateries nearby, including the riverside café of the Cavendish Pavilion.

Turn your swim into an outing and explore more of the estate, with must-see points being Strid Wood, the Aqueduct and Barden Tower.

Suitable for: Adults
GPS co-ordinates:
53.9841026, -1.8874556
Parking: Bolton Abbey Car Park, 6EX
Parking charge: Parking prices are combined with access to the estate. Early Bird Entry Ticket, £12.50; On the Day Entry Ticket, £15; Minibus 11+ seater, £20; Coach 17+ seater, £30; Season Ticket, £150

4. Lake Windermere, Lake District

Jetty on Lake Windermere, Cumbria

The huge lake of Windermere was bound to make our guide. Not only does this swimming lake in the UK boast beautiful surroundings but it offers many places to swim.

If you’re a beginner, it’s best to head to the Ambleside end of the lake. Once you’ve reached this end, head to the banks of Borrans Park where the water is fairly shallow.

Are you an expert swimmer? You’ll be happy to find that the majority of the lake is at your disposal! The best points to access the lake include Millerground, Harrowslack, Fell Foot and Low Wray.

Afterwards, be sure to head into one of the lake’s surrounding towns, including Bowness-on-Windermere, where several restaurants serving up post-swim treats await.

Suitable for: Adults
GPS co-ordinates: 54.373828, -2.9397486
Parking: Rayrigg Road Car Park, LA23 3BZ
Parking charge: Up to 1 hour, £1.50; 1-2 hours, £3; 2-3 hours, £4; 3-4 hours, £5; 4-6 hours, £6; 6-12 hours, £7

5. Llynnau Mymbyr, Snowdonia National Park

Lake Llynnau Mymbyr, Snowdonia

Looking for a swim with a view? Try Llynnau Mymbyr in Snowdonia National Park. Nestled amidst Yr Wyddfa‘s foothills, this location benefits from sweeping vistas of Welsh mountains.

Swimmers report the water here as being the warmest in the area, allowing for a relaxing swim. However, if you’d like to have a more active session, you’ll be pleased to find the lake is about 3/4 mile long, meaning there’s ample space for laps.

This wild swimming lake can get pretty deep, with its maximum depth being 30 feet! This means it’s best suited to intermediate swimmers and a spot to avoid if you’re planning on bringing the kids.

Suitable for: Adults
GPS co-ordinates:
53.0981196, -3.9295944
Parking: 1 Dyffryn Cottages Parking, LL24
Parking charge: Please check upon arrival

6. 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
Parking: Gradbach Car Park, SK17 0SU
Parking charge: Charges start at £10

7. River Wey, Shalford

River Wey near Shalford

You’ll be surprised to know there are many wild swimming options that on London’s outskirts! Our chosen swimming spot is the winding River Wey near Shalford. The location is 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
Parking: Meadrow Car Park, GU7 3JF
Parking charge: Up to 1 hour, 80p; 2 hours, £1.60, 3 hours, £3; 4 hours, £4.20; 10 hours, £5; Max, £6

8. Loch Morlich, Cairngorms

Loch Morlich and Cairngorm Mountains

When it comes to wild swimming in Scotland, Loch Morlich is a must. This swimming lake 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
Parking: Sugarbowl Car Park, PH22 1RB
Parking charge: Up to 1 hour, £2; 3 hours, £3; all day, £4

9. 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
Parking: Free parking at High Hill Ln Lay-by, Settle

10. 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
Parking: Free parking at Willsbridge Mill Car Park, BS30 9UA

11. 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 beautiful pool, Carn Marth sits 235 metres high, at the site of a former Cornish Granite and Freestone quarry.

To reach Carn Marth, hike the short trail up the ancient hill. Along the way, you’ll pass a range of historic landmarks that showcase the area’s mining history, as well as a breath-taking open-air amphitheatre.

Carn Marth’s shallow waters make it a great place for families and dogs. Due to the pool’s elevated position, it offers panoramic views over Redruth. The best time to visit is in the evening when you can enjoy the sunset along with these views.

Wild swimming in Cornwall is just one of the many outdoor activities that you can do here!

Suitable for: Families and pets
GPS co-ordinates: 50.223310, -5.202315
Parking: Lanner Reservoir Car Park, TR16 5SZ
Parking charge: Please check upon arrival

12. Shilley Pool, Dartmoor National Park

Shilley Pool

This hidden gem has made this list of the 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
Parking: Free parking at gravelled area by Moor Farm, EX20 2TH

13. Buscot Weir, Lechlade

Buscot Weir

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

Park up at, then 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
Parking: Trout Inn Car Park, GL7 3HA
Parking charge: Please check upon arrival

14. Linhope Spout, Northumberland

Linhope Spout Pool

Another spot for wild swimming in England is this Northumberland wonder, Linhope Spout. To experience this 18-metre spot 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 for a picnic with the kids 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
Parking: Ingram Bridge Car Park, NE66 4LT
Parking charge: Free for up to 2 hours, please check upon arrival for other prices

15. Llyn Padarn, Snowdonia National Park

Llyn Padarn at Sunrise

Llyn Padarn is one of the many peaceful wild swimming in Wales spots that you have to try! 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
Parking: Village Car Park, LL55  4BY
Parking charge: Up to 1 hour, £1; 2 hours, £2; 3 hours, £3

16. 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, along with 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.

However, due to its large drops, paddling in its depths is only suitable for adults and experienced swimmers.

Suitable for: Adults
GPS co-ordinates: 51.7567388, -3.5935239
Parking: Free parking at 11 High St, SA 11 5NP

17. Carding Mill Valley Reservoir, Shropshire

Carding Mill Valley Reservoir

Concluding 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 UK swimming lake is located just 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.

Carding Mill Valley Reservoir is backed by 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 morning when it’s the sunniest!

Suitable for: Families
GPS co-ordinates: 52.546266, -2.832449
Parking: Carding Mill Valley Car Park, SY6 6JG
Parking charge:
£7 for all-day parking

Wild swimming UK map

Ready to Make a Splash

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; Mick LobbCC BY-SA 2.0; Mr M EvisonCC BY-SA 2.0

Get involved in the Discussion

Sign up to receive discounts, exclusive offers, travel tips and guides.