Swimming, for many people is part of a UK holiday experience – either in a pool or braving the sea. But more than a dip in the sea, there is a renewed interest in swimming in our inland waterways for an invigorating experience. The writer and environmentalist Roger Deakin did much to champion access to rivers and waterways in his 1999 Waterlog: A swimmer’s journey through Britain, and more recently Alice Roberts followed Deakin’s journey for a BBC Four series on Wild Swimming. As well as swimming in our rivers, lakes and seas, the UK has some glorious outdoor swimming pools or lido’s still open after their heyday in the 1930’s. So if you can’t easily get to a safe bit of river or find a lake to swim in, perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a lido near by for a open air, if not completely wild, experience
Where to swim?
Finding safe places to swim can be tricky, but a good starting point is the Outdoor Swimming Society or the River and Lake Swimming Association which has details about where it is legal to swim as well as health and safety issues, and also the site Wild Swimming has lots of useful information, as has the 2008 Telegraph article on the 50 Top Places to swim. Details of local open air swimming pools is patchy but lido.org.uk is helpful.
Where to stay?
Taking a day trip to swim in a river or spending the day at a lido can make it feel like you are on holiday, but if you want to travel further and base your holiday around swimming there plenty of useful information available. A part from swimming in lido’s in most cases wild swimming is a free activity, so your accommodation can be are cheap or expensive as you want to make it. You could rent a cottage in the Lake District and plan to swim in a different lake or tarn every day, the Lake District National Park and Go Lakes both have useful information about where to swim and excellent safety advice. Or organize a route based on swimming in different rivers, camping or staying B&B in between. Pitching up a tent and camping by the side of a loch in Scotland and taking an early morning dip sounds very appealing, and Wales and Ireland have lots to offer with stunning lakes, rivers and waterfalls.
It’s important to remember that, like swimming in the sea, swimming in rivers and lakes does carry risks, and you need to be aware of those risks in order to stay safe. Such as being aware of currents, not plunging into cold water, checking the depth before jumping or diving in, looking out for blue green algae and checking out the local weather forecast before you swim. The above sites all have lots of tips on staying safe.