Swimming in the great outdoors is a pursuit that keeps getting more and more popular, regardless of the season.
Those already subscribed to the sport shout about its immersion of the senses, and the feeling of liberation it gives them, with the gorgeous natural surroundings a scenic added bonus. But the true beauty of the open-water activity is that people of almost all ages and abilities can give it a go (with the proper safety precautions, of course).
Whether you’re new to wild swimming, or just on the hunt for a stunning spot for your next dip, we asked the experts at Selkie Swim for the best places to go in the UK.
Wetsuits at the ready…
1. Watersmeet on Exmoor
This site sits in a National Trust area – there are small plunge pools by the teashop (2km S of Luynmouth on the A39) but if you walk on, about one mile further, you get to the atmospheric Long Pool, set in an eerie ravine, flanked with overgrown greenery and trees and under a waterfall.
2. Teifi Gorge near Cilgerran Castle
Although its easily accessible from the castle car park, a walk downstream on the muddy, grassy, stony river path gets you away from the crowds and then there are several spots to get in and swim. The river can flow quite fast at times but never gets really deep and has a very atmospheric and quiet feel in the early morning.
3. Porthllisky, near St David’s Pembrokeshire
From this secluded pebbly beach, which boasts crystal clear water, you can swim around to an even more remote spot. You will have to go left and through some rocks (at low tide you can walk through the rocks but need to be aware that it will become cut off and you’d have to swim back when the tide comes in). It’s a good walk along the coast path from Porthclais towards St Davids (clockwise around the headland from Porthclais) to get there. It is also a heaven for seal spotting as they come there to pup (so it isn’t suitable to swim in September-October).
4. Beacon Tarn, Ulverston, Lake District
Great for a more ‘away from it all’ feel than it really is. It’s about a half hour, not too arduous, walk up a hill, on a bracken path, through some rolling landscape. You hardly ever meet anyone on the way and the little beaches on the lake make the entry into the water easy. It stays shallow for a while.
5. The twin beaches at Eilean Garbh, Isle of Gigha, Hebridies, Scotland
A one-mile rough path through fields and bracken takes you to a quiet corner, where the sea has almost turned the headland of Eilean Garbh into a separate island. It deceptively looks like a Caribbean island with crystal clear water and sand so fine and white it just runs through your hand. The beaches lends themselves to the perfect picnic and you can spot underwater wildlife as you swim.
6. Gormire Lake near Thirsk
This lake lies at the foot of Whitestone Cliff, a western escarpment of the Hambleton Hills in the North York Moors National Park. It is warm, set in woodlands, with incredible views. It is little-visited, and at its best in the early mornings.
7. Harpers Brook to Wadenhoe
A great, clean, river swim. The water entry is shallow but the middle of the river is deep and you can swim for a couple of miles before you meet the lock. The river tumbles through small glades, before opening out into the main passage of the River Nene. The swim to Wadenhoe is truly beautiful with great views of the church above the river.
8. Nanjizal, near Land’s End, Cornwall
A mostly deserted beach of golden sand with a tall, narrow slit-like arch and many other natural stone sculptures including the Diamond Horse through which sunlight shines. There are caves to explore, rockpools and even a pool suitable for children at low tide and the sea is so clear you can follow the fish as you swim. You can even shower and wash off the salt under a fresh waterfall after swimming.
9. Snowhill Creek, near west Wittering, Chichester
This is a very quiet little place accessed via a tow path and then across down a path to the water’s edge. You might see the occasional dog walker or a small sailing boat but you will mainly be alone. Swimming out, you will see the South Downs National Park on one side and the beautiful sand dunes and wild grasses of East Head on the other. As the creek opens up you head into the stunning Chichester Harbour. It is best swum at high water, being cautious of the current near the mouth of the creek.
10. Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris, Gwynedd, North Wales
You can reach this point via a breathtaking 350m ascent walk, with views of brooks, falls and pool and 400m high mountain walls and tops. The water is very cold but crystal clear, and blue in the sunshine. You can enter straight via little beaches or dive from the rocks and float looking at the stunning surroundings.