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Top places to swim in the UK – from wild ponds to water slides

Who needs the Med or Caribbean when you have the UK's best swimming spots to cool off in?

So far, we've been having a pretty good summer and for those of us who have had the sense to stay in Britain and enjoy it, a cooling dip can be hugely appealing. That doesn't have to mean piling into a public swimming pool, or elbowing space for your towel next to a cloudy lido, either. There are plenty of opportunities to go wild, or swim in pools or lakes without the crowds, or with splendid views. If you embark on more of an adventurous dip, consider Wild Swimming's safety tips first (wildswimming.co.uk/health-safety). Then all that's left to do is grab your costume and dive in.

A pool with a view

Plying the cool waters of Ilkley Lido (01943 600453; ilkleylido.co.uk; adults £5.70; concessions £2.80), soaking up verdant views of Ilkley Moor, it's easy to slip into a blissful blur, even during the busy summer holidays. With tennis and bowls offered beyond the poolside, as well as a café and picnic area, you could happily spend the whole day here. But if you have reserves of energy, follow up your dip with a stroll on the moor (ilkleymoor.org/walks), then amble back into town for afternoon tea at Betty's (01943 608029; bettys.co.uk).

In with the tide

Rock pooling takes a different context at Bude Sea Pool (budeseapool.net; admission free). Built in 1930, the tidal pool is cut into the Cornish coastline. As the pool fills at high tide and warms throughout the day, it offers a sheltered, less bracing alternative to braving the Atlantic waves. It's also one of few remaining tidal pools in Britain. The ASA (swimming.org/asa) is offering free improver swimming lessons at the pool for seven to 14-year-olds on various dates until 26 August (bookings: 07508 737570).

The Bude Sea Pool, Cornwall (Alamy)

A freshwater dip

Llyn Gwynant delivers on top-quality swimming and stunning scenery: this vast lake in the Nant Gwynant valley is surrounded by the green slopes of Snowdonia. Cool Camping (coolcamping.co.uk) recommends the Llyn Gwynant campsite (01766 890302) at the northern tip of the lake as "one of Britain's best for an activity-based family". The campsite offers kayaking and canoeing on the water and there's a wood-fired pizza stall nearby; pitches from £8 per person per night. On hot days, cool off by easing yourself into the water (both ends are shallow) to glide across to "Elephants Rock".

Fast and furious

Rush 'n' Rampage. The Master Blaster Water Coaster. Flash Flood. You get the idea – Alton Towers waterpark (0871 222 9901; altontowers.com/waterpark) offers high-octane thrills and plenty of splash action. Bolstering the indoor pool offering are flumes, slides, rapids and water features that range from the lazy river to a waterborne rollercoaster. Tickets cost £16.50 adult, £11.75 under-12s but are slightly cheaper if you book online. The adjoining Splash Landings Hotel is a Caribbean-themed retreat where packages start at £260 for a night's B&B in a family room with two days' admission to the waterpark for four.

Cast away

The waters off the coast of Achmelvich are recommended by Daniel Start, author of Wild Swimming: Hidden Beaches (wildswimming.co.uk). In this unspoilt corner of the Scottish Highlands there are a number of secluded, white sand spots to choose from, including a near-turquoise bay that shelves gently down from the shoreline. Access is by single-track road (three miles from Lochinver) so the area rarely gets crowded. Stay at Hillhead Caravans (01571 844206; achmelvich-holidays.co.uk; from £280 per week self-catering) next to the bay then head down to the water for swims at sunrise or sunset.