Where To Go Wild Swimming In The UK, Because There Are So Many Good Options
The annual heatwave has hit, and if you believe the papers, pavements are melting, people are spontaneously turning into sun-dried tomatoes on their walk home, and the UK is a few degrees away from being hotter than the centre of the sun. Exaggeration aside, it is pretty boiling. But unfortunately being a country ill-equipped to cope with weather that's better than a light drizzle, outdoor pools are pretty few and far between. So where can you go wild swimming in the UK?
Bagging a spot at your local lido when the mercury rises is an all-night stake-out affair and who has time for that? Getting acquainted with the country's best wild swimming spots is therefore a must. Not only are they an unusual place to swim, you'll usually find they're a lot quieter than lidos and way more magical than a paddling pool in your back garden.
But first a few words of safety. Outdoor swimming can be more dangerous than swimming indoors due to a lack of lifeguards, variable conditions and the cold. A few simple precautions can help ensure that your swim is adventurous for the right reasons.
Be sure to check if where you're planning on swimming has lifeguards, if you're not a seasoned outdoor swimmer, it's wise to start with places that are supervised in case you get into any trouble. Always go with friends, as you can keep an eye on each other and call for help if anything goes wrong. Before you make the plunge, check you have an easy exit from the water should anything go wrong. And when you're ready to swim, ease yourself into the water. It might be tempting to jump in to get the freezing cold feeling over and done with, but sudden immersion can cause cold shock and difficulty breathing. Once you're in, check you're breathing easily and stay close to the side until you become acclimatised to the temperature.
So now the important safety briefing is over, where to go? I've rounded up some of the most picturesque outdoor swimming spots in the UK. You're welcome!
Hampstead Ponds, London
While London is about as urban as it gets, Hampstead Heath offers a slice of the countryside with the added bonus of a spectacular view over the capital's famous skyline. But that's not the only thing this historic park has going for it. It's also home to a trio of swimming ponds loved by North Londoners. You can find swimmers braving the chilly, green water all year round. The Mixed Pond is the most public of the three and is ideal if you're planning on going with a group of men and women. The separate Ladies (pictured) and Mens' Ponds enjoy more secluded locations, surrounded by trees, with grassy stretches for warming up. All three of the pools have lifeguards on duty who are experts in spotting anyone struggling with the cold, so this is a great choice if you're just starting to swim outdoors.
Fairy Pools, Skye
The Scottish island of Skye packs in so much beautiful scenery it's actually kind of hard to believe it's part of the UK. But a swim in the crystal clear waters of the Fairy Pools won't so much fool you into thinking you're on another continent so much as in another world. Set amongst a backdrop of the Black Cuillin Mountains and created by the River Brittle running downstream, the pools certainly beat the tiled sides of your local pool. Hike the trail and stop for spontaneous swims as soon as you start to feel even slightly sweaty. There's so many to choose from, it would be rude not to.
Waterfall Country, Brecon Beacons, Wales
Swimming under waterfalls feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience you'd usually only get to do on a holiday to somewhere seriously farflung right? Well what if I told you you could do it for free in the UK? Located in the lush greenery of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Waterfall Country sees four rivers wind their way through the Welsh countryside creating caves, tree-lined gorges and waterfalls. Try Horseshoe Falls, where there are a series of pools underneath a waterfall, perfect for splashing around in.
Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, Margate
The expansive four acres of Margate's saltwater swimming pool is a must-do for newbies and expert outdoor swimmers alike. Filling up at high tide each day, Walepole Bay is sea swimming with a difference. It's warmer than the open sea but blends in with it, so you'll feel like you're bobbing around in the open ocean. And afterwards a well-earned reward of fish and chips is just a few minutes' walk away.
Rydal Water, Lake District
The Lake District is arguably the outdoor swimming capital of the UK. Not that you'd necessarily know it when you were there. The selection of quiet stretches along the shores of the lakes mean you'll struggle to find a more secluded swim. Rydal Water in Cumbria is a good beginner's lake as it's shallower than many of the others in the area which makes it warmer and less intimidating. Plus the pebble-beach like shores make paddling easy for those who aren't quite convinced enough to go all in.
Henleaze Lake, Bristol
This West Country swimming spot offers the best of both worlds. There are lifeguards in situ for safety plus the chance to fling yourself off a diving board, all against the backdrop of gorgeous green meadows, with plenty of space to stretch out and sunbathe post-swim. And if you're feeling really chilly, you can always seek refuge in the pond-side sauna. Ideal if you'd like to dip a toe into outdoor swimming without giving up the comforts of an indoor pool.
Grassington, North Yorkshire
Grassington Weir is a shallow set of pools with waterfalls and natural chutes. Its rapid-like formation makes it ideal for whooshing about on a rubber ring. For those feeling braver, there's a plunge pool at Loup Scar which is perfect for jumping into. Part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, those who don't fancy a dip can set off on the many hiking trails or wander the the cobbled streets of Grassington village.
If you're looking to cool off in some natural waters, then try these spots. Just remember to stay safe at all times.