hampstead

There’s something gloriously free-spirited about swimming in the wild. While the UK may not always have the best weather for outdoor exploits, it does have some beautiful swimming spots where it’s worth braving the chilly waters. They’re that delicious kind of cold – get ready to take the plunge.

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

As the name suggests, the Fairy Pools have a magical quality; crystalline ponds and ethereal waterfalls swirling among the rocky Scottish landscape. Make no mistake – these clear mountain springs are very cold, but the beauty of the surroundings makes a dip irresistible. Look our for the underwater arch to swim through.

Hampstead Ponds, London

Yes, these ponds might feel tame compared to some of the wilder waters on this list but the glassy pools offer the chance to swim in the middle of the capital. Choose from the ladies’ pond, men’s pond or mixed pond – all are surrounded by the lush wood of Hampstead Heath and feel both secluded and private. They are open year-round, with seasoned swimmers braving the Christmas day dip.

Lower Ddwli Falls, Brecon Beacons

There is a part of the Brecon Beacons known as the Waterfall Woods; more than 20 natural pools can be found along a five-mile route, which means the area is paradise for water babies. Lower Ddwli Falls is one of the most spectacular of the waterfalls as the plunge pool at the bottom is large and open – perfect for admiring the waterfall above. When the sun shines, rainbows appear everywhere.

River Wey, Guildford

Swimming in the River Wey feels like being out in the wild, despite only being a short trip away from London. This Thames tributary has lots of peaceful spots for swimming, the most accessible is near Guildford where there is a sandy beach that slopes into the water. This lazily flowing river creates an atmosphere of calm. Make a day-trip of it and head to one of the nearby pubs for some lunch.

Treyarnon Rock Pool, Cornwall

Treyarnon Rock Pool is nature’s own swimming pool, filling with turquoise seawater every time the tide rises. It’s also an excellent place to snorkel, with a large amount of sea life. Find the rock pool on Treyarnon Bay, a soft sand beach that, on a sunny day, feels more like a Greek island than the British coast.

Port Meadow, Oxford

Swim in the river Thames without all the city grub – the water in Port Meadow is so clear it’s hard to believe that it is the same river as the murky trail that snakes throught London. The grassy banks have natural bays, ideal for sitting down with a picnic punctuated by repeated dips. Wander round the nearby little village of Binsey, which partly inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and the day at The Perch, a pretty pub with a beer garden on the banks of the Thames.

Stainforth Force, Yorkshire

Not for the faint-hearted, Stainforth Force waterfall is one for jumping into the water from the surrounding rocks. Unleash your inner dare-devil and plunge into the pool below the waterfall from varying (and not inconsiderable) heights. If that wasn’t enough, often you’ll catch wild salmon which leap in and out of the water as you swim among them.

Llangennith Blue Pool, Gower

People say that Llangennith Blue Pool is bottomless (we know this can’t really be true but we like to believe it anyway). The pool is set into the sea when the tide is high and surrounded by high rocks which are perfect to jump off. The surrounding beach is sheltered and sandy; marvel at The Three Chimneys Cave arches and look for washed-up old coins from the nearby shipwreck.

Tongue Pot, Lake District

The rolling green landscape of the Esk Valley is full of long pools and waterfalls – the higher up you walk, the more beautiful the scenery. If you’re lucky your only company will be sheep. Divebomb in from the surrounding slopes or head to Kail Pot for a more secluded spot if you don’t mind shallower water.

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