Wild swimming in the UK has taken off as a fun and refreshing activity during the warmer weather. Fairy pools, lakes, pots and bays are just some of the spots that adventurous swimmers are seeking for an outdoor dip. To get you started, wild swimmer Sian Lewis details some of her favourite natural pools across the UK below. Each location is an ideal reason to rent a car and take a day trip to.
Cover image credit: Jeff Buck/Creative Commons
Fairy Pools, Skye
Fairy pools, Isle of Skye
At the foot of Skye’s brooding Cuillin mountains, a river tumbles into a series of deep, crystal clear lagoons – the island’s fabled fairy pools. Clamber down to the pools and there are flat, sheltered rocks where you can shed your clothes and dive into the limpid water. You can even make like Lara Croft and swim down and under a submerged stone arch connecting two of the pools. It’s a half-hour hike to reach this otherworldly spot, but that means you might get it all to yourself.
How to get there: The start of the walk is signposted on the road to Glenbrittle near Carbost on Skye.
Goldiggins Quarry, Cornwall
You won’t know you’ve reached this deep man-made quarry until you’re almost on top of it, it’s so well hidden by huge boulders strewn on the Cornish moors. The swimming faithful will have to make a little effort to get to Cornwall’s Goldiggins, as it’s inaccessible by car, but the walk across the moor to reach it a lovely one, and when you do reach it it’s an extremely tempting place to swim. It’s also the perfect spot for adrenaline seekers, as you can fling yourself off the cliffs that surround that deep blue water.
How to get there: Park at the Hurlers car park (postcode PL14 5LE) and follow the moorland track for 20 minutes.
Warleigh Weir, Somerset
Warleigh Weir, Tom Edgington/Creative Commons License
The search is over – this is the best swimming and picnicking spot for a summer’s day in Somerset. I love to cycle to Warleigh Weir from nearby Bath – it’s about a 40-minute jaunt along a car-free canal path. Warleigh Weir, which is also known as Claverton Weir, can be busy on hot summer days, but there’s plenty of space for everyone in the wide grassy field that leads to the weir. Here, you can walk along the stone wall of the weir itself and then dive into the river and let the current float you downstream (look out for the rope swing on the opposite bank) before a picnic back in the field and a cycle back to Bath the same way you came. Bliss.
How to get there: To cycle to Warleigh Weir from Bath, follow the Kennet and Avon canal until you reach signs for the Weir – turn left and follow the narrow road downhill and across the railway line.
Blue Lagoon, Pembrokeshire
Blue Lagoon, Phil Dolby/Creative Commons
If you’ve got a thick enough wetsuit you can prove your mettle with a skin-tingling autumn swim in Pembrokeshire’s Blue Lagoon, hidden in the cliffs above Abereiddi Beach. Walk up a little path past ruined slate workers’ cottages and you’ll suddenly stumble upon this man-made sea-water lagoon of deep, sapphire blue. If you’ve ever wanted to try cliff jumping, this is a great place to take the leap – with due caution – as the Blue Lagoon (home to the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series) has handy step-like rocks above obstacle-free water to plunge off.
How to get there: Park at Abereiddi and follow the cliff path to the right of the ocean up the cliff to find the lagoon.
The Lake District Pots, Cumbria
The mountainous land of the lakes is a wild swimmer’s dream. The gorgeous big tarns (mountain lakes) this area of Cumbria is named for are rightly famous, but even better on a baking hot day are the small, deep ‘pots’ full of irresistibly fresh cold water. A pot, in case you’re wondering, is a local name for a natural plunge pool. Seek out Black Moss Pot, where you can jump off six-metre high rocks into the water, or lesser known Tongue Pot, a necklace of inviting little pools in a deep green valley. At Tongue Pot, there’s a pebbled beach to walk into the water from, or you can leap off the rocks into the clear waters.
How to get there: Black Moss Pot is two miles from Stonethwaite, OSGB NY267113. To find Tongue Pot, drive past the Woolpack Inn in Boot and follow the path along the river for two miles.
Hatchmere Lake, Cheshire
Hatchmere Lake, Jeff Buck/Creative Commons
For a chilled-out dip followed by a well-deserved pint, you can’t beat Hatchmere Lake. This wide-open lake in the heart of a nature reserve is 300 metres long and has a designated swimming section in the centre – you can paddle near to the shore or swim long lengths in the water, which is delightfully warm in summer. There’s a patch of grass for picnics and sunbathing, and the cosy Carrier’s Inn is right next door for a tipple.
How to get there: Follow postcode WA6 6NL, the lake is easy to find once there.