Swimming in lakes, rivers and tiny bays is enjoying a renaissance and well-known pools and lakes can be crowded on bank holidays, and in the summer (when the weather allows). But there are still plenty of quiet, peaceful stretches of water all over Britain that you could have all to yourself. Here are five of Country Life’s favourites.
Granchester Meadows, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire
It’s been a
popular spot with day-trippers ever since Rupert Brooke wrote his famous
poem, but the waters around Granchester Meadows (above) aren’t nearly as busy as you’d
imagine – especially during the week, when you might only be disturbed
by the odd moorhen. Things do occasionally get muddy, and on the outside
of the river’s bends the waters can reach six foot deep. Once you’ve
dried off, treat yourself to tea in The Orchard.
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Bay, Isle of Eriskay, Outer Hebrides.
A shell-white strand on the west side of the tiny Hebridean island, where the Young Pretender first landed on British soil in 1745 . The sea here is turquoise when the sun shines, there are great waves when it’s windy, and it’s backed by flower-strewn machair and dunes. Little sandy coves and pools hidden among rocks at one end of the beach make ideal spots for picnicking out of the wind.
Cowrie Bay, near Polzeath, North Cornwall
This tiny, pebbly beach only appears at low tide, so it’s never anything like as crowded as its more famous neighbours. You can jump into the surf for a bracing Atlantic dip, but do take care. There’s plenty to keep non-swimmers entertained, too: seals bask on the rocks, and children will love hunting for the tiny shells from which this secret spot gets its name.
River Barle, Exmoor National Park, Somerset
Crystal clear and
cool, the Barle’s secluded pools are heaven on a sunny day. Picnic at
Sherdon Water, then plunge into its deep, shady waters. If you’re lucky,
you might spot a kingfisher. The waters around Tarr Steps (above), an
ancient stone ‘clapper’ bridge said to have been placed there by the
Devil himself, are ideal for paddling, and you can warm up on the rocks
afterwards. There are several good pubs nearby.
Loch Skeen, Dumfries and Galloway
Located in a remote corner of Dumfries and Galloway, The Grey Mare’s Tail is the fifth highest waterfall in the UK. Managed by the National Trust for Scotland, and not for the faint-hearted, it’s a beautiful (precipitous) walk up the side of the falls and across some wonderful moorland to Loch Skeen itself which provides a nippy swim, whatever the weather, but a very rewarding one.
Glen Fyne, Argyll
The river that runs down Glen Fyne into Loch Fyne in Argyll has one particularly good, secret waterfall that could have been made for wild swimming a few miles up the glen. It can be accessed by a track that runs from near the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar at the head of Loch Fyne itself: it’s well worth the walk.
If you’re new to wild swimming, make sure you go with a group, and stay close to the shore. Before you set out, check the tides and find out whether there are any strong currents in the area you’ve earmarked for your swim. And never dive or jump in unless you’re certain that the water is of an appropriate depth.
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