Take the plunge – ten top outdoor swims
'Outdoor pools’ may be synonymous to some as ‘skinny dipping’ but that’s merely evidence of filthy minds. Ours, mostly…If you’re up for some outdoor swimming now that summer is on its way, there are plenty of outdoor pool options in the UK, ranging from seaside and city lidos to secluded lakes to tidal pools . Here are our top ten picks for outdoor and wild swimming in the UK:
Lymington Open Air Sea Water Baths , Hampshire
Near the seaside village of Milford on Sea , Lymington Open Air Sea Water Baths date back to 1833 and were developed by the Lymington Bath and Improvement Company for their health-giving properties. Open daily from May to September.
Stay : Lytton Lawn Touring Park is less than three miles from the baths and is a quiet Shorefield Holidays park with pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes. Also nearby is Lytton Lawn’s sister park Shorefield Country Park , a luxury award-winning site with caravans for hire, indoor pool and sauna. Guests at Lytton Lawn can use the Shorefield facilities too.
Jubilee Pool , Cornwall
Built on the shoreline of Penzance in 1935, this is the biggest open-air seawater tidal pool in the UK. There’s a shallow pool for little tiddlers and the area is lifeguarded. Alas, it's still uncertain whether the pool will be open in 2014 because of damage caused by the February storms: check their page for updates .
For other outdoor swimming in Cornwall, Summerleaze Beach a few minutes from the centre of Bude has a sea pool at the base of its cliffs, available daily for swimming and snorkelling.
Stay : Family-run Cardinney Caravan & Camping Park , less than five miles from Jubilee Pool and five miles from Lands End, has spacious and sheltered pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes. At Bude, Tamar Lakes Campsite has camping pods sleeping up to four, on an activities-packed park with two fishing lakes, a watersports centre and a sandy beach.
Thermae Bath Spa , Bath
Fancy that. A place called Bath with a place where you can take a bath. (Well, a ‘bathe’, but let’s not be picky.) The warm natural spring waters of Bath have been a favourite since the Romans stripped off their togas for a dip in them, which shows that their tastes covered good as well as carnal. Take a dip in the rooftop pool here or in the old sacred site of the Cross Bath.
Stay: Newton Mill Holiday Park is just over two miles from Bath and is a peaceful park with award-winning ablutions, non-electric grass tent pitches and hardstanding electric pitches for tourers and motorhomes.
The Wharfe , North Yorkshire
Running down from the Yorkshire Dales, the River Wharfe is one of the most popular outdoor swimming spots in the country and at 97km long should provide even the shyest swimmers a secluded spot at which to strip off. There are several villages along the way to start out from: try the Wharfedale valley villages of Appletreewick, Grassington or Pool-in-Wharfedale, where Pool Bank can be staggered up to build up a nice sweat before diving into the water.
Stay : Use Skipton, Ripon or Harrogate as a base for Wharfedale swimming, and Yorkshire hiking as well from Harrogate’s Heathfield Caravan Park , in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Upper Nidderdale and on the Nidderdale Way. Pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes come with optional electric. Also in the Upper Nidderdale AONB, tent and tourer pitches are available at nearby Rudding Holiday Park , with helipad on site so you can pretend to be Bond, James Bond.
Hatchmere , Cheshire
Deep in the Delamere Forest, the warm pool at Hatchmere is reached via a sandy beach from the Carriers Inn, where a cold pint is mandatory after a summer swim and a hot toddy after a winter one. Hatchmere is a fishing lake too, so stick to the swimmers’ area to avoid being hooked.
Stay: New Farm at nearby Winsford is an adults-only park with hardstanding electric pitches for tourers and motorhomes; dogs are welcome too. There are three fishing lakes beside the site, or, if you’d rather pitch up on the water’s edge, take your tent to Chester Lakes , with lakeside pitches, seven fishing lakes and a tackle shop on site.
Stonehaven Open Air Pool , Aberdeen
You can’t beat a bit of art deco, we reckon, and when it surrounds a pool that’s not only open-air and seawater, but heated to boot, we’re getting into our cossies before you can say Perhaps that’s not appropriate on the bus. Stonehaven is an Olympic-size pool with swimming sessions, midnight swims and a sheltered paddling pool for little squirts. Open from 25 May – 1 September.
Stay : Have some city camping at Deeside Holiday Park , six miles from Aberdeen and less than ten miles from the art deco swimminess. Camping pods sleeping up to four are set next to the new campers’ kitchen and family rooms, and come with heating, electricity, fridge, kettle and DVD player.
Grey Mare’s Tail Burn , Dumfries and Galloway
Unheated outdoor swimming in the wilds of Scotland? Course you can, you big jessie. The Galloway Forest National Park has several places to splash: start at the Grey Mare’s Tail Burn with its plunge pools and the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall, or the waterfall at Glen Trool with a pool above and below the falls.
Stay : Whitecairn Holiday Park is at nearby Newton Stewart in part of Britain’s first Dark Sky Park. There’s a trout fishing lake and a children’s playground on site – and an indoor pool too if you want to gather up your wild swimming courage in a walled environment first. Pitches are for tents, tourers and motorhomes, and come with electric.
Coed-y-Rhaiadr , South Wales
Meaning ‘Waterfall Woods’, this stretch of Wales on the edge of the Brecon Beacons has many accessible swimming spots amongst its waterfalls. Head for the Horseshoe Falls, a horseshoe-shaped waterfall with plunge pools underneath, or to the deep pool underneath Sgwd Gwladys/Lady Falls.
Stay : Orchard pitches for tents are available at nearby Danywenalt Youth Hostel at Brecon: the site has loads of room for pitches, a log circle and a communal campfire area. Nearby, and three miles from book town Hay-on-Wye, pick up some real ale, cider and home-cooked food at Hollybush Camping , hire a canoe or kayak for a trip down the River Wye, or book a raft building course on site. The non-electric grass pitches here for tents, tourers and motorhomes have no size restrictions, and dogs are welcome.
Mermaid's Pool , Staffordshire
Also known as Blakesmere or Black Mere Pool, this moorland pool near Leek is rumoured to contain a bloodthirsty mermaid who will attack unwary swimmers. Well, you won’t be unwary now that we’ve warned you. Find the Mermaid’s Pool about three miles from Leek, on the summit of Morridge Hill. And tell someone where you’re going and what time to expect you back.
Stay : Combine mermaid dodging with pony riding at Leek’s Beaver Hall Equestrian Centre , with pony rides for children and beginners from £15. The site is less than a mile from the Peak District National Park for watersports and sailing.
Not for the faint-hearted, but a list of outdoor swims in the UK wouldn’t be complete without the Lake District and England’s deepest lake. Hardy swimmers can attempt to cross the three miles of Wastwater, which will take longer than expected if frequent gawps at Scafell Pike and the surrounding scenery are included. A gentler paddle can be had by dipping your toes into the River Esk’s Tongue Pot, an emerald pool with a white pebble beach to its side.
Stay : Book a shepherd's hut or two-bedroom holiday home for three, four or seven nights at Wasdale's Church Stile Farm Holiday Park , near Wastwater. Penrith’s Hillcroft , overlooking the banks of Wordsworth's favourite lake Ullswater, has camping pods sleeping up to four.
To find less wild swimming – although you’ll certainly have to wear a cossie – look for a campsite or holiday park with dipping opportunities on site or nearby (and sites with a hot tub , just because):
Sites with indoor swimming pool
Sites with outdoor swimming pool
Sites with indoor and outdoor pools
Sites with outdoor pool nearby
First published May 2014; updated May 2014