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Top 10 Outdoor Swims

Top 10 Outdoor Swims

Pictured: Jubilee Lido Penzance

The Lido, Bristol

This is so much more than an outdoor swimming pool. It’s a destination, a stay all day sort of a place with an award-winning restaurant, poolside bar and spa. Its Victorian roots make it one of the oldest surviving lidos in the UK, probably boasting one of the smartest renovations. You don’t have to be a member to use the facilities (which is lucky as there is a waiting list for membership) but there are time restrictions so check the website before you make a plan. A 3 hour pass is a hefty £20 but for this you get to use the pool, sauna, steam room and hot tub. Then head straight to the bar for tapas and a g&t.

Farleigh and District Swimming Club, Trowbridge

Founded in 1933 and now billed as the only wild swimming club left in the country, Farleigh and District Swimming Club has over 2000 members. Situated half a mile downstream from Stowford Manor Farm on the River Frome there is 100m of swimmable fresh water above a weir. Facilities are good with parking, changing rooms, toilets and the occasional ice cream van. Or warm up with a cream tea and several pots of tea at the nearby 15th century Stowford Manor. For full club membership details including how to swim without a season ticket and all the important guidelines check the website.


Jubilee Pool, Penzance

This Penzance Promenade saltwater beauty is the perfect example of both a local amenity and a national heritage asset. Cleverly designed to cope with the full ferocity of the Cornish seas, the towering walls create spectator terraces and protect swimmers from high winds. Now owned and run by The Friends of Jubilee Pool, the much loved and celebrated art deco lido is back this summer after extensive renovations. Luckily the Cubist style and feeling of history remains. This is a great family swim destination with children’s pool, café and picnic areas. One should probably wear a 1930’s bathing suit though.


River Dart

Ok this may be a bit of a cheat to include an entire river but visiting over the years has made it pretty difficult to pick one spot. Watersmeet has the added attraction of National Trust infrastructure (tea rooms) and small plunge pools. The Staverton stretch offers slow moving, secluded waters. Or Sharrah Pool, a stretch of clear water around 100 metres long, near a waterfall and surrounded by ancient woodland. There really is something for everyone including the more committed wild swimmer with the Dart 10k, a hugely popular event that starts in Totnes and ends in Dittisham. As the organisers say, it’s a journey not a race.

Tinside Lido, Plymouth

Like others we have included in this piece, this Grade II listed art deco lido was built in 1935 but it is probably the only one listed whose staff are also dressed in retro uniforms. Voted one of the top best outdoor saltwater pools in Europe it has a sister pool, Mount Wise, which is free to use.

Durdle Door, Dorset

There are many hidden bays and coves along the Jurassic Coast that make sea swimming an absolute delight. Like Dancing Ledge, a small tidal rock pool in Swanage. There are also those locations that will only be shared by word of mouth or by accidentally stumbling across. However don’t despair because nothing really beats swimming through the iconic natural limestone arch of Durdle Door in a sparkling turquoise sea (excellent water quality praised by The Marine Conservation Society). Treading water and looking back along the Jurassic Coast you can almost imagine dinosaurs still exist.

 Chagford Pool, Devon

Set on the banks of the River Teign, on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, this river fed pool is heated to a comfortable 24 degrees thanks to air source heat pumps and solar pool covers. The largest freshwater outdoor pool in Devon, it opened in 1933, after being dug by hand by local residents. It remains central to the tiny Chagford village and is a big hit with families offering a toddler pool and cafe.


Bude Sea Pool

Created under the curve of the cliffs, this is yet another glorious pool established in the 1930’s. Billed as Bude’s number one visitor attraction, the pool is a semi-natural amenity with unrestricted access and free to use. It is just like sea swimming but with the protection and safety of a lido so is also a perfect spot for kayaking and surf training. We have an eye on a spot of water polo.


River Frome, Moreton Ford

This part of the River Frome is a popular swim destination for Dorset locals, who describe it as a safe haven due to the shallow, wide ford. Willow trees surround the water casting shady spots and there are tree swings which make it perfect for families. You can always combine this with a history lesson and take the kids into the churchyard where Lawrence of Arabia is buried.

Porthcurnick Beach

This is a firm favourite in our family and not just because of the beloved Hidden Hut reinventing the idea of a beach bar with proper food and serious style. The sandy cove, tucked away on the Roseland Peninsula creates a protected swimming spot and a welcome isolation out of season. We have swum there in all weathers and even spotted a pair of friendly seals tumbling around at the edge of the cliff.

Please note: for your own safety check guidelines given by www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com and www.wildswimming.co.uk before visiting the wild swim spots we have written about here.

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