Feeling a deep desire to go splashing about in rivers or diving into lagoons? The UK is peppered with stunning locations in which to dip your toes, from epic waterfalls in Wales to a pirate’s cove in Cornwall. These are my favourite on our water-edged island.
WILD SWIMMING – THE BEST SPOTS IN BRITAIN
Claverton Weir, near Bath
This is where I love to spend lazy summer weekends. On the outskirts of Bath, this lovely weir forms a long, meandering waterfall across the River Avon, in a big meadow full of friendly cows. It’s a long walk or a short cycle from Bath along the towpath, past brightly coloured canal boats – very Famous Five-y. Children can splish-splash merrily in the shallows, adults can take a long swim above the weir in the company of swans. Walk further up the river and there’s a secret rope swing to play on (but don’t tell anyone I told you).
How to get there: Ferry Lane, Claverton, Bath BA2 7BH
Prussia Cove, Cornwall
Prussia Cove is a peaceful and rather otherwordly place, right on the edge of Cornwall and nestled between Land’s End and the Lizard Peninsula. These aquamarine waters were once the prowling grounds of the rather gentlemanly Carter brothers, notorious 18th century smugglers who used this beautiful wild place as their hideout. These days it’s perfect for a sea swim, with a tiny sandy beach to picnic on. Read more in my article for Countryfile.
How to get there: Rosudgeon, Penzance, Cornwall TR18 3EL
Blue Lagoon, Pembrokeshire
The Blue Lagoon at Abereiddi is reached via a pathway past ruined quarry buildings and slate workers’ cottages, and the ominous grey walls and deep azure water give the place a bit of a Lord of the Rings vibe. Hurl yourself off one of the natural stone steps into the deep water for an adrenaline rush, but wear a wetsuit, as the water here is always pretty freezing. Make sure you stop off for a plunge if you’re spending a weekend surfing in Pembrokeshire.
How to get there: The Blue Lagoon is near Abereiddi, off the A487 between St Davids and Croesgoch.
Sharrah Pools, Dartmoor
This gorgeous spot was shown to me by the lovely Kate Williams, a Dartmoor native who knows all the secret spots to splash about in. The river Dart widens here into a deep, crystal-clear pool, shaded by trees. The water is ice-cold but incredibly fresh, and you can dive in off the flat rocks into its chilly embrace. When we clambered out we had hot chocolate with a shot of whisky in it to warm our bones whist our swimming costumes hung dripping from the trees.
How to get there: Drive towards Holne. Walk across the New Bridge and the footpath through to Sharrah Pool will be on your right at SX712708.
The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
A walk up the heather-clad moors leads to a tumbling river and a series of deep stone pools, so clear you don’t need goggles to peer into the depths. The deepest of the lagoons has an incredible submerged arch, connecting one pool, fed by a waterfall, with another that is so perfectly still it’s like a mirror. Clamber down to the water and there are flat, sheltered rocks where you can shed your clothes (and even sunbathe if you’re very lucky). Muster up a bit of courage, dive into the waterfall pool and you can make like Lara Croft, swimming down and under the stone arch and up into the other pool. Read more about my wild swim here.
How to get there: Park in the Glumagan Na Sithichean carpark and follow walking signs – it’s a short walk.
Black Moss Pot, Lake District
The lovely land of the Lakes is a wild swimmer’s dream. On a baking hot day seek out the small, deep pots, full of irresistibly fresh cold water. My favourite is Black Moss Pot, where you can join the locals by taking a leap of faith off the stone cliffs into its depths, or just lie on your back and float. A pot, in case you’re wondering, is a local name for a natural plunge pool.
How to get there: In the Langstrath valley. This great walk will lead you there.
Cycle along the canal path from Bristol to Bath and you’ll quickly leave behind the city and enter a gentler world of wildflowers and steam trains. Halfway along the path crosses the river at Bitton, where there’s a wooden pontoon you can leap off into the cool water for a lazy swim with swaying reeds and shy moorhens.
How to get there: Cycle along the Bristol-Bath cycle path until you reach a high railway bridge – the river is below and a small path leads down to it. Or drive to Bitton, park and follow a path across three fields.
Ystradfellte Waterfall, Brecon Beacons
My favourite walk in the lush Beacons national park is through glorious woodland to the Ystradfellte waterfalls (here’s my post on the walk). The last waterfall is a towering beast that you can stand behind, before diving through the churning water into a shallow pool – perfect for cooling off after your hike.
How to get there: Head north on the B4242 to Ystradfellte – the bunkhouse and car park are the beginning of the walk.