Epic Places for Wild Swimming in the North of England

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming | © Antonina Bukowska / Unsplash
Emma Lavelle

It may be cold up north, but the lakes and dales in particular hide many secret wild swimming spots thanks to their clean and clear waters. On warm sunny days, particularly towards the end of the summer, the water in the lakes, rivers and dams may even have heated up enough to not give you a bracing shock when you submerge yourself.

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If you’re planning a wild swimming adventure, take the necessary safety precautions: never venture into the water on your own, be prepared for very cold water, stay close to the shore, avoid strong currents and don’t stay in too long unless it’s a particularly hot day. Fancy diving in and giving it a go? Here are six of the best spots in the north of England.

Killington, Cumbria

Diving in

Situated in the south Lakeland area, the stretch of the River Lune close to the small village of Killington is ideal for a refreshing swim. Park as close to the bridge as possible and walk upstream, keeping your eyes peeled for an easy route down through the trees to the river below. There’s no beach area, so you’ll have to shimmy over the large rocks and ease yourself directly into the water, which is deep and fast-moving, but also clean and clear. Float into the rapids for a natural Jacuzzi, or swim back down towards the bridge – just be prepared to fight the current on the way back.

Hatchmere, Cheshire

Wild swimming

A popular swimming spot on warm summer’s days, thanks to the small grassy beach area and the pub next door, Hatchmere is a favoured wild swimming spot for those in the know. The lake is relatively small and shallow, and even less confident swimmers should feel at ease floating in the middle. Entering the lake can be chilly, but once you’re submerged, the water temperature in the centre is generally quite pleasant during the summer months. Stay clear of the fishermen on the jetty and keep your eyes out for occasional signs of blue green algae before leaping in.

Kailpot Crag, Ullswater, Lake District

The Lake District is full of excellent wild swimming spots, but Kailpot Crag could just be one of the very best places for leaping into the water. It may not be a secret spot, but it’s popular for a reason, boasting clear deep waters. To reach the crag, take the ferry to Howtown pier and follow the lake path south-west until you arrive at the perfect spot to jump in from the rocks. There’s also a beach if you prefer to ease yourself in.

​Tongue pot, Upper Eskdale

Underwater swimming

One of the most beautiful wild swimming spots in the Lake District, Tongue Pot appears like something out of a fairy tale. The emerald water sparkles in the sun beneath an impressive waterfall, sheer rock faces rising on either side of the pool. A pebbled beach provides easy access to the water, although the more adventurous are known to leap in from the rocks. To find the pool, drive past the Woolpack Inn in Boot and follow the path along the river for two miles until you reach a bridge.

Galleny Force, Stonethwaite, Borrowdale

Man wild swimming

Another picturesque pool in the heart of the Lake District, Galleny Force offers impressive waterfalls alongside peaceful swimming spots. There are a couple of pools to swim in, the top pools being much more popular while the lower pools are often quiet. To discover this special swimming spot, walk through the woods from Stonethwaite camp site for just half a mile. Anyone feeling brave should stroll a little further to take a leap of faith into the Black Moss pot for a more dramatic wild swimming experience.

Gadding’s Dam, Todmorden

Discover England’s highest beach in the most unlikely of locations, at the top of a towering hill just above Todmorden in the Calder Valley. Park your car at the Shepherd’s Rest pub and follow the steep trail directly up the hill behind to discover a hidden haven. Complete with an actual sandy beach, Gadding’s Dam offer clean water perfectly suitable for swimming, thanks to a group of locals who cleaned up the area back in 2001. Although no longer a hidden spot, crowds are usually limited due to the tiring climb and the strong winds that meet you at the top.

For more outdoor adventures in the north of England, here’s a list of the most beautiful walks in the Yorkshire Dales.

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