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Microadventures - 5 of the UK’s top wild swimming destinations

There is nothing quite like swimming in a British river, lake or reservoir.

The ice cold water, mud oozing beneath your toes, weed gently wrapping itself around your legs, fish nibbling your ankles, testing your strength against the current or letting it carry you along on it’s meandering way. Climbing up a muddy bank or tentatively walking over sharp stones while fending off the gnats.

Young woman and man swimming in a lake
Try it together
Young woman in evening light with hands in the air
Feel liberation

If you haven’t experienced the joy since childhood now is the time to wade back in and share the pleasure or enjoy it with your own children. If you have only ever swam in a safe heated chlorinated swimming pool, then quite frankly, you don’t know what you are missing. So make this the year to splash out and take a swim on the wild side.

Wild swimming can be as adventurous as you make it and is growing in popularity. Getting back to nature by swimming in a sparkling river where willows dip their branches into the cool waters or bathing under a waterfall hidden on a cold, damp and craggy Welsh mountain can be hard to beat, the feeling of diving into a deep pool and surfacing into sunlight delivers nothing but unadulterated bliss.

If you’re a hardy soul willing to do it just in your swimming trunks, or of a more delicate disposition then don your wetsuit and head out to these top 5 wild swimming water holes perfect for any veteran or novice wild bather:

Waterfall Woods

Coed-y-Rhaiadr or Waterfall Woods in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales

This is an amazing network of forest pools, waterfalls and caves. Deep within the Brecon Beacons National Park, it’s a dreamlike bathing site surrounded by a lush and verdant landscape, where the melodic sound of rushing water make this a unique and mesmerising swimming spot. Head to the best falls of all - Horseshoe Falls where you can swim in amongst plunge pools behind a roaring waterfall or explore a cave in Enid Blyton fashion.

St Necton Kieve in Tintagel Cornwall

St. Necton’s Kieve (basin) is an outstandingly beautiful natural site and is steeped in mystery and legend. To reach the falls you walk through ancient woodland with Ivy clad trees, before meandering along the banks of the River Trevillet before finding yourself in one of Cornwall’s hidden treasures, untouched by the modern day. The double waterfall falls 60ft from the cliffs above before gushing through a hole in the basin wall and plunging into a pool of 1.5m in depth and 5m across.

It is said to be a very spiritual site and people leave ribbons, prayer flags and stones next to the pool. Legend has it that King Arthur and the knights of the round table were baptised there before going on crusade.

Ghaistrills Stride on the river Wharfe in Yorkshire

Nestled at the South of the quaint Yorkshire village of Grassington you will find an epicentre of watery fun. Most people gather on the river meadows and here you’ll find families and children young and old in rubber dinghies and wielding fishing nets. The River Wharfe is a wild swimming mecca for the more adventurous wild swimmer. The Ghaistrill Stride is a series of cascades, rocky pools and rapids which will propel you along a narrow winding channel where you can ride on a tube and then plunge into a pool.

*Currents can be strong so don’t swim after rain.

The River Bure in Norfolk

The River Bure near Coltishall Norfolk

The chalky bottomed River Bure creates the ideal waters for a long refreshing swim in crystal clear water. Start your adventure in Buxton and join villagers as they jump and bath in the waters near the old Buxton Water Mill, dip your toes in the crystal waters and begin your swim downstream towards Coltishall, where you’re accompanied by weeping willows, passing meadows, cows and swans. A beautiful and tranquil spot on a summer’s day.

Dancing Ledge at Langton Matravers, near Swanage

This tidal rock pool, was blasted out of its limestone rocks for use as a swimming pool for local prep children more than 100 years ago. Today you may be for describing it as more of a rockpool than a swimming pool, with purple and green seaweed , the odd starfish and occasional crab scuttling along its bottom. It is a beautiful and peaceful setting next to the sea and although a bit of a tight squeeze for two people doing breast stroke, it is perfect for ten to sit and enjoy the stunning view on a hot day. It still remains quite remote as you have to walk a 30 minute walk through a meadow and scramble over the rocks to get there, but all part of the adventure.

While the sun is shining and the days are long pack your swimming things and dive into your wild swimming adventure. Explore the UK like you have never seen it before.

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