Health journalist Carole Beck rounds up the most amazing spots for an al fresco swim this summer, from vintage lidos to breathtaking waterfalls.
Swimming in cool waters could improve our immune system and lower our stress levels. But most of all, outdoor swimming is one of the most fun and invigorating ways to cool off this summer. Think beyond your local leisure centre and head to one of these outdoor beauties for the ultimate day out…
1. Best for retro seaside style
What: Jubilee Pool
Where: Penzance, Cornwall
This tidal lido is famous for more than its bracing, salt-water swims: the largest surviving outdoor lido in the country, it’s a beautiful example of Art Deco architecture. The popular pool now hosts everything from after-school clubs to poolside yoga and stand-up paddleboard sessions, while the café serves up local Cornish fare.
2. Best for beginners
What: Salford Quays
Fancy a dip in a historic dock? Salford Quays is also one of the favourite outdoor swimming spots of Olympic gold medallist swimmer Ellie Simmonds and is a great place for beginner outdoor swimmers to start. The state-of-the-art aeration and microbiological monitoring systems guarantees water pure enough for bathing.
3. Best for wild swimming (in the city)
Where: Camden, London
Escape the city grind to this leafy hideaway with three world-famous swimming ponds – one for ladies only, one just for men and one for both. They’re the UK’s only lifeguard-monitored open water swimming facilities that are open every day of the year.
Photo: Gideon Mendel / Corbis
4. Best for adventurers
What: The Tunnels Beaches
Where: Ilfracombe, Devon
Check the tides before you take a dip here as this bathing pool, popular in Victorian times, is visible for just three hours before and after low tide. You can access the beach through a network of tunnels, which were hand-carved by Welsh miners in the 19th century.
5. Best for waterfalls
What: Rob Roy’s Bathtub
Where: Near Loch Lomond, Perthshire
The nine-metre Falls of Falloch have carved out a large plunge pool over the years, and now it’s a huge hit among wild swimming fans. The pool is said to have been a favourite bathing spot of 17th-century Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor. Luckily for modern swimmers, it’s just a few minutes walk from the car park.
Photo: Daniel Start
6. Best for a touch of luxury
What: Bristol Lido
Where: Clifton, Bristol
Prefer warm waters and the possibility of a post-swim massage? Bristol Lido is a stylish spot and it’s Britain’s oldest heated outdoor swimming pool (the waters are a moderate 20-24 degrees). The restaurant and spa are worth a visit in their own right and there are great value packages if you fancy a swim and dine.
7. Best for clear waters
Where: Sutherland, Scottish Highlands
Looking for a remote, sandy beach with clear, blue waters for wild swimming? Try this spot with its stretch of white sand in northwest Scotland. The bay is sheltered from the wind and North Atlantic waves, as it’s bordered by stunning cliffs on three sides.
Photo: Calum Maclean
8. Best for beautiful sunsets
What: Caswell Bay
Where: Near Swansea, West Glamorgan
This beach of golden sand on Wales’ Gower Peninsula is another of Olympian Ellie’s favourite outdoor swimming spots, and it’s also a great place to bring the whole family to watch the sunset. This Blue Flag beach has a lifeguard and no-dog rule during the summer months, plus a café for hungry tummies.
9. Best for peace and quiet
Where: Wasdale, Cumbria
At a depth of around 80 metres, there’s no chance of your toes brushing the bottom in England’s deepest lake. Boats aren’t allowed on the three-mile long lake of Wastwater in the Lake District – just a few canoes. Try backstroke to take in the mountain views, including England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike.
Photo: Daniel Start
10. Best for a hike and swim
Where: Glynneath, Neath
Warm up for your wild swim with the mile-long walk from the car park to this breathtaking waterfall in the Brecon Beacons. The ten-metre cascade of water frames the woodland plunge pool, making it a really special place for an outdoor swim.
11. Best for countryside fun
What: Ilkley Lido
Where: Near Bradford, West Yorkshire
Right on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, this lido offers views of undulating hills and dales. The circular freshwater pool is Grade II listed and was built in the 30s, so it has a traditional holiday feel. It’s also plenty deep enough to power through the lengths.
Like the sound of exercising in the great outdoors? Check out these 10 al fresco workouts you’ll want to try now.
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