The 11 best wild swimming spots in the UK: sea, lakes & waterfalls

Looking up at the imposing white cliffs while swimming off the south coast of the Isle of Wight, it’s easy to forget the rest of the world exists. It feels a long way from the noise of a world in constant motion. No surprise, then, that so many people seek the escape that water offers: there’s been an 84% increase in open water swimming in England in recent years.

Wild swimming is a free sport for everyone, with benefits to the mental and physical health of those who brave the cold. Ecosystems in our seas and freshwater habitats play a role in our fight against the climate crisis too. That’s why it’s of vital importance to keep waterways clean and safe. Some beaches on our very own Isle of Wight rank among the worst in the country for pollution levels with water companies dumping sewage into the sea. Last year we joined our community to call for immediate action on sewage pollution. If you’re planning to swim, you should use the Safer Seas app by Surfers Against Sewage to check sewage events in near real time.

Yet, when our waters are clean, wild swimming gives you a feeling you might find yourself chasing for a lifetime.  We wanted to learn more about swimming spots up and down the country, so we spoke to wild swimmers from around the UK to uncover favourite places for a dip, from lakes, lochs, rivers and sea.

Isle of Wight

Crystal clear seas around Ventnor, Isle of Wight. Credit: Madi Dew

We’re starting off with a place close to home, our very own island paradise, the Isle of Wight. Good friend of Rapanui, and co-founder of local swimming community The Dipping Society, Madi Dew, shares with us her love of the Island’s swim spots.

“On a calm day Freshwater Bay is a favourite of the locals. A steep pebble beach makes for a swift entry (and albeit slightly undignified exit), the water here is often clear and inviting but do watch out when there is swell around. Most of the beaches on the north of the Island from Bembridge all the way round to Totland tend to be a lot more sheltered and range from pebbles to glorious white sand. On a sunny day you could be mistaken for thinking you were in the Caribbean. There are so many beaches to explore that even on the busiest of bank holiday weekends you can find a secluded spot to dip on our slice of Island paradise.”

The Valley of Desolation, Yorkshire

Swimming in the Valley of Desolation. Credit: Lisa Outdoors

For a very wild dip, adventure blogger Lisa Outdoors recommends a secluded spot in Yorkshire, with a name like something from Middle Earth.

“I absolutely loved finding this spot so close to where I grew up. Nestled away in the heart of the Valley of Desolation, this beautiful waterfall has a pool more than deep enough to submerge in (after heavy rainfall), but not really wide enough for a proper ‘swim’. There is plenty of space at the side for changing, making it a great little dipping spot and an ideal one to link with a hike up to Simon’s seat.”

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye. Credit: Kayleigh Falls

Kayleigh Falls (@eyeofkay_) shares her experience swimming at this incredibly beautiful spot on the Isle of Skye, formed by a colossal ancient volcano. 

“Having visited the Fairy Pools in summer and experienced first hand how busy this time of year can be, we decided to take a trip to the Fairy Pools in February and I am very glad we did! I had the pools to myself and even went in for a second dip. The magical backdrop and beautiful crystal clear water is what makes this dipping spot so stunning and unique to anywhere else I have ever swum in the UK. A must visit swim spot destination on the Isle of Skye.”


Hubberholme, Yorkshire Dales

Many pools to be discovered in the Yorkshire Dales. Credit: Les Peebles

The southern area of the Yorkshire Dales has many gills, waterfalls and pools to discover. The area around Hubberholme is where you’ll find some secluded crystal clear pools, like the one pictured above. Without giving it all away, local swim guide Les Peebles, aka the Dales Dipper, shares his love for the swimming spots around the Yorkshire Dales.

“Swimming and dipping opportunities here are plentiful, beautiful and exciting. The soft feeling peaty, and sometimes very dark coloured, waters are amongst the best places to dip in the UK.

This National Park is an area of outstanding and rugged beauty with jaw dropping waterfalls and tree lined rivers - gorgeous throughout the seasons. I'm still finding new-to-me places to dip in and I suspect there is a lifetime of new dips to be found. The Yorkshire Dales is a must-do for any budding swimmer looking for wild beauty, stunning landscapes and gorgeous cold water.”

Stroan Loch, Galloway Forest

Stroan Loch on a (rare) sunny day. Credit: Wild Swimming Brothers 

The Wild Swimming Brothers document their wild swims across the country, talking about the many benefits for physical and mental health. They tells us about an atmospheric spot on the edge of Galloway Forest. 

“A swim in the Guiness-coloured murk of Stroan Loch stays with you for a long time. Walk out from the reeds and swim level with the water lilies. Dunk your head to see their long stalks snake into a spindly forest underwater. Then, mosey on out into the depths and stretch freely with Scottish hills and trees on all sides. It's pure bliss!”


Ffrwy Fawr, Powys

A secluded pool somewhere in mid Wales. Credit: @watto777 via Wild Swim Wales

The rugged beauty of mid Wales hides many secret pools just waiting to be discovered. Ffrwd Fawr waterfalls can be seen from the road in mid Wales, yet there’s a pool that will take a little bit more determination to find. Much of the beauty is in the exploration in this rugged part of the country. Laura Truelove, founder of Daughters of the Sea and Wild Swim Wales tells us why finding your own secret spot is so special in this part of the world.

“I live close to the Brecon Beacons, which is teeming with pristine rivers and lakes entwined in Welsh myths and Arthurian legend, and screaming to be dipped in. I believe the best outdoor swimming discoveries are those you research and discover yourself. There’s nothing quite like scouring through maps, Google image searching for clues or hiking to find a pinpoint leaked deep on the internet. There’s an incredible sense of achievement when you’ve hiked for hours and then finally discover the waterfall you’ve been dreaming of diving into.”


Hampstead Heath, London

A cold and misty morning at the Hampstead Ponds. Credit: Fiona Bailey

A sense of swimming in the wilderness so close to central London is a unique experience, bringing a connection to nature in the urban metropolis. Fiona Bailey is a photographer and swimmer, capturing moments of connection between people and this place of calm.

“Hampstead Ponds are a special place and like the Heath, they are a haven of peace and tranquillity in the middle of London’s urban sprawl. Heading to the ponds on a freezing winter’s morning has become a ritual that I eagerly await. What I have also discovered at the ponds is a community, new connections and friendships, it’s a place to be mindful and at one with nature.“

Access to clean and safe water, even in one of the largest urban conurbations in the world, allows us to connect with nature. It reminds us why the environment is worth fighting for.


Walpole Tidal Pool, Margate

The sea, but make it a pool. Credit: Martha De Lacey

Food blogger Martha De Lacey was excited to find this tidal pool on her doorstep when she moved to Margate a couple of  years ago. A huge fan of wild swimming anywhere, she says that this pool has its unique appeal.

“The pool is a completely magical place. It’s fabulous being able to jump into deep sea water rather than wading out each time, particularly when it's freezing; you’re far less likely to bottle it if you hurl yourself in in one screaming go. There’s a wide rim all around the tidal pool and my favourite thing to do is to walk down with my dog Olive, jump in, and watch as Olive runs around the far edge, greeting me excitedly on each side with a little lick. Another perk to Walpolel is the free Haekels sauna on the boardwalk in front of it. Swim, sauna, swim, sauna, steaming flask of hot chocolate. What could be better?”

Afon Prysor, Snowdonia

A refreshing plunge in north Wales. Credit: Hollie Hamsworth

Outdoors photographer Hollie Hamsworth can most often be found roaming north Wales, a treasure trove of secret pools and waterfalls. She tells us about this magical spot.

“Swimming in river pools always feels the most wild. Deep in the forest, surrounded by trees with the sound of water crashing down. The water here is always cold, even in the summer and there's nothing more refreshing and energising than getting up close to the falls and feeling the force of it. This pool along the Afon Prysor is one of my favourites.”

Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Sand dunes at Druridge Bay. Credit: Visit Northumberland

Northumberland local Alison Bell, aka @chilly_dipper, uncovers this long bay with shifting dunes and pristine sands as far as the eye can see. Remote swimming spots here are not hard to come across, but Alison says this bay is her favourite.

“Inland up here, I love Harbottle lake, with a walk up to a huge stone called The Drake Stone which has amazing views and after about a 45 min moderate hike, you get to an amazing secluded lake. But Druridge Bay is an all time favourite in Northumberland for coastal swimming.”

River Wye, Herefordshire

The tree-lined River Wye.

We love seeing the Rapanui community tag us on Instagram on photos of their wild swims. Many have set goals to swim everyday. Including Zoe Naughalty, who documents her daily swims on her Instagram.

“For 2023, I set the goal to submerge in cold water every single day and to swim in a new location every month. February took me to the River Wye. It was such a refreshing swim with some gorgeous views. There are a lot of places to get in along the river away from the main walkways to give you some privacy.” 

The River Wye snakes through green valleys on the border of England and Wales. The river often suffers from high levels of pollution primarily from agricultural run-off. The UK government recently announced new plans to issue unlimited fines to water companies for sewage pollution. Yet this fails to address agricultural run-off that can kill an entire ecosystem, like the River Wye. This cannot be ignored if we’re to restore and regenerate the natural world.

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