Outdoor swimming is full of fun, freedom and adventure. We love hearing about the secret rivers, lakes and beaches where you take a dip and enjoy the thrill of wild swimming.
Here’s our guide to the best wild swimming spots in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Best for a summer picnic
Linhope Spout, Alnwick, Northumberland
On a warm summer’s day, you can’t beat packing a picnic and taking a short hike up to Linhope Spout on the River Breamish. Underneath the rushing falls is a deep, circular plunge pool with shallows for paddling. It’s the perfect place to cool off on a hot day.
Best for beginners
Frensham Great Pond, Farnham, Surrey
Sandy beach. Excellent water quality. A 50-metre marked swimming area and a maximum depth of 1.4 metres. Frensham Great Pond is ideal if you’re considering your first wild swimming experience. With a car park and café onsite, you can bring the kids with you for a splash, too.
Best for a dramatic backdrop
Carrick-a-Rede, Country Antrim, Northern Ireland
Swim the 1 km across Larrybane Bay and under the iconic Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. As you pass through the towering cliffs be sure to look up at the rope bridge suspended 100 metres above and watch the tourists’ reactions. It’s a tough challenge suited to stronger swimmers.
Best for escaping the crowds
Knoydart Peninsula, Lochaber, Scotland
This rugged, remote part of the Scottish Highlands is only accessible by boat and foot. Take a dip in the stunning Loch Hourn with the Isle of Skye in the distance. The waters may be chilly, but the feelings of escape and solitude make it a heavenly wild swimming spot.
Best for a post-swim pub
Port Meadow, Oxford, Oxfordshire
The River Thames around Oxford has long been a playground for boaters and swimmers. Further upstream from the eerie, derelict river lido at Tumbling Bay is a stretch of river with grassy banks and gentle slopes down to the water. Head to the Trout Inn at Godstow afterwards for a hearty lunch or warming drink.
Best for literary inspiration
Lough Gill, County Sligo, Republic of Ireland
This freshwater lake is the setting for William Butler Yeats’ poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’. It was also the training venue of Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel. Today, the lough is better known for its annual 10km charity swim event. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to pop into the TekraSport HQ in Fivemilebourne and say hello.
Best for wildlife
Skomer Marine Reserve, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Join the sea safari excursions that set off from Neyland Marina. With the help of a swim guide you will be taken on an adventure across bays, around islands and to hidden beaches. Keep an eye out for the dolphins, seals, porpoises, puffins and razorbills that call the marine reserve their home.
Best for skinny dipping
Pedn Vounder Sands, Treen, Cornwall
Pedn Vounder is one of the hidden jewels of south west England. The secluded, sandy beach is a 15-minute walk from the village of Treen on the Penwith Peninsula. According to Daniel Start, author of Hidden Beaches, it’s one of the best wild swimming spots if you want to go full skins without your costume or wetsuit.
Best for triathlon training
The Lake District, Cumbria
Take your pick of the lakes to perfect your swim-bike-run disciplines. The National Park is used for training by triathlon clubs around the world and hosts a range of Ironman and endurance swim events. Find the car park at Crow Park by Derwent Water and swim around Derwent Isle. The loop is exactly 1500 metres, the perfect Olympic distance swim.
Best for greenery and scenery
Lady Falls, Brecon Beacons, Wales
Known as Sgwd Gwladys in Welsh, Lady Falls is a beautiful, natural amphitheatre with a plunge pool and waterfall. Enjoy a wild swim surrounded by lush greenery. Swim up to the falls, climb behind them and dive back in. It’s a special wild swimming spot that will keep you coming back.
Best for sea swimming
Bude Sea Pool, Bude, Cornwall
Bude Sea Pool is a part man-made and part-natural tidal pool. Nestling under the cliffs of Summerleaze Beach, the tide fills the pool to provide a safe and calm place to enjoy your sea swimming. Entry is free. Life guards are on duty 10am to 6pm, from Easter through to October half-term.
Best for going with the flow
Sharrah Pool,Dartmoor, Devon
Sharrah Pool is a beautiful stretch of the River Dart. Over the years it has become one of the best known wild swimming spots in the UK. Leave your clothes on the wide, flat stones by the water’s edge. Ease yourself into the water. And let the gentle current propel you past the beautiful wooded scenery of Dartmoor.
Best for a bit of magic
Fairy Pools,Isle of Skye, Scotland
Sparkling clear blue water. The imposing Black Cuillin mountains. You can easily feel you’re taking a dip in a magical kingdom. The pools are fed by fresh spring water and will certainly help you to come alive. Definitely one for a wetsuit, whatever the season.