Staycation Series: Wild Swimming In The UK
Staycation; the act of taking a holiday at home or in your home country, exploring the areas accessible to you within a few hours by foot, bike, train, car or bus.
As lockdown restrictions slowly ease up many of us are starting to think about what adventures we can have closer to home. Wild Swimming can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in the outdoors. The physical and mental health benefits of regularly taking a dip in natural water have long been known but, it’s important you don’t just run down to your local lake and jump in, there’s a little more to it than that.
Before we highlight our favourite places for enjoying a wild swim here are some things you should definitely consider before you take a dip:
- Be sure you see where you can easily get out of the water before you get in
- Ease yourself into the water, allow your body time to adjust to the temperature
- Make sure you are visible to others that might be using the water (e.g. wear a bright swim cap)
- Wear something on your feet to offer protection from hidden protrusions under the water
- Avoid water with signs of algae, particularly blue-green algae
- Avoid being too cold for extended periods of time and always have multiple means of warming up when you get out (dry clothing, warm drink, light exercise)
River Etive, Highlands
Credit: Jude Dobson
Just off the gorgeous A82 route, north of the Kingshouse Hotel, is a road that takes you down Glen Etive. This road runs parallel with part of the River Etive which boasts numerous spots for wild swimming. Take some time exploring the long stretch of river towards Loch Etive and you’ll be spoilt for choice before you even get to the beauty of the Loch.
Sgwd Gwladys, Brecon Beacons
Credit: Toby Speight
Set in a huge wooded ampitheatre, Sgwd Gwladys (Lady Falls) rolls into the plunge pool from 30ft above. A pebble beach makes it easy to get in and out while the more adventurous can explore and climb behind the waterfall before jumping back in. You can walk here from the car park at the visitor’s centre in about 20 minutes making this a popular spot for summer picnics.
Kisdon Force, Yorkshire Dales
Credit: George Tod
Two spectacular waterfalls along the River Swale, one much bigger than the other but both with wonderful natural pools for swimming no matter what time of year. They can be reached on foot by a riverside path from Keld. While they are both popular for jumping, do be sure to get in and check for any debris that might have affected how deep it is before jumping straight in.
Loch Toll an Lochain, Highlands
Credit: John McSporran
With An Teallach and Corrag Buide’s jagged edges towering above you as you enjoy the cool waters, a dip here is not one you’ll forget in a hurry. A worthy reward after a 5km walk in from the A83. The trail is often pathless so experience with navigation is a must but once you get there you’ll most likely have it all to yourself.
Stanley Ghyll Force, Lake District
Credit: Steve Partridge
The Lake District is full of wonderful places to take a dip, Stanley Ghyll Force is a stunning waterfall that drops into a small but refreshing pool. Most people tend to enjoy the waters further downstream but if you persevere that little bit further you’ll enjoy a little piece of secluded tranquillity.
Berneray (West Beach), Isle Of Harris
Credit: Gordon Hatton
For those who love a sea swim, the coast of the Isle of Harris will spoil you for choice but the crystal waters of Berneray really are something to behold. On a clear day you might think you’ve been transported to a paradise of the more tropical kind; the Thai tourist board famously used a photo of this beach on an advertisement thinking it was Kai Bae Beach, Thailand.
Drogo Weir, Teign
A huge 75m pool makes for a perfect wild swimming spot for the whole family to enjoy. Three cascading pools at the lower end serve the upward migration of spawning salmon but are also great for sitting under on a hot summer’s day. Park at Castle Drogo and work your way down into the Teign gorge towards Drogo weir. If it’s too busy there you can continue further along to Fingle Weir where there is another opportunity for a dip.
About the Author:
Charlotte Fish - Outdoor Expert
Charlotte discovered her passion for the outdoors in her early teens and has never looked back since. Her pursuit of outdoor activities has taken her all over the world but she truly believes there is no place like home.