Where Can I Go Wild Swimming?

Where Can I Go Wild Swimming?

By Alex Guerrero

There’s nothing quite like wild swimming. It’s like hitting the reset button. Wade in. Splash about. And tune out. But knowing where to go takes a bit of research and some insider knowledge. These are our Alpkit tips (Alptips!?) about where to go wild swimming.

Where to go wild swimming

  1. Can I wild swim anywhere?
  2. Is it illegal to swim in a reservoir in the UK?
  3. Which UK rivers can I swim in?
  4. Can I swim in a nature reserve?
  5. Top 10 spots for wild swimming

Can I wild swim anywhere?

woman smiling and wild swimming

Technically, you’re able to wild swim in any natural body of water. But you might get told off if you do. We really don’t recommend you swim in just any splash of blue on a map! Some spots, like rivers and reservoirs, are privately owned. So you'd be trespassing unless you get the landowner's permission first. Some could pose a threat to wildlife. And some could be dangerous for you!

Hunt out bits of blue on your OS map. Travel to your closest coast. Ask your local community. But most importantly? Just dip your toe in.

Is it illegal to swim in UK reservoirs?

woman swimming in coniston cap and kidston goggles

In Scotland, it’s perfectly legal to swim in reservoirs – and it has been since 2003. Dip away to your heart’s content! But in England and Wales, most reservoirs are privately owned by local water authorities. This means that swimming in them is technically trespassing. However, there are campaigns to change this. Like the Kinder Mass Swim Trespass where hundreds of swimmers swam together in Kinder Reservoir. In some areas, swimming in reservoirs is generally accepted if it’s done safely.

Which UK rivers can I swim in?

In general, most UK rivers are safe and legal to swim in – but this isn’t the case everywhere. Water access is a complicated and hotly debated topic! Again, we recommend checking in with your local groups to see which rivers people are swimming in. Another tip is to look out for signage at the spot that's catching your eye.

Can I swim in a nature reserve?

Nope – swimming in nature reserves poses a threat to the wildlife. It forces the wildlife to feed and rest elsewhere. Clambering in and out of the water will also damage riverbanks and tree roots, destroying nesting sites for threatened species. We strongly advise against swimming in nature reserves as it’s much easier for us to find somewhere to splash about than for the precious wildlife.

Top 10 spots for wild swimming

couple smiling and jumping in water

A little while ago, we asked you your favourite spots to swim in the UK. Here’s a roundup of 10 your responses:

  • Pickmere Lake, Cheshire: “It’s a big open space to swim alongside swans and ducklings. Safe for my children to enjoy open water swimming too.”
  • Llyn Idwal, Snowdnia: “A short mountain walk, stunning scenery and clean fresh cold water.”
  • Croquet River, Northumberland: “Beautiful valley, lots of deep pools - quieter than anywhere in the Lakes
  • Moray Coast, Highlands: “Little hidden gems and caves to explore, with sandy beaches and wide open spaces. if the weather isn't playing there are always the mountains to explore too.”
  • Forty Foot, Dublin: "Great outdoor swimming community welcome for all types of swimmers or dippers!
  • River Derwent at Froggatt bridge: “Lovely old bridge, clear waters and a sandy beach.”
  • Waldringfield, Suffolk: “Great tidal flow in the estuary of the River Deben, close to parking and sandy bottom. fun to swim around the moored boats!”
  • Buttermere, Lake District: “Beautiful water, clean and amazing surroundings!
  • Swanpool beach, Cornwall: “It’s a sheltered location, beautiful clear water. There regular sea swimming groups and individuals every morning all year round who are friendly.”
  • Diver’s Cove, Surrey: “Clear blue water and safe for beginners.”

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