The Best Places for Wild Swimming near Manchester

Wild Swimming in a lake
Wild Swimming in a lake | © Šárka Jonášová / Unsplash
Emma Lavelle

Manchester may be known for being wet and cold, but the summer months often bring blazing sunshine and blue skies. There are no outdoor pools in the city itself so when the temperatures soar, but there are several wild swimming destinations within an hour’s drive of the city centre. Here are five of the best spots to cool off close to Manchester.

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Hatchmere, Cheshire

Wild swimming

In just under an hour you can drive from Manchester city centre to Hatchmere, a picturesque lake near Frodsham, in Cheshire. A favourite wild swimming spot of many locals, Hatchmere is perfectly set up for swimming with a small beach area beside the road, right beside the Carriers Inn. The water deepens gradually, making it ideal for families with children who like to paddle. Keep your eyes peeled for algae and stay away from the fishermen on the jetty.

Pickmere, Cheshire

Swimming underwater

Pickmere is slightly closer to Manchester, just a 45 minute drive from the city centre. This large lake may flaunt ‘no swimming’ signs, but that doesn’t stop it being a popular wild swimming destination. There are many places where you can enter the water, but one of the best spots is the small jetty through the undergrowth, if you turn right after walking down from the car park. The water drops off suddenly and there is quite a lot of debris on the bottom, so this isn’t the best place to bring children and you’ll definitely want to wear swim shoes.

Gaddings Dam at Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Swimming

The highest beach in England can be reached by a 20-minute steep uphill climb from the Shepherd’s Rest pub, overlooking Todmorden in the Calder Valley. A team of local people cleaned up the old reservoir in 2001, creating a sandy beach area and a haven for local wild swimmers. This used to be a bit of a hidden gem, but on hot summer days the area now gets incredibly busy. Time your visit for early morning, evenings or weekday afternoons to avoid the crowds, and be prepared for the steep climb from the pub. The drive from Manchester is just under an hour.

Lumb Hole Falls

A woman enjoying a swim in a pool

If you’re looking for a really wild swim, head to Lumb Falls just outside Hebden Bridge (an hour and 15 minute drive from Manchester). Ensure that you have a good Ordnance Survey map with you to find your destination, as it’s a little tricky to locate, despite being just a short walk from the road. You’ll have to walk down a steep cobbled path and scramble down the riverbank, but it’s more than worth it to swim in a pool that looks like something out of a fairy tale. More adventurous types can climb up the waterfall and jump into the deep waters, while anyone looking for a relaxing swim can simply float in the pool.

Helly Hansen Watersports Centre, Salford

Wild Swimming in a lake

If you’re a hardened swimmer, own a wet suit and are more bothered about actually swimming outdoors than searching for picturesque surroundings, you don’t even need to leave the city. Salford Watersports Centre hold open water swimming sessions twice a week, allowing serious swimmers to dive into the Manchester Ship Canal. You’ll have to pay to join up and sign several forms before they let you get wet, but if you’re really into your outdoor swimming, what are you waiting for?

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