The best wild swimming destinations in the UK

Helen Alexander

Senior Contributor

Improve your fitness while surrounded by the great outdoors with a day trip to one of the UK’s beautiful wild swimming spots. From paddling in lakes and rivers to enjoying a bracing seaside dip, simply pack your swimmers, a towel and a set of warm clothes, and you’re ready to embrace this nature-filled wellness trend.

Llyn Y Fan Fach, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

Surrounded by rugged peaks, the Brecon Beacons make for a memorable wild swimming experience. If you are looking for an awe-inspiring place to cool down on a hot summer’s day, make for Llyn Y Fan Fach or one of the glacier lakes located on the slopes of the imposing Pen Y Fan. The whole area is crisscrossed with hiking trails, and the 7km Ystradfellte Four Waterfalls Walk is the ideal route if you are looking to combine a stroll with a swim. Enter wooded gorges as you follow the path of the Hepste and Mellte rivers and stop off along the way to swim in crystal-clear pools. 

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland

As the largest of the Hebrides, wild and remote beauty comes naturally to the Isle of Skye, and this series of green-blue lagoons and waterfalls are just as magical as their name suggests. Start in the village of Glenbrittle and wander across heather-covered moors towards the Fairy Pools or – for an even more secluded swimming post – continue onto nearby Coire Lagan. Because the Fairy Pools are fed by icy-cold water that flows from the foot of the Cuillin mountains, you might want to consider packing a wetsuit.

Crummock Water, Lake District National Park, Cumbria

The Lake District presents plenty of options for both amateur and advanced wild swimmers. If you are starting out, Crummock Water is a great place to get used to paddling in a natural body of water – the shoreline is easily accessible by car and the lakebed shelves gently so you can stick to the shallows if you prefer. The adjoining lake –Buttermere – is regularly named one of the best views in the UK, but the steep drop-offs near the shoreline means it’s better suited to more experienced wild swimmers. Don’t leave the area without visiting Scale Force, which is the tallest single-drop waterfall in the national park.

Cornwall’s coves and sea pools

For some fantastic saltwater swimming, it has to be Cornwall – the county boasts more than 1,000km of coastline that’s dotted with coves and sea pools. In St Agnes, Porthtowan Tidal Pool is a secluded spot that’s set at the foot of soaring cliffs, while Lansallos Cove in Fowey comes complete with an ancient smuggler’s passage cut into the rock face that demands exploration. Then there’s the huge sea pool at Bude, which has welcomed bathers since the 1930s. Seeking some freshwater? Head inland to the rugged beauty of Bodmin Moor and the spring-fed lake at Goldiggins Quarry – you’ll find plenty of rocky ledges from which to make a splash.

Howth, Republic of Ireland

The coastal village of Howth invites visitors to leap into the Irish Sea from one of the diving boards that’s been built into the rocky outcrops here. However, if you prefer a more sedate swimming experience, the Forty Foot Pool at Sandycove and Vico Bathing Place are located on the opposite side of Dublin Bay and both have steps and ladders leading down the rocks and into the deep waters. All of these alfresco swimming sites are less than an hour’s drive from Dublin’s renowned Temple Bar, so you can be warming up with a pint of Guinness in front of a roaring fire in no time. 

Carrick-a-Rede, Northern Ireland

Whatever method you choose to reach Carrick-a-Rede island – by paddling the 1km route across Larrybane Bay or by traversing the swinging rope bridge above – this corner of Northern Ireland is renowned for its breath-taking scenery. The turquoise water of the rugged coast of Ulster looks very tempting, but keep in mind that this is an open-water location that’s best suited to experienced wild swimmers. If you are unsure, stick to the shallows around bay and gaze up at the towering cliffs that emerge from the water – you would be forgiven for thinking you’ve suddenly been transported to the limestone karsts of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay.

Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales National Park

Wensleydale is known for its waterfalls, and Redmire Falls on the River Ure is a relatively undiscovered and tranquil place to pass an afternoon. Swim in the pools above or below the falls, fly through the air on one of the rope swings and dry off in the surrounding grassy pastures before heading to the nearby – and more well-known – Aysgarth Falls with its triple flight of waterfalls and woodland walking paths. This part of the world has attracted avid walkers for centuries – Ruskin, Turner and Wordsworth have all featured them in their literary works. If all that hiking has left you feeling tired, remember that weary legs are quickly revived by being submerged in cold water. 

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