Top 5 spots for wild swimming in the UK

Top 5 spots for wild swimming in the UK


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Wild swimming.

Or what some might call sea swimming, outdoor swimming or open water swimming, has seen a surge in UK popularity over recent years.

Indeed, the pandemic-forced closure of pools and leisure centres nationwide has had many people turning to the UK’s lakes and beaches in an attempt to satisfy their ‘urge to submerge’.

But where to go?

In the UK we are spoiled for choice when it comes to options. Lake, beach, river?

Finding the perfect swimming location that is right for you can be half the battle (the other half is putting on your swimming cap).

Read on to discover our picks for the top 5 spots for wild swimming in the UK.

1. Gold Diggings Quarry, Cornwall

This man-made quarry lake on Cornwall’s Bodmin Moor is ideal for wild swimming.

Surrounded by stone ledges, it provides a range of cliffs suitable for the adventurous-minded to fling themselves off, as well as plenty of flat ground for sunbathing and a more gentle entrance to the water.

How do I get there?

Not accessible by car, Gold Diggings Quarry requires a 15 minute trek from the closest car park but with such beautiful and unfettered natural scenery, your jaunt to the quarry is sure to be a satisfying one.

2. Lower Ddwli Falls, Brecon Beacons

Nestled within the Brecon Beacons mountain range in South Wales, this location is perfect for the beginner wild swimmer.

Lower Ddwli Falls is a series of over 20 plunge pools scattered throughout a five-mile stretch.

Complete with numerous crashing waterfalls, sparkly dewy-watered rainbows, and a rope swing at the larger Horseshoe Falls pool, this location provides a great day out for young and old alike.

How do I get there?

Situated near the village of Pontneddfechan, you can park a short walk from the Falls at either end of its stretch of pools. Walk along the forest path and you will come to your first pool. Continue on from there to explore and spend the day pool-hopping.

3. Appletreewick, Yorkshire Dales

The cosy village of Appletreewick, tucked away within North Yorkshire, contains a wonderfully secluded section of the River Wharfe. 

A small flat island in the middle of the river provides idyllic ground for a picnic or relaxing sunbathe break between dips.

As well as wild swimming, the gentle rapids located within this stretch of river also make Appletreewick a perfect location for tubing.

How do I get there?

Access is most easily gained near to the Masons Campsite. Walk South-Westerly from there through the field until you reach the river bank.

4. Lough Shannagh, Mourne Mountains

A wide natural lake encased within the mighty granite peaks of the Mourne Mountains, Lough Shannagh is one of Northern Ireland’s most secluded and picturesque spots for an outdoor dip.

The surrounding landscape is inundated with wild heather and flowering gorse, creating a stunning fertile backdrop against the crystal clear lake in the springtime.

How do I get there?

Naturally, being surrounded by mountains Lough Shannagh is not the easiest spot to get to. But its isolation is all part of its appeal!

Park at Banns Road Cark Park and follow the direct track for about an hour to arrive at the lake.

5. Portobello Beach, Edinburgh

If quarry lakes, waterfall pools, river rapids and mountain lakes aren’t your thing – you could always go for a dip at the beach.

The UK has several wonderful beaches to choose from, many complete with that quintessentially British seaside atmosphere of ice lollies and arcades along the promenade.

Portobello Beach is one such location.

Portobello Beach has its own annual ‘Loony Dook’: a Scottish tradition

where on January 1st people dress up in costume and run into the freezing water

to ring in the new year!

A few short miles from Edinburgh city centre, Portobello Beach offers crisp open water for swimming, soft sand for sunbathing and a promenade featuring some of the capitals best-loved bars and restaurants.

How do I get there?

Due to its inner city location, Portobello Beach is easily reached by car or public transport.

What do you think of our picks?

Do you enjoy wild swimming? Have you swum in any of these locations?

We are always eager to hear from our readers and love seeing your photos.