Desperate for a dip? Head to one of my six favourite wild swimming spots less than an hour away from Bristol. From tranquil river swims to huge marine pools, these six wild swimming spots are the perfect place to while away a hot summer’s day, or to head to for some cold water therapy in autumn and winter. I’ve included information on how to get to all of this magical places, many of which can be easily accessed from Bristol by bike. Jump in, the water’s lovely.
Six of the best places to go wild swimming near Bristol
Swim upstream among the wild flowers or wade in the shallows by the little weir at this bucolic spot on the River Frome, which is run by the Farleigh Hungerford Swimming Club. There’s a diving board, two rope swings and changing cubbies, and the meadow next to the river is the perfect place for a picnic. Membership of the Swimming Club costs a paltry £12 per year.
How to get there: Drive to Farleigh Hungerford near Bath (postcode BA2 7RS), then cross the meadow by the sign for the swimming club, go through a gate and you’ll see the changing sheds and diving platforms.
I’ve only just discovered this perfect little swim spot in the small village of Publow after stumbling across it while cycling around Somerset and using Komoot. Under the village’s stone bridge the River Chew widens out into a beautiful deep pool where you can wade out and then go for a lazy swim. Publow also makes for a wonderful cycling round trip from Bristol of around 30 miles.
How to get there: Find the pool under the bridge next to the church of All Saints in Publow, which is next to the village of Pensford.
WEST LYDFORD, CASTLE CARY
West Lydford is an hour away from Bristol, but this dreamy wild swimming spot is well worth the pilgrimage. There’s a bridge to jump off, a big rope swing, 100 metres of river to explore, shallower areas ideal for children and a wide rushing weir. Note that you’re swimming next to the village church, so be respectful as services may be in progress. After your swim, explore the Lydford Forest Garden, the village’s charming community orchard.
How to get there: Access is next to West Lydford parish church.
This is where I love to spend lazy summer weekends. On the outskirts of Bath, this lovely weir (also known as Warleigh Weir) forms a long, meandering waterfall across the River Avon, next to 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). This spot is very popular on summer days, but there’s always plenty of space.
How to get there: It’s best to cycle along the towpath to Claverton as there’s limited parking. The address is Ferry Lane, Claverton, Bath BA2 7BH.
CLEVEDON MARINE LAKE
It may not be ‘wild’, per se, but if you’re craving a sea swim the closest spot to Bristol is Clevedon’s man-made Marine Lake. This huge saltwater lake, refilled occasionally by high tides, is 200 metres long, so it’s perfect for training if you’re getting into outdoor swimming. You can also just go for a splash about while looking out over the Bristol Channel or dive off the floating platform. The lake is free to use, and the best time to come is at sunset when the otherwise rather grey water turns pink and red.
How to get there: The lake’s address is Clevedon Marine Lake, off Old Church Road, Clevedon BS21 7TU.
Cycle along the canal path from Bristol to Bath and you’ll quickly leave the city behind and enter a gentler world of wild flowers and steam trains. Halfway to Bath (about a 10 mile cycle from Bristol’s city centre) the path crosses the river at Bitton, where there’s a wooden pontoon you can leap off into the cool water of the River Avon for a lazy swim among 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 a pontoon (map here). You can also drive to Swineford and walk across the fields to reach it.