WORDS BY ASHLEY NORRIS & SADIE HALE

It’s not difficult to understand the allure of secluded outdoor swimming. Stretching out in the cool water of a river, lake or sea can feel wonderfully liberating –  especially on warm summer days.

Luckily there are plenty of places to escape the crowds while still being within reach of a pub lunch – you just have to know where to look. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best places across the islands to enjoy aquatics, alfresco style. Don’t forget though. It is always a good idea to swim with company, and don’t dive in straight after you have polished off your picnic.

RIVER CHELMER

Nr. Utling, Essex

Winding peacefully through overhanging willows and tall green grass, the River Chelmer makes the perfect place for a secluded summer submerge. One of the best places to access it is by the All Saints Church near Ulting, but it’s worth noting that these are private grounds, so it is best to start from the bank opposite. Make sure to take a picnic and enjoy lying on the tranquil grassy banks.

THE ROYAL DOCKS

Newham, London

It seems that even the capital can find space for some wild swimming, with the recent announcement that East London’s Royal Docks are opening to the public this summer. Historically some of the busiest docks in the world, their now-tranquil(ish) 18 degree-C waters will be available to swim in at specific times throughout the warmer months.

For more wild swims in London there’s also Highgate Ponds, the Serpentine in Hyde Park, Stoke Newington Reservoir and, if you fancy a day trip, Shepperton Lake.

RIVER SHIMNA

Tollymore Forest Park, Northern Ireland

Shaded green forest and cool waters make this one of the most picturesque swimming spots in Northern Ireland. The deepest and best stretches of water lie between the Hermitage, the folly built by the second Earl of Clanbrassil in the 18th century, and Foley’s Bridge. You’re bound to see trout, and you might even see a salmon, so bring goggles or a mask!

BURGH ISLAND

South Hams, Devon

Circumnavigating the rocky Burgh Island near Bigbury-on-Sea may take some time (equivalent to approximately 64 lengths of a standard 25m pool), but for experienced wild swimmers this is rite of passage. The sea can be choppy here, so it’s not for the faint-hearted, and must be done with a pre-booked group. The island itself is worth a visit too, as it boasts England’s most, most beautiful Art Deco hotel.

DEVOKE WATER

Lake District, Cumbria

Situated between Eskdale and Ulpha in the Lake District National Park, this glassy lake offers one of the most spectacular wild swim in England. Its azure waters, which are 1.2 miles long and just half a mile from the road, are surrounded by gently sloping hills which offer a breath-taking setting for a dip.

CARDING MILL VALLEY RESERVOIR

Shropshire

This lovely reservoir, located in the National Trust’s Carding Mill Valley, is edged with a man-made ‘beach’ area and overlooked by the pleasant hills of Long Mynd. It’s known to be glorious in the early hours when it captures the morning sun, so get there early to experience a radiant bathe.

FAIRY POOLS

Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye

The aptly-named Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye off the northern coast of Scotland aren’t the most accessible on our list – there’s 1.5 mile walk to get there – but with several pools to explore, pretty flora surrounding them and arches to swim under, they are a wild swimmer’s nirvana. Taking a dip in these turquoise waters might leave you a bit chilly, though, so a wetsuit is advised.

SOUTH QUEENSFERRY

Edinburgh

Every year, fearless swimmers have braved freezing temperatures to leap off the pier on New Year’s Day, in a 30-year-long tradition known as ‘Loony Dook’. And if that’s not enough of a challenge, South Queensferry also marks the starting point of the annual ‘Firth of Forth’ event, a 1.4 mile swim undertaken by hundreds of keen swimmers.

IMAGE CREDITS

The Fairy Pools – Daniel Stockman / Diving off Royal Victoria – Matt Biddulph / Burgh Island – Ben Salter 

Carding Mill Valley – Bs0u10e0 /Forth Bridge, South Queensferry – Kristian Dela Cour

PUBLISHED AUGUST 2015

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