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Top 6 UK wild swimming spots

Suggested by the Wild Swimming Brothers Middle Brother

Wild Swimming is all the rage. We've bumped into swimmers whilst paddling our kayaks, all over our instagram feed and there are surprising amount of wild swimming experiences in our forthcoming directory of outdoor experiences. So we caught up with Calum, the Middle one of the Wild Swimming Brothers (its ok, they are actually called Wild), and got his rundown on UK wild swimming spots to suit all comers. Over to Calum...

"Alongside little brother Jack and big brother Robbie we aim to promote wild swimming, inspire a closer relationship with the natural world and motivate people to live a more creative life."

Over the years our swims have taken us to the maelstroms of the Arctic Circle, tropical rivers of Venezuela, pristine beaches of the Philippines and emerald pools of the Himalayas, but it all started here in the UK. You don’t need to leave these isles to find absolutely breathtaking swims.

I'm going to introduce you to our favourite swimming spots in the UK. I've categorised each swim by "Webb Rating", based on it's purist swimming scale. This is my own invention, named after the all round swimming legend Sir Robert Webb, first person to swim across the English Channel. He died attempting to swim across the whirlpools at the base of the Niagara Falls...

1. Hampstead Ponds

Type - Pond

Location - London, England

Difficulty - Beginner

Distance - As far as you want

Risks - Cold Water, "The Swimmer", the odd cantankerous duck

Webb Rating - 2

Number one on the list is Hampstead Ponds in London. You might be surprised to find London on a list of “Wild” Swims but I think this tranquil spot perfectly encapsulates everything that wild swimming is about, offering a moment of peace and calm amongst the chaos of everyday life. This beautiful leafy swim spot has 3 ponds, all perfect for beginners, and offers many urban swimmers an escape from the grind of London and an instant reconnection with the natural world.

The Webb Rating on this one is a low 2. It's not one for the purists, be sure to look out for a rather wonderful and mad bunch 4 times a year when ‘The Swimmer” race comes into town. 50 soaking wet swimmers legging it across London and stopping off for swims on route is a sight to behold.

2. Achnahaird Bay

Type - Beach

Location - Lochbroom, Scotland

Difficulty - Beginner

Distance - As far as you want

Risks - Cold Water, Jellyfish

Webb Rating - 3

Next up we have the breathtaking Achnahaird Bay, we grew up visiting our Grandma Wild (our mums maiden name and where we take the inspiration for the Wild Swimming Brothers) and swimming in the lochs and beaches of the Western Coasts of the Highlands. This vast sandy beach stretches out along the coastline and offers fantastic outdoor swimming, coasteering and gentle breakers to body surf on. There's plenty of wildlife and we've even shared the water with seals here.

The Webb Rating is a 3 for this as the waves aren't big, it's a long and shallow beach with plenty of space to swim with very few tides and currents, definitely a great beginners swim but keep an eye out for the Moon Jellyfish.

3. Llyn Padarn

Type - Lake

Location - Llanberis, Wales

Difficulty - Intermediate

Distance - 2 miles

Risks - Cold Water

Webb Rating - 4

This is one of the most atmospheric swims on the list and our first foray into Wales. Llyn Padarn is situated at the based of Snowdonia next to the beautiful town of Llanberis. I swam here as part of The Brutal in 2015, a double ironman distance race, the swim leg is 4.8 miles, but end to end the lake is about 2 miles.

I will never forget the feeling of walking down to the water in the early hours, a dense fog rising from the surface as the wind rustled in the reed beds and ancient trees shrouded the banks. I felt like I'd been transported back in time to a land of Arthurian legends. Swimming across the Llyn with the sun rising and breaking across my back is a feeling I'll never forget.

The Webb Rating is a 4 on this as the deep Llyn's of Wales are notoriously cold and 2 miles is a decent distance. If it's your first long distance lake swim keep your eyes fixed on a static point in the distance. This will help overcome deep water fear.

4. Durdle Door

Type - Sea

Location - Jurassic Coast, England

Difficulty - Intermediate

Distance - 500m

Risks - Cold Water, Tides, Rock Arch

Webb Rating - 5

This is one of the most iconic swims in the UK and a fantastic and different swim. Durdle Door is a colossal natural limestone arch on England's majestic Jurassic Coast formed by the crashing of waves and relentless march of the ocean. The aim is to swim from the beach out beyond the arch and then loop back round swimming directly through Durdle Door and back on to the beach. One of the most scenic swims in the UK and a great intermediate destination swim.

This get's a decent Webb Rating as the ocean is a purist swimmers home. Ditch the wetsuit and avoid the waves pushing you onto the arch and you'll be in for an unforgettable swim.

5. River Eden - Langwathby bridge to Armathwaite bridge

Type - River

Location - Cumbria, England

Difficulty - Advanced

Distance - 18km

Risks - Cold Water, Rapids, Submerged Trees, Boulders, Waterfalls

Webb Rating - 8

Number 5 is very close to all 3 of our hearts and a highly personal swim for me. We swam this route as Day 6 of our 145km swim of The River Eden in Cumbria, England. The Eden isn't a well known river but it flowed past the bottom of our family home and we grew up swimming off our bank and leaping of rocks into it's cool embrace.

We sold our family home in 2014 and swam the full distance source to sea for our "Swim the Eden" expedition as a way to reconnect with the area we grew up in. This 18km section is a very challenging swim and comes with a large set of rapids at Lacy's Caves, another 2 set's of long crashing rapids at Armathwaite and Nunnery and a Weir thrown in as well. Swimming down the rapids there is as exhilarating as it gets and definitely requires some bravery as well as technical ability, but persevere and you'll be rewarded with one of the most incredible River swims in the UK.

The Webb Rating is a decent 8, as 18km is a marathon swimming distance, the rapids should only be tackled by experienced swimmers with support kayakers in tow and there are other dangers such as submerged trees and boulders.

6. The Corryvreckan

Type - Maelstrom

Location - Oban, Scotland

Difficulty - Advanced

Distance - 1.3 miles

Risks - Cold Water, Currents, Whirlpools, Eddies, Riptides, Vortexes

Webb Rating - 10

The word "Maelstrom" to me conjures up images of old mariners books with tea stained crumbly pages with pictures of ships being dragged down to the depths of a huge whirlpool and of tales told in old sailors pubs in times gone by. These maelstroms exist and one, The Corryvreckan, can be found off the West coast of Scotland between the islands of Scarba and Jura. Maelstroms are highly treacherous stretches of water where a shallow sea ledge with deep opposing tides creates huge vortexes, whirlpools, currents and waves as the tides change. With the help of an expert ship captain (we recommend Duncan) it is possible to swim across on a slack tide, only around 200 people have swum across this, the first being George Orwell’s one legged nephew in 1984 (Orwell wrote 1984 on Jura after his boat was shipwrecked and cast upon the rocks by the maelstrom).

We swam across in 2015 in a time of 22 minutes on the strongest tide Duncan had seen in 10 years and I'll not forget the image of the horizon bending as the Corryvreckan kicked into full force.

The Webb Rating on this is a 10, it is the 3rd most powerful maelstrom in the world, you might get it on an easy day but with strong currents, up to 5m waves, rip tides, eddies and a difficult landing onto sharp rocks in high seas, this is arguably the most exciting swim in the UK.

You can watch a video here - Watch Video

So there you have my Top 6 Wild Swims in the UK, whether you're an beginner or an expert there should be something on here for you. Make sure you remember that with swimming outdoors the real aim is to have fun and immerse yourself in the natural world, whether it's a challenge on this list or a quick dip in your local lake, you'll never regret going for swim in the great outdoors.

Thanks Calum! If you dive into any of these waters, be sure and let us know. And keep up with the Brother's adventures on all the social medias

If you're keen on giving wild swimming a go, but want the reassurance of an experienced guide, sign up for our emails below and be the first to hear about our new outdoor experiences directory.

Pictures credits:

Lyn Padern Hefin Owen

River Eden Casper Chloe

Corryvreckan Dun Deagh

Used under Creative Commons licence

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