Feeling the heat? Escape Britain’s crowded beaches and lidos and dive into one of these blissful wild swimming spots
- From five-mile-long Coniston Water you can explore Peel Island and spy John Ruskin’s house
- By the River Wye in Herefordshire there is a top glamping spot with hot showers and an outdoor cinema
- Handel is said to have begun composing his Water Music when he was staying near the River Dove
We’ve waved goodbye to lockdown and the timing couldn’t have been better (or worse, depending on how you see it) as temperatures soared.
Beaches were packed and pools, lidos and leisure centres booked up, but some of the country’s most beautiful areas for wild swimming remained primarily the preserve of those in the know.
So get ready for the next heatwave with our guide to the best spots to take a dip — but always exercise caution and check that the water conditions are safe.
Coniston Water, Cumbria
From five-mile-long Coniston Water you can explore Peel Island and spy John Ruskin’s house
Go river deep and mountain high in Coniston. From five-mile-long Coniston Water you can explore Peel Island (the inspiration for Wild Cat Island in Swallows and Amazons), spy John Ruskin’s house (he once said, ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather’) and to the west, 2,600ft of The Old Man of Coniston (the name comes from a Celtic phrase meaning High Stones). Pack a picnic and don’t miss the lovely tarn Goat’s Water.
Stay: B&B doubles at The Coniston Inn from £149 (inncollectiongroup.com/coniston-inn, 0191 580 3610).
The Thames, Clifton Hampden, Oxon
The River Thames at Clifton Hampden, where the scenery is rich and beautiful, according to writer Jerome K Jerome
With a village backdrop of immaculate thatched cottages, this calm, inviting stretch of the Thames has plenty of micro- beaches. In Three Men In A Boat, Jerome K. Jerome wrote that ‘the river scenery is rich and beautiful’ there.
Stay: The Plough B&B, Clifton Hampden, from £78 (ploughbnb.com, 01865 409976).
Loch Etive, Glencoe, Scotland
Loch Etive is so serene you won’t know which half is the reflection in your photographs
Protected by mountains, the vast and much-loved Loch Etive is so serene you won’t know which half is the reflection in your photographs. Elsewhere, dip into the 20 miles of river, with its deep canyons of glassy water, or jump from the cliffs to make a bigger splash. Stay in nearby Taynuilt and take in Tralee Beach, too.
Stay: B&B doubles at Taynuilt Inn from £110 (taynuiltinn.com, 01866 822437).
Fritton Lake, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
You’ll be sharing this corner of 1,000 acres, which is part of the Somerleyton Estate, with ‘wildstock’ cattle, pigs, deer and water buffalo, all as part of an ambitious rewilding project. Stay in the clubhouse or a plush cabin (with hot tub for stargazing) and glide around the two miles of peaceful lake (new this year is a floating sauna), though nobody will judge you if you prefer the heated 22m pool.
Stay: B&B doubles at Fritton Lake from £160, two nights minimum (frittonlake.co.uk, 01493 484008).
River Wye, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
By the River Wye in Herefordshire there is a top glamping spot with hot showers and an outdoor cinema
Enjoy your own river beach and peaceful swimming just a few steps from your giant tipi, glamping (with hot showers, barbecues and an outdoor cinema) in an apple orchard on a working farm by the river Wye. Your hosts can even organise a night swim with a local guide.
Stay: B&B doubles at White House on Wye from £169 per night (whitehouseonwye.co.uk, 07849 621669).
River Rawthey, Sedbergh, Cumbria
Four rivers run through this valley in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, at the foot of the Howgill Fells. Accompany a local swimming guide on the Rawthey; don’t miss the deep pool in the Akay woods with a waterfall, and the pool at Uldale Force.
Stay: Doubles at the Black Bull in Sedbergh from £139 (theblackbullsedbergh.co.uk, 015396 20264)
Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, Cliftonville, Margate
Walpole Bay Tidal Pool in Margate, which was built in the 1930s, is one of only 13 in England
Ideal for swimmers who like a dip in the briny, this 1930s Grade II-listed seawater pool is one of only 13 in England. It is fully submerged by the tide and so refilled with seawater twice a day. The pool is perfectly positioned on the Queen’s Promenade and spans four acres. Restorative fish and chips are within easy reach, too.
Stay: B&B doubles at Cliftonville Town House from £99 (cliftonvilletownhouse.com, 01843 228 164).
River Dove, Ellastone, Peak District
Handel is said to have begun composing his Water Music when he was staying near Ellastone, and George Eliot was inspired to write Adam Bede while sitting on the Dove’s banks. Wallow in the shallows upstream near Norbury Church, then try the pools and rapids.
Stay: B&B doubles at The Dunscombe Arms from £170 (duncombearms.co.uk, 01767 650764).
Port Isaac Bay, Cornwall
Take a session with a swim guide to improve your open-water skills at the sheltered beach of Port Gaverne
Port Gaverne is a sheltered beach near Port Isaac, where Doc Martin is filmed. Take a session with a swim guide (available from their beachside office) to improve your open-water skills, then keep your strength up with fresh Cornish crab from Port Isaac.
Stay: Doubles at the Slipway Hotel from £165 (portisaachotel.com, 01208 880264).
Rosebush Quarry, Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire
This secluded freshwater lagoon in the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire National Park was originally dug as a pit and is so famously ‘fresh’ that local cold-water swimming clubbers break the ice to enter it. Stay local and explore the sandy beaches at Barafundle or Broadhaven, and the waterfall in Ffynone Wood.
Stay: B&B doubles at The Mill, Rhosfach, from £385 for three nights (qualitycottages.co.uk, 01348 837871).
The River Nene, Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire
The River Nene in Northamptonshire is a top spot for experienced swimmers, especially the two-and-a-half-mile stretch from Cotterstock to Fotheringhay via Tansor
The two-and-a-half-mile stretch from Cotterstock to Fotheringhay via Tansor is a beautiful one for experienced swimmers.
Others can enjoy Fotheringhay, near the castle where Mary Queen of Scots met her end, where you can camp and also swim in the private river.
Stay: Fotheringhay Castle Farm camping from £8 per adult (fotheringhaycastlefarm.co.uk, 07976958452).
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