Wild swimming in Derwentwater lake district

The Best Places to Wild Swim in the UK

The UK offers some of the most breathtaking natural wild swimming anywhere in the world. Its landscape varies from lakes nestled in mountainous landscapes to rivers meandering through historic countryside. This guide will take you through the top wild swimming spots, grouped by regions, and scored on access, water quality, and scenery, to help you find the perfect place for your next aquatic adventure. If you are wondering what all the fuss is about wild swimming, check out our wild swimming overview and guide here.

The rugged heart of the Lake District National Park, greets swimmers with epic lakes among England’s highest mountains. The wild, untamed beauty of Snowdonia National Park in Wales presents a different allure, with its crystal-clear lakes and rugged peaks. Cornwall, with its milder climate, offers a coastal wild swimming experience, where turquoise waters and hidden coves. Meanwhile, the Scottish Highlands unfold a panorama of vast lochs and ancient landscapes.

Lake District National Park

1. Derwentwater

Derwentwater is surrounded by rolling hills and lush woodlands, with the dramatic backdrop of the Skiddaw mountains. Its shores are dotted with quaint boathouses and jetties. The lake itself is a hub of tranquillity, with several small islands that swimmers can explore.

  • Type: Lake
  • Size: Approximately 3 miles long and 1 mile wide
  • Access: 9/10 – Easily reachable by public transport and car, with several parking spots close to swimming locations.
  • Water Quality: 8/10 – Generally excellent, though it can vary after heavy rain.
  • Scenery: 10/10 – Stunning views of the surrounding fells and wooded islands.
  • Highlights: The sheltered bays near Keswick are perfect for beginners, while more experienced swimmers might enjoy the challenge of swimming to and from the islands.

2. Buttermere

Buttermere is famed for its unspoiled beauty, encircled by high mountains like Haystacks and Red Pike. The lake’s clear waters reflect the surrounding peaks, and the area is known for its vibrant wildflowers and native woodlands, providing a serene swimming experience.

  • Type: Lake
  • Size: Roughly 1.5 miles long and 0.75 miles wide
  • Access: 7/10 – Less accessible than Derwentwater, with limited parking.
  • Water Quality: 9/10 – Crystal clear waters, particularly enjoyable in the early morning.
  • Scenery: 10/10 – Dramatic mountain views and lush greenery.
  • Highlights: The circuit around the lake offers a variety of swimming experiences, from deep water to shallow, pebbly beaches.
Wild swimming in Derwentwater

Wastwater

Wastwater is England’s deepest lake, nestled in a dramatic valley with steep mountainsides and views of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. The lake’s remote location contributes to its tranquil atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for those seeking solitude and a connection with the wild. The water is crystal clear, reflecting the surrounding screes and peaks, offering a swimming experience that’s as breathtaking as it is serene.

  • Type: Lake
  • Size: Approximately 3 miles long and more than one-third of a mile wide
  • Access: 6/10 – Its remote location in the Wasdale Valley makes access more challenging, but this contributes to its unspoiled beauty.
  • Water Quality: 9/10 – The water is exceptionally clear, benefiting from the lake’s secluded setting and minimal pollution.
  • Scenery: 10/10 – Wastwater is renowned for its dramatic views, voted Britain’s best view in a television programme, with the screes tumbling into the deep waters and the peaks of the Lake District’s highest mountains surrounding it.
  • Starting Point: The car park at Wasdale Head is a good starting point, offering direct access to the lake. From here, swimmers can enjoy the dramatic scenery and explore the quieter stretches of the lake.
wild swimming in Wastwater

Snowdonia National Park

1. Llyn Padarn

Llyn Padarn is set in a spectacular location, with the imposing Mount Snowdon to the south and the historic town of Llanberis at its shores. The lake is part of Padarn Country Park, offering lush woodland and a rich historical landscape, including ancient castles and industrial relics.

  • Type: Glacially formed lake
  • Size: About 2 miles long
  • Access: 8/10 – Good access with a car park nearby, though it can get busy in peak season.
  • Water Quality: 8/10 – Clean and clear, monitored regularly.
  • Scenery: 9/10 – Offers impressive views of Snowdon and the surrounding slate quarries.
  • Highlights: The lagoon near Llanberis is a popular spot, perfect for families and less confident swimmers.
Llyn Padarn wild swimming

2. Llyn Idwal

Nestled within a cirque of towering cliffs and rugged terrain, Llyn Idwal is a jewel of Snowdonia. The approach through the Idwal Valley offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Glyderau mountains, making it a favourite among photographers and nature lovers alike.

  • Type: Mountain lake
  • Size: Smaller, more intimate size
  • Access: 6/10 – Requires a bit of a hike to reach, which deters crowds.
  • Water Quality: 9/10 – Pristine mountain water.
  • Scenery: 10/10 – Surrounded by high crags and the rugged beauty of the Glyderau mountains.
  • Highlights: Ideal for those looking for a wilder swimming experience. The sense of remoteness adds to the adventure.
Wild swimming in Llyn Idwal

Llyn Gwynant

Llyn Gwynant is set in a stunning location, with the rugged beauty of Snowdonia’s mountains surrounding it. The lake is a popular spot for both swimmers and kayakers, especially given its role in the National Park’s landscape. The water is refreshingly clean, and the shores offer easy access for swimmers. With its backdrop of dense forests and towering peaks, Llyn Gwynant provides a picturesque setting for a wild swim.

  • Type: Natural lake
  • Size: About 0.75 miles long
  • Access: 8/10 – Easily accessible by car with a parking area close to the lake, making it a convenient option for swimmers.
  • Water Quality: 8/10 – The water is generally clean and clear, though it can be cold, reflecting its mountainous origins.
  • Scenery: 9/10 – The lake offers stunning views of Snowdonia’s mountains, providing a picturesque backdrop for swimmers.
  • Starting Point: The campsite near Llyn Gwynant offers easy lake access. It’s an ideal spot for families and individuals looking to combine camping with swimming, with facilities nearby to make a day or weekend of it.
Wild swimming in Llyn Gwynant

Cornwall

1. St. Nectan’s Kieve

This enchanting spot is hidden within a woodland in North Cornwall, near Tintagel. The waterfall cascades into a beautiful basin surrounded by lush vegetation, creating a secluded and mystical atmosphere that feels straight out of a fairy tale.

  • Type: Natural pool and waterfall
  • Size: The pool is relatively small but deep enough for a refreshing dip.
  • Access: 7/10 – A walk through woodland is required to reach this spot, which adds to its charm.
  • Water Quality: 8/10 – Fresh and invigorating, though can be cooler due to the shaded location.
  • Scenery: 10/10 – A stunning waterfall and basin set in a mystical woodland glade.
  • Highlights: Perfect for those looking for a magical swimming experience. The waterfall and the surrounding area are steeped in legend.

2. River Fowey at Respryn

The swim spot at Respryn is enveloped by ancient woodlands, part of the Lanhydrock estate. The river flows gently here, flanked by trees that dapple the water with light and shadow, offering a tranquil and picturesque swimming experience.

  • Type: River
  • Size: The swimming spot is part of the larger River Fowey, with several accessible pools of varying depths.
  • Access: 8/10 – Easy access via a short walk from the car park at Respryn.
  • Water Quality: 7/10 – Generally good, but as with all river spots, it’s best after a dry spell.
  • Scenery: 9/10 – Beautiful woodland setting, especially picturesque in autumn.
  • Highlights: Gentle currents and several deeper pools make it a great spot for a leisurely swim or paddle.
wild swimming river fowey

Kynance Cove

Kynance Cove is known for its beauty, with turquoise waters, white sand, and serpentine rock towers. Located on the Lizard Peninsula, the cove becomes a series of small, sandy beaches at low tide, revealing hidden sea pools ideal for swimming. The water quality is excellent, offering a clean and safe environment for swimmers. The dramatic cliffs and unique geological formations make Kynance Cove a must-visit for anyone looking to combine wild swimming with stunning coastal scenery.

  • Type: Sea cove
  • Size: Varies with the tide
  • Access: 7/10 – Accessible by foot from the National Trust car park, the path down to the cove is steep and can be challenging for some, but the stunning views are more than worth the effort.
  • Water Quality: 9/10 – The water at Kynance Cove is crystal clear, offering excellent conditions for swimming, especially at low tide when the sea pools are revealed.
  • Scenery: 10/10 – With its turquoise waters, white sands, and dramatic rock formations, Kynance Cove is one of the most photographed locations in Cornwall, offering an almost tropical swimming experience.
  • Starting Point: The National Trust car park provides the best access. From there, follow the marked path down to the cove. Low tide is the best time to visit, as it reveals the sandy beaches and sea pools ideal for swimming.
Wild swimming in Kynance Cove

Scottish Highlands

1. Loch Morlich

Loch Morlich boasts a unique sandy beach at its northern end, a rarity in the Highlands. It’s surrounded by the majestic Cairngorm mountains, offering panoramic views and a sense of wilderness. The surrounding pine forest adds to the loch’s allure, making it a popular spot for both relaxation and adventure activities.

  • Type: Freshwater loch
  • Size: Approximately 1 mile long and 0.5 miles wide
  • Access: 9/10 – Excellent access with a beach area and facilities nearby.
  • Water Quality: 8/10 – Clean, with regular quality checks.
  • Scenery: 10/10 – Offers stunning views of the Cairngorms.
  • Highlights: The sandy beach makes it a family-friendly location. Watersports are also available for those looking to try something different.
Wild swimming in Loch Morlich

2. Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

The Fairy Pools are set against the dramatic backdrop of the Cuillin mountains, with crystal-clear, icy waters flowing through rock formations. The vivid blues and greens of the pools, combined with the rugged mountain scenery, create a magical and otherworldly landscape that’s a must-see for any visitor to Skye.

  • Type: Series of natural pools and waterfalls
  • Size: The pools vary in size, with some large enough for swimming and others more suited for dipping.
  • Access: 5/10 – The pools are a bit of a walk from the nearest car park, and the path can be rough.
  • Water Quality: 9/10 – Crystal clear waters fed by mountain streams.
  • Scenery: 10/10 – Breathtaking views of the Cuillin mountains, with the pools themselves offering a magical swimming experience.
  • Highlights: The clarity of the water and the natural beauty of the waterfalls make this a must-visit for adventurous swimmers.

Loch Awe

Loch Awe is Scotland’s longest freshwater loch, stretching through a beautiful glen surrounded by mountains, forests, and castles, including the picturesque Kilchurn Castle. The loch’s vast expanse offers a variety of swimming experiences, from sheltered bays to open water stretches. The water quality is generally very good, and the scenery is unmatched, with panoramic views of the Scottish Highlands that are sure to leave a lasting impression on any swimmer.

  • Type: Freshwater loch
  • Size: Approximately 25 miles long
  • Access: 7/10 – While the loch is extensive and rural in parts, there are several accessible points along its length, particularly near villages like Dalmally and Taynuilt.
  • Water Quality: 8/10 – The water quality is generally very good, with clean, fresh waters typical of the Scottish Highlands.
  • Scenery: 10/10 – Loch Awe offers breathtaking Highland scenery, with forested shores, historic castles, and mountain backdrops that are quintessentially Scottish.
  • Starting Point: The area around Kilchurn Castle, at the northeastern end of the loch, is a fantastic place to start. Not only do you get to swim in the shadow of an iconic castle ruin, but the waters here are also relatively sheltered, making it suitable for swimmers of various abilities.
Wild swimming in Loch Awe

Conclusion

The UK is home to some of the world’s most beautiful wild swimming spots, each offering its own unique experience. Whether you’re after the dramatic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands, the mystical waters of Cornwall, the rugged beauty of Snowdonia, or the picturesque lakes of the Lake District, there’s something for everyone. Remember to always check local advice, respect the natural environment, and consider your own swimming abilities before diving in. Happy swimming!

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Max
Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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