The best wild swimming spots for quick dips, short stays or a week-long holiday

Cool off in these outdoor watering holes

Sian Lewis
Friday 01 March 2024 15:14 GMT
Some sites have their own secluded bodies of water
Some sites have their own secluded bodies of water (Cornish Tipi Holidays)

Wild swimming is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, as our summers have brought with them higher-than-usual temperatures and even the odd record-breaking heatwave.

While the keenest – and bravest – wild swimmers will have kept up with their favourite hobby through the frigid winter months, for most of us it’s the imminent arrival of spring that leads us to dust off the old swimming kit and start plotting a return to the wild.

While popular seaside sports such as Bournemouth and Brighton become overcrowded and expensive, wild swimming spots offer a chance to avoid the crowds while taking in what are often idyllic surroundings.

Even better, you can combine a dip with an overnight stay at some of the most tranquil spots across the UK, from the Cornish coast to Scottish lochs.

To help you in your search for the perfect scenic swim this summer, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best wild swimming stays in the UK.

From glamping at a private lake to a cottage stay by a relaxing river, here are 10 of the best picks – just make sure to pack your swimwear.

Pheasant Hut, Norfolk

Take a dip in an eight-acre lake in Norfolk (Pheasant Hut )

Cannonball straight into the cool waters of the eight-acre lake that sits at the heart of Wild With Nature, an organic farm with six shepherd’s huts to hole up in. Our favourite is the Pheasant, a snug bolthole for two with views of the lake and its tempting wooden pontoon. Need to warm up after a swim? Book the farm’s “roving hot tub” for £30 per night.

From £145 per night, sleeps two

Troytown Farm, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly

Camp on the car-free island of St Agnes (Sian Lewis )

If you’re picturing waking up, unzipping your tent and jumping straight into the ocean, set up camp on Troytown Farm, where a grassy camping meadow runs right down to the Atlantic. Life goes at a slow pace on the car-free island of St Agnes, one of the Isles of Scilly found off the Cornish coast – campers spend their days sea swimming or renting SUPs and kayaks from St Agnes Watersports next door. You can also swim across to the island of Gugh, joined to St Agnes by a sand bar at low tide.

£12.50 per person per night, children £6.75

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One Cat Farm, Ceredigion, Wales

Glamping in north Wales comes with the perk of a hot bath – outdoors (One Cat Farm)

Named for Mogul the ginger tabby, the first animal resident of this lovely glamping site, One Cat Farm in north Wales is home to four cosy wooden cabins, dotted around a lily pad-strewn swimming pond. There’s little to do here besides take a dip, pootle about in the rowing boat or warm up after a swim in a wood-fired outdoor bath. If you’re craving salt water, Aberaeron South beach is a five-minute drive away.

From £160 per two-night stay for a cabin sleeping two adults and up to three children

Myrtle – the Shepherd’s Hut, Wye Valley, Wales

Paddle on a private spot on the River Wye (Myrtle the Shepherd’s Hut)

Everything is perfectly squared away inside this small but perfectly formed shepherd’s hut. Moroccan-themed Myrtle is hidden in a little Welsh glade with views of the River Wye, and a path straight down to the water leads to your own private swim spot, complete with a rope to help you clamber in and out. There’s a hot shower on hand post-swim, and a barbecue means you can feast on a riverside supper once you’ve worked up an appetite.

From £115 per night, sleeps two (minimum two nights)

Farr’s Meadow, Dorset

A lush meadow, fringed by woodland and the burbling waters of the River Stour – this is old-fashioned camping at its best. Farr’s Meadow is a tent-only site with proper showers and compost loos in converted horse boxes, but otherwise this campsite is simplicity itself. Head to the river for a lazy morning swim – the campsite can also arrange fishing if you fancy catching your own supper to cook over a firepit come evening.

From £35 per night for a pitch sleeping two

Ditchling Cabin, Sussex

Ditchling Cabin has its own private lake (Ditchling Cabin)

This charming cabin is a wild swimmer’s dream. Ditchling perches on the edge of its own lake, with a wide wooden platform floating over the water, no less than three pontoons and a diving platform to jump in from, plus a motley selection of rowing boats and rafts for you to punt around on to your heart’s content. The living room hides two little box beds suitable for children, and upstairs there’s a huge double bed and a bath with lake views for the grown-ups.

From £420 per night, sleeps four, with the option (for a fee) to pitch a small tent

Cornish Tipi Holidays, Cornwall

Stay in a tipi in Cornwall (Cornish Tipi Holidays)

Tall white tipis, some in a large meadow, some in their own private forest glades, encircle a glassy green swimming lake in this magical hidden valley in north Cornwall. A pontoon and a row boat make it very tempting to spend all your days messing around on the water at Cornish Tipi Holidays, although the coast is only 10 minutes away by car. The tipis are on the basic side but do have rugs and fire pits, and there are communal hot showers.

From £87 per night for a tipi sleeping up to six, with a minimum two-night stay

West Lexham, Norfolk

Stay in a tree house, bell tent or cosy cottage at West Lexham (West Lexham)

If your idea of a swimming staycation includes all the bells and whistles, take your pick from the rather luxurious tree houses, bell tents and cosy cottages at West Lexham. The tree houses on this wooded estate are especially lovely, complete with log stoves, squashy double beds and a communal outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven. The swimming pool is open April through September, but the reed-lined lake, where you might share company with herons and otters, is accessible all year round.

From £100 per night for a bell tent sleeping two, with a minimum two-night stay

Eilean Shona, Loch Moidart, Scotland

Swim in the waters of Loch Moidart (Jacob Little )

“A wild rocky romantic island it is too,” JM Barrie wrote of Eilean Shona. The author was inspired to write Peter Pan after a stay on this real-life Neverland off the west coast of Scotland. Now you can stay in one of eight self-catered cottages dotted around car-free Eilean Shona and go swimming in the clear, cold waters of Loch Moidart, seeking out hidden coves along its shores or jumping in from the island’s pier.

From £1,000 per week for a cottage sleeping two

Tarn Foot Campsite, Cumbria

Find this simple, no-frills camping meadow near Ambleside, in a peaceful pocket of the Lake District. It has just 25 pitches and might not be rich in amenities – “just a toilet, a tap and tarn” as one camper described it – but it’s perfect for back-to-basics camping, and is a mere minute’s walk away from the calm waters of Loughrigg Tarn. Go for a cooling dip on a balmy summer evening or while away a day on the tarn’s shore, where littler swimmers can hunt for tadpoles.

£8 per person per night. Call: 01539 432596

Kudhva, Cornwall

The water of Trebarwith Beach, just a five-minute drive from Kudhva (Kudhva)

Located “where the land meets the sea” on the northern Cornish coast, Kudhva offers amazing views of the Atlantic with accommodation including tipis, their ‘Danish Cabin’ and the eponymous Kudhva cabins. These treehouse-like structures stand above ground to give the best views of the coast and forest, while providing guests with a two-person mezzanine bed and plenty of space to sit and relax. As well as being close to the coast, the 42-acre site is home to a waterfall and wild swimming lake.

Tipis and kudhvas from £120 per night, with a minimum two-night stay

Glenmore Campsite, Aviemore, Scotland

The waters of Loch Morlich (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Situated in Cairngorms National Park, Glenmore is the perfect natural retreat for a camping holiday. Surrounded by rolling hills and pine forest, the site has direct access to the beaches of Loch Morlich, where visitors can take advantage of the Scottish government’s lenient open-access laws to enjoy a swim (or various water sports) with the UK’s largest mountain range as a backdrop.

From £24 per night in low season, £39.90in high season

A Little Bit of Rough, Rutland

Some of the cabins at A Little Bit of Rough (A Little Bit of Rough)

With a secret location in rural Rutland (not too far from Uppingham), A Little Bit of Rough offers “Posh Camping in our four beautifully appointed large canvas lodges”. Surrounded by nature in the county’s ‘Spindleberry Woods’, the site is close to Rutland Water, with great opportunities for wild swimming and access to Rutland Water Beach. It’s proximity to Uppingham and Oakham means that visitors can also explore these traditional English market towns.

Cabins from £257.50 per night (minimum two-night stay)

Barefoot & Bower, Gloucestershire

A family business (with close ties to the area) that sits in the Cotswolds, Barefoot & Bower is the idyllic result of an extensive effort to minimise ecological impacts and maximise sustainability. Offering stripped back wild camping (toilets, showers and a communal eating area are provided but you’ll need to bring everything else yourself), guests are invited to swim in the lakes (named Calm Water and Kingfisher). There are nearby pubs in the town if you’d prefer to switch up the serenity.

£25 per person per night

Waterside House Campsite, Lake District

A view of Ullswater lake from the Waterside House campsite (Waterside House Campsite )

Found in the Lake District on the banks of Ullswater, Waterside House has direct access to the northern shores of the lake. Sitting at the foot of Barton Fell, this family-run campsite is an excellent base for mountain biking, walking, sailing, fishing and paddleboarding, and also offers boat hire alongside camping amenities. Far from a run-of-the-mill campsite, Waterside has accommodation options ranging from simple tent pitches to tipis and glamping pods.

From £22 per night for a two-person tent, or £70 per night for a Lakeside Pod

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