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Best places for wild swimming in the UK

Wild swimming is rising in popularity, and the UK is full of delightful spots to splash and do laps out in the natural world — but if you’ve never dipped a toe in a river or lake before, it can be difficult to know where to start. Your choice should reflect not only where you are and your ability level, but what kind of swimming you want to do, and whether you’ll settle for a more frequented haunt or want a truly remote experience, just you and the kingfishers. Never fear: the best wild swimming spots are out there just waiting for you to discover them.

Rivers

Many rivers across the UK are great spots for a little wild swimming. The River Dart in Dartmoor National Park has tempted swimmers for decades, and many areas of its stretch across Devon are safe and clear, particularly the area outside the village of Staverton. Claverton Weir in the River Avon is also a celebrated swimming spot, with child-friendly grassy surrounds. Want to dive into the Thames? Wait until you’re outside London; the Pangbourne banks are popular for a swim.

The entirety of the River Stour in Kent also welcomes swimmers, whether you want to explore its open sunnier areas or its cooler, forested places. Want remoteness on the Sussex Downs? Head for the River Ouse, which has occasional waterside inns and boat hire along its banks, but is otherwise a clear, clean stretch of water with nothing but fields for miles.

Wales has many beautiful swimming rivers, including the River Usk, with its pools and islands, and the remote River Vyrnwy, which rewards intrepid travellers with miles of calm water. In Scotland, the River Oude leads into the Oude Dam, both gloriously clean (if very cool) swimming places.

 

Lakes and pools

Lakes and small pools are also prime spots for getting into your swimming costume and enjoying a dip. For the brave, Northumberland’s Cheviots conceal the famous Linhope Spout plunge pool, with a six-foot ledge from which swimmers can dive into extremely deep, clear waters. Lower Ddwli Falls in Wales’ Brecon Beacons is popular for swimming with a dramatic backdrop, as it comes with its own glorious waterfall that shines in sunlight, delighting children.

Active types will enjoy wandering the Lake District’s mountains and finding the pools all along Scafell Pike. They’re excellent places for a cooling dip after a hot hike in the sun, particularly Tongue Pot, with its beaches and waterfall. Many of the still, clear lochs in Scotland are also open for swimming, including the famous Loch Ness, but kids and whimsical adults will be captivated by the Faerie Pools on the Isle of Skye, which are lined with delicate quartz and look like they might house mermaids.

If you’re going wild swimming in the UK for the first time, do your research: check guides for currents and hidden hazards in rivers, check lake and pool water for rocks, and don’t dive or swim near boats. Oh, and in the hot months, bug spray is essential. Happy splashing!

 

 

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