To ensure that wild swimmers have all the information they need, we partnered with some experts and experienced swimmers to get further insight into the top locations, as well as some top tips on how to get started and stay safe.
When asked about what she looks for in a swimming spot, avid wild swimmer, Katia Vastiau, said that “anywhere with clean water and an amazing history, backdrop or climate”.
Meanwhile, swimmer and author of ‘Swim Wild & Free’, Simon Griffiths, stated that one of his personal favourites is Strangles Beach: “You need to scramble down a steep cliff path to reach it but it’s worth it as it’s often deserted and the scenery is stunning. I’ve swum there in big surf and when it’s been flat calm. It’s always lovely. I once had a seal pop up next to me there too!”
Of wild swimming in Scotland, Brighton-based travel writer and co-host of ‘The Carry On’ podcast, Tracey Davies, recounts a recent swim in Loch Morlich in Scotland. In her words, the experience was “simply stunning but absolutely Baltic!”
When we asked experts what they love the most about wild swimming, almost all of them referenced the improvements it makes to their mental health. Specific nods were given to the social aspect of the sport, the peacefulness of an early morning swim, and the high you get when the water is especially cold (cold water swimming has been linked to lots of health benefits - as well as a few risks, so worth reading up about them).
Despite the risk of illness due to polluted water, Simon Griffiths mentions that he particularly enjoys “watching how the river changes with the seasons… it’s happened a couple of times but I swim a lot and I’m convinced the benefits far outweigh the occasional inconvenience of a stomach bug.”.
Wild swimming enthusiast, Craig Holmes, mentions the opportunity that open water swimming provides “to explore the natural world around you from a completely different perspective, and sometimes see things you can only see from the water.” Comparing it to swimming in a pool, Craig notes feeling less pressure from an open water swim: “You certainly can plan to do a long wild swim, head down most of the way, but equally you pootle around for five minutes, head up, chatting with some friends and it still feels as fulfilling as an hour in a lane.”
Wild Swimming Safety Tips
And some key safety tips, from the experts, that all novice and more experienced wild swimmers should pay attention to, are:
- Always go with at least one other person to ensure you have a safe swim. For additional help and support, wild swimming communities are a great way for beginners to test the waters (literally!)
- Know your spot! Whether you use an app to help you, do your own research or follow the advice of others, never jump in blind as you never know what the water could be like or what may be just beneath the surface.
- Have at least a basic swim kit to get you started. Experts recommend a bright tow-float (to hold your belongings but also make you visible to other people in the water), wetsuit boots to protect your feet, and a dry robe as the top items to add to your list.
- Make smart decisions as opposed to jumping in the deep end. For example, swim upstream first so the return to shore is easier when you’re tired, start in the summer so you can acclimatise to the cold water gradually, organise your clothes before you swim so you don’t have to turn your socks inside out with frozen fingers.
- Avoid swimming in rivers for a couple of days after heavy rain to allow the water time to clear and help you avoid nasty stomach bugs (swimming in muddy water or water that is contaminated after rainfall is a no go).
So, whether you’re going to be diving right in at the deep end of the river or having a slow paddle, get your kit together, do your research and take a look at the map to find out where you might have the best swim of your life!