Your Guide to the Best Wild Swimming Spots in London

When the weather heats up, Londoners opt for a swim in the city's wilderness
When the weather heats up, Londoners opt for a swim in the city's wilderness | © John Farnham / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Josephine Platt
Global Travel Writer6 August 2020

London boasts a surprising amount of wild swimming destinations. From Stoke Newington to Richmond, Heathrow to Hampstead, these are the places locals don’t want you to know about.

What’s more, splashing around in the wild does wonders for mental health; the British Medical Journal proved it in 2019. Sold? These are some of Londoners’ favourite spots.

Hampstead Heath

The ponds at Hampstead, which were dug in the 17th and 18th centuries as reservoirs, are adored by Londoners – so much so that books have been written in their celebration. During Covid-19, its mixed, women’s and men’s ponds are ticketed to ensure social distancing. Secure yours here.

Swimmers enjoy a bath at Hampstead Heath during a heatwave | © Sylvie JARROSSAY / Alamy Stock Photo

London Royal Docks

In East London, you can enjoy casual or competitive swimming at what is considered one of the most scenic open-water venues around the world. As for Covid-19 precautions? “Onsite safety, including a safety tagging system for each swimmer, is in place ensuring a safe and enjoyable swim, with water tested fortnightly,” they explain on their website.

Competitors take part in the swim at Royal Victoria Docks | © Jack Taylor / Getty Images

West Reservoir, Hackney

The West Reservoir is another East London favourite, where open-water swimming is encouraged alongside water sports. Much like Hampstead Heath, you’ll need to book in advance to secure a spot – you can do so here.

The West Reservoir is an East London favourite | © carol moir / Alamy Stock Photo

Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park

Don’t be fooled by its name, the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park is not a pool: it’s wild swimming, with ducks and swans, at its best. Established in 1730, the Serpentine Lido is Britain’s oldest swimming club – and to visit you’ll need a membership.

Bathers swim in the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park | © TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Ruislip Lido, Hillingdon

It’s little-known that there is a (man-made) beach in West London; you’ll find at the edge of Ruislip Woods, along with 60 acres (24ha) of lake called the Ruislip Lido. It reopened at the beginning of July, and has since seen swarms of people – so keep in mind that it may be busy.

The Ruislip Lido is within easy reach of central London | © Stephen Chung / Alamy Stock Photo

Hythe End Gravel Pits, Heathrow

Keeping up the holiday state-of-mind on return from sunny climes, travel 20 minutes to Hythe End Lake for a spot of wild swimming on touch down at London Heathrow. This wonderful 2km (1.2mi) lake was once a gravel pit, but now it’s filled with water and wildlife.

Enjoy some wild swimming after landing at Heathrow | © Leon Neal / Getty Images

Ham Lake, Richmond

In the summer months on Sunday, Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can book to swim at Ham Lake for £5 for a 90-minute session. To get there, Teddington or Richmond are your nearest stations.

Book a swim at Ham Lake in Richmond | © Pictures Colour Library / Alamy Stock Photo

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