Swimming in nature or taking a dip in an open-air pool is one of the best ways to cool down during summer. If you’re planning something a little different to a visit to your local pool next summer, we’ve created a wild swimming map of the UK and Ireland so you can plan ahead and jump in.
Wild swimming has become increasingly popular over the past few years. Open-air swimming brings you closer to nature, and nothing beats swimming under the open sky. There are hundreds of serene locations across the country that provide ideal alfresco swimming conditions, but it pays to plan ahead so you get ahead of crowds that can descent in summer.
Wild swimming – safety first
As with any wild swimming, safety is incredibly important. Just be sure to stay safe in the water; don’t swim alone or under the influence of alcohol, stay close to the bank or shore, and you should be a strong swimmer. The water can be cold and depths can be unknown, so don’t jump or dive in.
Wise Living has rounded up 14 of the best wild swimming and open-air swimming locations across the UK and Ireland. It includes a mix of genuine wild locations, as well as more organised open-air pools if you fancy something a little less wild.
Fancy something a little less wet? Stick to dry land and read about the six amazing health benefits of walking.
Open air and wild swimming in London
Serpentine Lido, London
Avoid the stifling tubes and overcrowded streets with a dip in the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Open to the public from 10am – 6pm every day until the beginning of September, the lake has an accompanying paddling pool and play area so is perfect for families. Those looking for a regular dip may be interested in the oldest swimming club in Britain, who take to the waters early every morning – ideal for those wanting an active start to the day.
More info: Serpentine Lido
Beckenham Place Park, London
If not the best UK swimming lake, then at least the newest, this golf-course-turned-public-park officially opened just four days ago, and is already making a splash with its 283 metre crescent-shaped swimming lake.
Replete with miniature beach and jetty, and overlooked by a gorgeous Georgian manor house, next-level bathers can also book out a kayak or paddle board.
More info: Beckenham Park
Hampstead Ponds, London
Set amidst surely the most picnic-able of all the capital’s parks, a dip in the Hampstead Ponds is a pleasurable, if rather bracing rite of passage for every Londoner.
With men’s, women’s and mixed ponds there’s something for every demographic, while the surrounding trees deliver a measure of privacy without sacrificing the views.The mixed pond is pick of the pack, invariably stocked with families and couples wiling away their summer afternoons.
More info: Hampsted ponds
Open air and wild swimming in Scotland
Loch Lomond, Scotland
Loch Lomond played host to the Great Scottish Swim in summer 2018, and it’s not hard to see why? As the largest expanse of freshwater in Great Britain, the limits for wild swimming are infinite at this impressive loch. Surrounded by soaring mountains and forests, a swim in Loch Lomond can be made into a day trip by making the most of the nearby hiking routes.
More info: Loch Lomond
Open air and wild swimming in Ireland
Forty Foot, County Dublin
A renowned swimming spot in Ireland, the Forty Foot was made famous by James Joyce’s Ulysses, where character Buck Mulligan takes a dip at the once men-only bathing area. Steps and handrails make rock surfaces accessible so you can get in. Take a dip as the sun goes down – the sunset here is sublime.
More info: Forty Foot
Glanmore Lake, Co Kerry
A calm, accessible lake freckled with rocky islets, guarded by the imposing Caha Mountains, Glandale is the sort of place you build a day around. Large, tree-lined, and equally excellent for walking, it’s just as good for forest bathing as it is for the real thing.
More info: Glanmore Lake
Castle Island, County Roscommon
Swimming meets history in Lough Key Forest Park, where a fairy tale island inhabited hundreds of years ago stands. Set in the southeastern corner of Lough Key, the waters around Castle Island are for those wanting to get a closer glimpse of the 19th century castle that remains in ruins out on the lake. Experienced wild swimmers may fancy taking the 1.5km route that loops around the island, featured in the 2018 Global Swim Series.
More info: Castle Island
Open air and wild swimming in Wales
Blue Lagoon, Pembrokeshire
We don’t know just how many ‘Blue Lagoons’ there are the world over, but if they’re anything like this one it’s still not enough.
Pembrokeshire is a hub for wild swimming and it’s easy to see why looking at the idyllic waters of the Blue Lagoon. The site was formerly a slate quarry until its channel to the sea was destroyed, resulting in the ultimate spot for adrenaline seekers. The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series have been held here multiple times, making it the first British site to host the series, but those just wanting a paddle are catered for too.
More info: Blue Lagoon
Keeper’s Pond, Blaenavon
On the outskirts of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, Keeper’s Pond is just stunningly, gloriously, outrageously relaxing.
Positively glassy on a calm summer’s day, this ripple-free wonderland offers panoramic views out over the Usk Valley, and water just warm enough not to ruin your de-stress.
More info: Keeper’s Pond
Open air and wild swimming in England
Black Moss Pot, Lake District
Explorers, Black Moss Pot is the place for you. Accessible following a two mile valley walk, the spot is a particularly popular swimming spot in Langstrath, with wild swimmers travelling from far across the Lake District for the deep waters. Remember your waterproof camera – the waters here are clear as can be, perfect for some underwater action shots.
More info: Black Moss Pot
St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly
Situated around 30 miles from the Cornish coast, the largest island of the Isles of Scilly is a major swimming destination. There are plenty of opportunities to cool off, with glorious beaches and tidal inlets like Porth Hellick. If you’re feeling particularly brave, there is even potential to swim from island to island in the Scilly Swim Challenge. Ferries depart daily from Penzance.
More info: St Mary’s
Lake Buttermere, Lake District
Sister lake Windermere often gobbles up all the column inches, but for swimming Butter is the better ‘mere’ by miles. Voted one of the top ten views in the country in a 2017 poll, it’s motorboat-free and boasts several small pubs perfect for a post-plunge pint.
The temperatures can be, er, invigorating, but for determined dippers it’s one of the most scenic swims you’ll find.
More info: Lake Buttermere
Goldiggins Quarry, Cornwall
A pristine pool of sun-soaked stillness ringed by a rocky amphitheatre, this disused mine is calm, cool, and often deserted.
There are different jumping off points for every level of bravery (take care though) and the water is deep and crystal clear. There are even a few fish, though how they got there we really don’t know.
More info: Goldiggins Quarry
Tinside Lido, Plymouth
Outdoor swimming doesn’t have to be in the wild, but nor is this any normal pool. A Grade II-listed, art deco, salt water lido dating from the 1930s, Tinside occupies a rocky outcrop looking straight out over Plymouth harbour.
It’s not quite an infinity pool, but at the right angle it looks like one.
More info: Tinside Lido