Holidays & Travel

Secret wild swimming spots to cool off in as the UK sizzles

With a heatwave on the way, ditch crowded beaches in favour of wilderness lakes and pools, says Sarah Marshall.

These serene spots are ideal for summer dips
Swimming at Glen Dye These serene spots are ideal for summer dips (DEPARTMENT TWO)

There are multiple benefits to cold water and wild swimming. Beyond helping to shape a healthy mind and body, taking a bracing dip is also an excellent way to cool down.

With a heatwave finally about to sweep the UK, coastlines are likely to be packed with crowds. Shun sea and sand for lochs, lakes and quiet rivers instead, to discover some equally refreshing and far more enchanting spots for a paddle.

Cairngorms, Scotland

Loch Garten
Loch Garten

The late Queen Elizabeth II loved escaping to the Cairngorms in Scotland. While she was often seen riding horses on bridleways, there are no reports of HRH wild swimming (although with so many hidden spots to choose from, it’s likely we’d never know!). A good base for water babies is the Dell of Abernethy, a family-owned collection of six self-catering lodges and cottages neighbouring the national park and within easy reach of seven lochs. Watch sunrise over nearby Loch Garten as roe deer shuffle in the bushes and golden eagles glide overhead. (From £160 per night for a two-person cottage;

Elmore Court Estate, Gloucestershire

For tentative dippers yet to make a splash in the wilds, there are options for easy swims without the crowds. Located in Elmore Court on Gloucestershire farmland, a spring-fed lake surrounded by oak trees is the home of Rewild Swim Club. Get changed in a yurt warmed by a wood-fired stove before making a splash, followed by a relaxing recovery in a traditional sauna. Book a drop-in session (£18 for 1.5 hours) or private experience and stay at the Earth Treehouse on the Rewild Things Estate. (From £250 per night;

Llyn Padarn, Snowdonia, Wales

The lonely tree at Llyn Padarn
The lonely tree at Llyn Padarn (Alamy Stock Photo)

Few swimming spots hit the Instagram jackpot like this one. Loved by photographers for it’s ‘lonely tree’, Welsh lake Llyn Padarn lies on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park close to the village of Llanberis. Designated as a bathing area, its water quality is monitored throughout summer. A pontoon in Y Glyn also provides easy access for those nervous about tip-toeing over rocks. Swim between swans as sunlight dances around the surrounding mountain slopes. Stay at the Black Boy Inn, a 20-minute drive away. (Rooms from £123;

Glen Dye Estate, Aberdeenshire


Sitting below the shadow of Clachnaben mountain, in a gorge backed by pine forest, is one of the UK’s top peat river swims. This section of the River Dye, in Aberdeenshire’s 15,000-acre Glen Dye Estate, can easily be reached by a short trail connected to a main footpath. Stay in a choice of cabins, cottages, a bothy or a small campsite – all with wood-fired hot tubs. A resident Wild Wellness specialist can provide tuition on cold water bathing and breathing techniques. (From £175 for a B&B room in The Coach House;