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Looking for your next wild swim adventure? Our friends at Ordnance Survey have put together their top 5 five swim locations to hike to in the UK, with helpful routes mapped out in OS Maps.
What makes a good wild swimming spot? Calm waters, beautiful views, peace and quiet? There’s no denying that some of the best natural swimming locations are the ones more off-the-beaten track. Of course, to experience quieter places you may have to walk, but what better way to prepare yourself for an invigorating dip and warm yourself up afterwards too.
Once you’ve decided on where to go, it’s a good idea to study a map to see how to get there. Lay out an OS paper map or use the OS Maps app on your device to plan the best route for you. You can also search from thousands of recommended routes nearby and easily plot your own. OS Maps will show you every Public Right of Way, such as footpaths and bridleways, so you never have to worry about going off track. Before you venture somewhere new, brush up on your navigation skills with our free map reading guides and remind yourself what those map symbols mean.
Here are five of our favourite hikes and wild swimming locations for you to try...
1. Kisdon Force, Yorkshire
This walk starts and finishes in the remote village of Keld in the Yorkshire Dales. It follows both the Pennine Way and A Pennine Journey trail to/from the village of Muker, which is well worth a stop. The Anglican church here dates to 1580.
Kidson Force sits downstream to the more popular Catrake Force at the base of Kidson Hill, which was formed at the end of the ice age. Here, there are two waterfalls, lower and upper, which can be accessed by following the signposts. Around the falls are moss-covered boulders and limestone rocks. Take care when accessing the falls as the rocks and paths are often slippery (there may be a rope to use). This is a great quiet swimming spot with a plunge pool and a picnic bench, great for warming up with a hot flask. It’s incredibly picturesque.
2. Long Pool, Watersmeet
Watersmeet, near Exmoor, is the meeting place of the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water. It may be less ‘off-the-beaten track’ than the other swimming spots mentioned, but this delightful group of plunge pools should not be overlooked. This area is part of Watersmeet National Trust and there are a series of beautiful river walks through woodland for you to enjoy. This route takes you through ancient woodland and loops back around on the coast following the South West Coast Path.
Long Pool is a bit of a walk up from the National Trust centre (1.5km) but once there, you’ll experience this pleasantly eerie spot surrounded by ferns and giant oak trees. Experienced swimmers can take a dip in the 50m ravine here, whilst those less experience can dip their toes in the shallower pools closer to the National Trust centre. The tea rooms are particularly welcoming when the temperature drops.
3. Gill Force, Eskdale
One for the avid adventurers! Positioned next to the rolling grassy hills of the Ulpha Fells in the Lake District, this route provides an exciting gill scramble from the Eskdale Valley and up on to Crook Crag and Green Crag. This walk takes in the broad open vistas of the grassy Ulpha Fells and the stunning defile of Stanley Force, one of the finest waterfalls in the Lake District and a popular swimming spot. Back down alongside the river Esk lies Gill Force, a more tranquil pool within a small rocky gorge. It’s shaded, so perfect for a hot summer’s day and can be quite deep in places.
Find more information on swimming spots in this area, including Stanley Force, in this guide to Top Secret Swimming Spots in the Lake District.
Route in OS Maps
4. The Anchor Inn, Barcombe
This fantastic hike not only takes you to a great swimming spot but a pub too! From the village of Barcombe, follow narrow lanes through endless fields until you can go no further. You’ll reach The Anchor Inn, a remote waterside pub with a fleet of blue rowing boats to hire and two miles of river to explore and swim in.
The river Ouse here is deep with pretty grassy banks making it easy to get in and out. For hidden swims galore head upstream - the spire of Isfield church is the only building in sight as you paddle or swim along. Downstream are the open fields of Barcombe Mills, a perfect place for cricket, leapfrog, and other riverside games. The Anchor Inn serves classic pub fare and wine from the local vineyard.
This walk is one of the top-secret swimming spots near London.
Route in OS Maps
5. Catrigg Force, Yorkshire
Staniforth Force is a popular spot for swimming, but have you been to its lesser-known neighbour, Catrigg Force? It’s only a couple of miles east from Stainforth village, dubbed the wild swimming capital of the Yorkshire Dales. Catrigg Beck flows down from the side of Fountains Fell. A force (or waterfall, from the Old Norse word fors) is formed between steep rock walls and the pool below is a magical spot surrounded by woodland. Idyllic throughout the year and an area to enjoy the surrounding hills.
This swimming spot was taken from Wild Swimming in the Yorkshire Dales.
Route in OS Maps
These are just a handful of hikes and swim locations across the UK, so why not take a walk near your next swimming spot to enjoy more time outside. Head over to OS Maps to plan your next outing.