Kielder National Park

Top Places for Wild Swimming in the UK

A cooling dip in fresh, cold water is said to be a boost for wellbeing and even potentially, your health. Whether that’s true or not, it’s certainly fun and exhilarating to get back to nature.

Here is our round-up of the top 10 best places to go for wild swimming in the UK.

Stone bridge over the River Wharfe

River Wharfe, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Number one spot for wild swimming has to go to the UK’s first place to be given official bathing water status. A stretch of the River Wharfe in Ilkley, popular with swimmers, will be regularly tested to ensure it is safe and display the relevant signage – a privilege that was previously only bestowed on coastal waters.

Back to the swim spot itself, one particularly popular stretch with a pebble ‘beach’ is located under a small suspension bridge, close to the Ilkley Cricket Club and the local lido – which means there is double the opportunity for an outdoor dip in this pretty spa town, which also boasts the beautiful Ilkely Moor.

Trees lining The River Dart

Spitchwick Common/Deeper Marsh, Dartmoor, Devon

Plunge pools, picnic areas and plenty of parking – it doesn’t get much better than this for wild swimmers. Spitchwick is truly out in the wilds of the Dartmoor National Park, amid lovely woodland and surrounded by cliffs, but still easily accessible along the River Dart.

The moorland water is deep, clean and clear, and curves around a grassy area, which makes it one of the most popular places to swim and best to get their early to avoid the crowds. Just up river from this spot is the scenic Sharrah Pool, a place for more confident and adventurous swimmers.

Sheep grazing in front of Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale, North Yorkshire

We return to the River Wharfe for our next dip, but this time within North Yorkshire. A day trip to Bolton Abbey, the Yorkshire Dales attraction that’s home to 12th century monastery ruins, is not complete without a brisk swim in the water that winds alongside it – just make sure it’s on a sunny summer’s day.

The ruins make an incredible backdrop for a swim, and just below the Abbey there’s a spot in the river that runs by a bridge and stepping stones, which will direct you to a pool that’s both deep and wide and perfect for a splash.

Janet’s Foss, Malham

Janet’s Foss, Malham, North Yorkshire

Sticking with North Yorkshire, there’s a great chance to pair a visit to Malham Cove – a curving limestone cliff formation that’s around 260 ft high – with a waterfall walk and swim.

Starting out at either site or in the Yorkshire Dales village of Malham, well known and loved for its walking trails, you can follow one of the walks to Janet’s Foss, a small waterfall set back in an ‘amphitheatre’ of rocks, before going for a dip in the deep pool below it, and then back along a trail and onwards to visit the cove.

River Helford

Frenchman’s Creek, Helford, Cornwall

This creek – famed for its emerald tinge – is best to visit around high tide for a proper splash. Surrounded by trees and fields it can feel secluded, despite being located close to the quaint Cornish village of Helford. It’s an appealing alternative to swimming in busy rivers or at packed beaches on the coast, while holidaying in the South West.

A rocky bay at Cadgwith Harbour

Devil’s Frying Pan, Cadgwith, Cornwall

A blue-ish lagoon in the right light, the brilliantly-named Devil’s Frying Pan is one to visit from Cadgwith Cove, which you may be exploring if you want to see the Lizard Peninsula – the most south-westerly point on the British mainland.

You can now only reach this secluded lagoon by boat, or by swimming from Cadgwith to get to the notable bridge of rock above the pool – meaning it’s one for the most determined of wild swimmers.

a narrow stream running through the hill in Langstrath

Black Moss Pot, Langstrath, Lake District

You’re spoilt for choice for swimming opportunities in the Lake District but Black Moss Pot is popular with locals and visitors alike. Although it can be busy, the combination of a waterfall, cliffs, and clear water all make it a winner – as well as the fantastic scenery.

Close to Keswick, this area is also home to many beloved Lake District walks and close to a local inn where you can refuel.

Loch an Eilein surounded by trees and mountains

Loch an Eilein, Cairngorms, Scotland

An island, castle ruins and pine forest… this lovely loch has it all and is a great location for walks, picnics and swimming.

Surrounded by the stunning Rothiemurchus Forest, there’s plenty for the eyes to feast on as you unwind in its chilly waters. Set in the Cairngorms National Park, which is a splendid place to make your base for a walking holiday, this freshwater loch ticks all the boxes.

Note: permissions for swimming can change regularly; always make sure to swim in safe, approved places; take note of weather forecasts and temperatures; tell others where you’re going – and follow your usual safe swimming guidelines.

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