5 Insanely Beautiful Wild Swimming Spots in Britain

By Fionn Coughlan-Wills

This is the Adventorama guide to 5 insanely beautiful wild swimming spots in the British Isles.

 

If you’re looking to visit England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales this summer, you’ll want to know the best places to take a dip or even go cliff diving.

We’ll explain everything in this guide. From the best places to swim outdoors to how to stay safe when swimming in wild waters.

When you’re done, find our Definitive Guide to Cheap Flights online here, and book yourself a flight to the UK today!

swimming spots in britain
swimming spots in britain

Types of Wild Swimming in Britain

 

Britain is an island nation with 19,500 miles of coastline.

Add to that 40,000 lakes and rivers, and you can see why the Brits have some of the best outdoor swimming venues in the world.

In different swimming spots, you’ll find new and exciting rock forms, wildlife and local culture, so it’s always worth exploring off the beaten path.

 

Here are the many types of swimming you’ll find in Britain.

Coastal Swimming

If you’ve never swum in the sea, then you’re in for a treat. It could be just the challenge you were looking for, especially if you’re already a strong swimmer and looking for a thrill.

Once you’ve gotten used to dealing with the waves, you’ll get to hone your stroke technique and improve your stamina like never before.

Since there are no limits like there are in the swimming pool, you can travel across a harbor, explore coves that are inaccessible to other beachgoers or even swim across an entire bay!

Stay safe and always swim with a buddy. For extra protection, wear a safety buoy so that you are visible to lifeguards and kayakers at all times.

swimming spots in britain

Lakes

In Great Britain, each region has its own name for the unique lakes that have formed there.

In the Lake District, they are known as ‘forces’ and ‘tarns.’ In Scotland, there are the famous lochs, and in Wales, they have ‘llyns.’

All of these are different names for the same thing: breathtaking lakes that vary in size from millponds to inland seas.

An advantage of lake swimming is that there are no tides to worry about, so you can dial in your technique and rack up big miles whenever the mood takes you.

However, if you want to have a relaxing swim, why not bring a kayak and paddle to the most secluded shoreside coves and lake-borne islands?

You’ll be the only swimmer there and have immeasurable waters in which to enjoy yourself.

swimming spots in britain
swimming spots in britain

Lidos

For those who want to swim outdoors but do not want the associated risks, Britain’s lidos offer the best of both worlds.

Outdoor pools are plentiful and open all summer. Some are even open all year round.

Of course, this isn’t the purest form of wild swimming.

But who’s complaining when you have a changing room to get dressed in and other conveniences like nearby cafes and coffee shops?

As an introduction to wild swimming, lidos and outdoor pools are ideal.

Most are manned by lifeguards, and many are free of charge. You’ll feel the freedom of swimming al fresco, and you’ll feel safe.

It’s, therefore, the perfect place for new swimmers to dip their toe in the world of wild swimming.

Rivers

The most exciting wild swimming takes place in rivers. They offer all of the above in various settings throughout Britain.

You’ll be able to find lagoons, plunge pools, cliffs, white water, gently flowing brooks, powerful tributaries and many other forms of river swimming.

It’s worth noting if you head into Scotland, it’s legal to wild camp as well as wild swim.

So, should you feel like it, you can pitch a tent next to a gorgeous riverside suntrap and wake up to the calming sound of a babbling brook.

Better yet, really awaken the senses by going for an early morning dip.

There are thousands of miles of rivers in the UK, and many are ripe for exploring in your bathing suit.

Just stay safe! Read on to discover how to stay safe when wild swimming.

swimming spots in britain
swimming spots in britain

Areas to avoid when wild swimming in the UK

It is vitally important you avoid both canals and harbors when wild-swimming in Great Britain. Both of these waterways feature large numbers of boats and seafaring vessels that are unlikely to spot a swimmer in front of their bow.

Shipping channels that lead to harbors should also be avoided because of their strong and unpredictable currents.

Fast flowing rivers are dangerous for the same reasons. If you are unsure of the waters or your swimming skills, do not get into the water. Find somewhere safe where the conditions match your level of swimming ability.

Now you know the basics of wild swimming, let’s take a look at the very best venues to wild swim in Great Britain.

swimming spots in britain

Top 5 Best Places to Wild Swim in Britain

 

Here, we’ve hand-picked a swimming venue for each of the five countries in Britain.

Baggy Point, England

Baggy Point Caves are empty when the tide is out, and you can walk on the white sandy floor inside this hidden gem of a cove.

swimming spots in britain

 However, you’d be missing out on some spectacular sea swimming if you didn’t come back at high tide.

Once the sea has reclaimed the cave, it’s a wondrous place to spend an hour swimming.

The rocky outcrops flanking the cave are great places to stop and sit for a rest, and you can exit at either side of the cave and walk back up the cliff.

It’s a popular spot in summer, but if you come on a day with good weather in autumn or spring, you might have Baggy Point to yourself.

However, Baggy Point is a natural beauty spot that’s famous for wild swimming, so it does get more and more popular each year. Make sure to get it ticked off your list soon!

More wild swimming spots in England:

Anchor Church, Derbyshire
Hampstead Heath, London
Blue Lagoon, Pembrokeshire

Fairy Pools, Scotland

The blue, crystal clear waters of the fairy pools will trick you into thinking the water is warm.

The color is as vivid as the mediterranean sea, but it’s actually run-off from the nearby Cuillin mountains, which means it’s ice cold.

Take the plunge, however, and you’ll be rewarded with some of the most atmospheric wild swimming you could possibly imagine.

swimming spots in britain

The pools are not very big but are enough to keep you occupied because of how many there are. Watch out for the higher waterfalls, though. They are too tall for cliff diving.

The fairy pools also boast Scotland’s largest natural underwater arch. Swim under it, and you will find yourself in another of the pools.

You can swim in the fairy pools all year round, which is great news! But you’ll definitely want to wear a wetsuit in any season other than high summer.

More wild swimming spots in Scotland:

Glenrosa Pools, Isle of Arran
The River Leven, Lochaber
Gairloch Beach, Wester Ross

swimming spots in britain

Porth Iago, Wales

The pure white sands of Porth Iago in Wales are wedged between a deep cut in the cliffs on the Welsh coast.

Just an hour’s drive from Mount Snowdon, this beach is the perfect place to bathe after a day spent hiking in the mountains.

You’ll be greeted by dunes covered in wildflowers, as well as a hill fort that is easy to reach by foot from the beach.

From the fort, you might spot the pods of dolphins that roam in this part of the Irish Sea.

It’s an idyllic beach that has surprisingly few visitors. Thankfully, the local farmer allows you to park your car in the field adjacent to the beach.

It’s likely that you’ll have Porth Iago all to yourself. Who doesn’t want their own secluded spot in paradise?

More swimming spots in Wales:

Little Canyon, Brecon
Pen-doll Rocks, The River Wye
Blue Pool, Golwern Quarry

Howth, Ireland

Howth is a small peninsula 20 minutes drive from Dublin which is the capital city of Ireland.

It’s a wild swimmer’s paradise with many locations offering every type of outdoor swimming.

swimming spots in britain

Our favorite is the cliff path area on the coast.

Here, you’ll find reclaimed diving boards set up on the cliffs, ready for some short but exhilarating dives into the Irish Sea.

Once you’ve gotten your head for heights, be sure to take a swim around the bright red rocks of the Howth peninsula.

If you are looking for calmer waters, head to Balscadden Bay. You’ll find sandy beaches, blue waters, and more cliffs if you haven’t had your fill of cliff diving.

After your swim you can treat yourself to a traditional meal of fish and chips from Howth high street, just 5 minutes walk from the beach.

More places to wild swim in Ireland:

Solomon’s Hole, County Wexford
Derrynane, County Kerry
The Pollock Holes, County Clare

St Ninian’s, Shetland Isles

St Ninian’s is what is known as a ‘sand tombolo.’ This is a stretch of sandy beach with water on either side, connecting a small island to the mainland.

It’s a picturesque natural feature that is rare and in the case of St Ninian’s, eye-wateringly beautiful.

Because the Shetland Isles are 151 miles north of the Scottish mainland, St Ninian’s makes for a chilly swim – even in summer.

The cold weather makes it great for serious open water swimmers, however. It means that you’ll never overheat and can swim for miles across the bay and around the Isle of St Ninian.

If you’re feeling adventurous after your swim, the Isle of St Ninian is home to the ruins of a 12th-century chapel.

The walls and alter blocks can still be seen above ground level and make for a very solemn place to contemplate the surrounding North Sea.

We highly recommend wearing a wetsuit and two swimming caps if you’re sensitive to the cold!

swimming spots in britain

How to Open Water Swim Safely

Now you have some travel ideas of where to swim in the UK, it’s time to recap some general safety advice.

Wild swimming is a fantastic pastime that connects you to the natural world in a very unique way. But it comes with its potential dangers.

If you are prepared and swim sensibly, you will avoid these hazards and have an incredible experience.

Always swim with a friend

Swimming with a buddy is the safest option. If either of you experiences difficulties, the other is on hand to help tow the stricken swimmer to land.

If you really want to swim alone, tie a safety buoy to yourself so you can use it to float in an emergency. You’ll be more visible to boats, too.

Cold water

Cold water can cause ‘cold shock.’ This is the body’s response to a sudden change in temperature.

Limbs will cramp, you will involuntarily take a deep breath of air, and you will not be able to swim with confidence.

Always get into the water slowly and allow your mind and body to adjust to the extreme temperature.

Wearing a wetsuit in cold water is highly recommended.

Understand your ability level

It’s not smart to underestimate the sheer power of rivers, lakes, and seas.

As a new swimmer, you should always be aware of your limitations because even professional swimmers remain cautious while swimming in the wild.

If you want to improve your skills in a safe setting with lifeguards around, check your local swimming pool for adult swimming lessons.

Here, you’ll be given invaluable tips for improving your technique and learning new types of stroke.

Know the depth of the water

If you have any doubts about the depth of the water, do not jump into it from a height.

Only go cliff diving in fair weather conditions and in areas that are recommended as cliff diving locations.

Understand currents

It can be a fun test of strength to swim against a light current in a stream.

However, strong currents, tidal currents, and undercurrents must be avoided.

They are dangerous, period. If there is signage warning against swimming due to strong currents, then don’t swim in this area.

Always swim in wild venues that are recommended by guidebooks, as they have been checked over for potential hazards and are deemed as safer places to swim.

swimming spots in britain

Of course, make sure to have fun, like the open water swimmer in this video who can’t get enough of Scotland’s jaw-dropping wild swims.

Conclusion

Wild swimming is all the rage now that water pollution is at an all-time low and there are so many good swimming guides around (like this article!).

The very thought of thrilling the senses by plunging into the deep cool waters of Britain’s seas, lakes, and rivers, is enough to make your heart beat faster.

No matter what the season, don’t miss out on what Britain has to offer and book your next holiday to England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales. You won’t be disappointed!.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This