Posted in Swim

There are hundreds of open water swimming locations, so we asked our community to tell us their favourites and what they consider to be the best wild swimming spots in the UK.

Not only is swimming a fantastic physical exercise and great cross-training activity to supplement other sports, but it is also an activity that benefits mental health. Over the last few years when pools were shut due to lockdowns, the number of people who were swimming in open water increased dramatically.

Even once pools had re-opened, open water swimming stayed a popular activity. Many swimmers continued to go for a dip during the winter months and get their 'cold water high'. Lots of new swimming groups popped up around meaning swimmers could head out safely all year round. Now there are lots of communities to join and some incredible places around the UK to take the plunge.

Here are just a few, as tried and tested by our community.

Newton's Cove, Weymouth

Newton's Cove
Newton's Cove is a small cove, just a short walk to the south of Weymouth, Dorset. The cove itself overlooks Portland Harbour and is a popular spot for locals and those on a staycation. Here you'll find a mix of sand, shingle and rock pools.

Photo from Anna Maria, via Facebook

West Wittering, West Sussex

Found on the south coast of England, West Wittering is a popular spot for swimmers and watersports enthusiasts alike. Scattered with sand dunes and silver sand, you'd mistake this beach for somewhere abroad if it weren't for the weather. The very tip 'East Head' is quiet and offers calmer, shallow waters than the rest of the beach owing itself to swimming. If you are planning to keep swimming during the winter months and want to buddy up, further along the shore at East Wittering, the 'Jolly Swimmers' meet every weekend all year long, no matter the weather.

Hayling Island, Hampshire

Hayling Island

A regular spot for the Solent Outdoor Swimmers (S.O.S) group, Hayling Island is another beach on the south coast of England. Most swimmers meet at the 'Inn on the Beach' and swim out to the buoys as markers. The buoys are placed every few hundred meters parallel to the shore. This location is great for those practising for open water swim events as the markers are great for sighting in the water.

Vobster Quay, Radstock

Vobster Quay is an inland swimming venue that has 750m of clear and clean water. The facilities open all year so you can benefit from cold water swimming, both in a wetsuit or skins. We always recommend swimming with at least one other person in the open water for safety, and this is mandatory at Vobster Quay if you go outside of lifeguarded times. There is a Facebook group especially created so swimmers can partner up easily before they head down.

Lee Bay, North Devon

If 'secret swim spots' are more your thing than well-known beaches, Lee Bay in North Devon will tick the boxes. Found two miles to the west of well known Ilfracombe, you can reach Lee Bay and a secret sandy cove when it's low tide. You will have to carefully move over the rocks to reach this cove and keep an eye on tide times, but it is worth it.  Around low tide it’s even possible to move over the rocks on your left (as you face the beach) and reach an amazing sandy cove. The bay offers beautiful scenery with its rock-lined and dense woodland surroundings. If you want to join a group to swim with, the North Devon OW Swimmers frequent this bay often.

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Fairy Pools - © Visit Britain

If you're one for an adventure, the Fairy Pools can be found on a short walk in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, as you walk towards the River Brittle on the Isle of Skye. Here you'll find a collection of small pools with crystal clear water, but be prepared to have your breath taken away... these beautiful pools are cold!

Photo from © Visit Britain

Caversham Lakes, Reading

Caversham Lakes is found in the heart of Thames Valley and is a fantastic location for paddle boarding, kayaking and of course, open water swimming. The lake has three swim 'courses' marked out across the lake with buoys so that you can swim 400m, 750m & 1500m distances in a constant loop. You'll meet plenty of other swimmers here all year round and can choose whether you'll go wetsuits or skins for your dip but tow-floats are a must. You'll experience a serene atmosphere and beautiful views of woodland and a cafe on-site to get a warm drink afterwards.

Derwentwater, Lake District 

On the eastern side of Derwent Water there are some wide peaceful bays for swimming, and local guides recommend Calfclose Bay being the safest. This lake is a busy one, with watersports and small boats also enjoying the water, so we recommend getting yourself a tow float so you can easily be seen (Check out our guide to safety and equipment). On the western side of the lake there are some beautiful smaller bays that are also easy to get to, but do be aware of again of other water users and make sure they can see you swimming.

River Frome, Somerset, England

River Frome - Farleigh & District Swimming Club

Somerset's River Frome is a beautiful spot to head in the summer months where open water swim club Farleigh and District Swimming Club have been swimming since the 1930s. You'll find a 70m stretch of water to swim with shallower spots by the weir and plenty of areas to enjoy a picnic afterwards. 

Photo from © Farleigh & District Swimming Club

Expert Cold Water Swimming Tips from David Hill and Zone3

If you're planning on swimming outside when the water is less than balmy, it's highly recommended to do a bit of research before you get in. Be sure to clue up on 'afterdrop', and arm yourself with the best gear for both in and out the water. Paralympic swimmer, swim coach and open water swim enthusiast David Hill shares his top tips for cold water swimming.

Shop Open Water Kit from Zone3 at Wiggle

For more inspiration and to find new safe spots to swim, check out Wild Swimming.

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About the author

GBurden's picture
Gabriella Burden
Published on: 02 Feb 2022

You'll find me running, swimming, cycling, or hiking. And trying to convince anyone and everyone to do the same.