Wild swimming is becoming increasingly popular as the weather heats up this summer. And you can can avoid the crowds at the seaside by combining a dip with an overnight stay at one of the UK’s most tranquil spots.
From glamping at a private lake to a cottage stay by a cooling river, here are 10 of the best picks.
Pheasant Hut, Norfolk
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Cannonball straight into the cool waters of the eight-acre lake that sits at the heart of Wild With Nature, an organic farm with six shepherd’s huts to hole up in. Our favourite is the Pheasant Hut, a snug bolthole for two with views of the lake and its tempting wooden pontoon. Need to warm up after a swim? Book the farm’s ‘roving hot tub’ for £30 per night.
From £95 per night, sleeps two.
Troytown Farm, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly
If you’re picturing waking up, unzipping your tent and jumping straight into the ocean, set up camp on Troytown Farm, where a grassy camping meadow runs right down to the Atlantic. Life goes at a slow pace on the car-free island of St Agnes, one of the Isles of Scilly found off the Cornish coast – campers spend their days sea swimming or renting SUPs and kayaks from St Agnes Watersports next door. You can also swim across to the island of Gugh, joined to St Agnes by a sand bar at low tide.
£10.25 per person per night, children £5.75.
One Cat Farm, Ceridigion, Wales
Named for Mogul the ginger tabby, the first animal resident of this lovely glamping site, One Cat Farm in North Wales is home to four cosy wooden cabins, dotted around a lily pad-strewn swimming pond. There’s little to do here besides take a dip, pootle about in the rowing boat or warm up after a swim in a wood-fired outdoor bath. If you’re craving salt water, Aberaeron South beach is a five-minute drive away.
From £154 per two-night stay for a cabin sleeping two.
Myrtle the Shepherd’s Hut, Wye Valley, Wales
Everything is perfectly squared away inside this small but perfectly formed shepherd’s hut. Moroccan-themed Myrtle is hidden in a little Welsh glade with views of the River Wye, and a path straight down to the water leads to your own private swim spot complete with a rope to help you clamber in and out. There’s a hot shower on hand post-swim, and a barbeque means you can feast on a riverside supper once you’ve worked up an appetite.
From £97 per night, sleeps two.
Farr’s Meadow, Dorset
A lush meadow, fringed by woodland and the burbling waters of the River Stour – this is old-fashioned camping at its best. Farr’s Meadow is a tent-only site with proper showers and compost loos in converted horse boxes, but otherwise this campsite is simplicity itself. Head to the river for a lazy morning swim – the campsite can also arrange fishing if you fancy catching your own supper to cook over a firepit come evening.
From £25 per night for a pitch sleeping two.
Ditchling Cabin, Sussex
This charming cabin is a wild swimmer’s dream. Ditchling perches on the edge of its own lake, with a wide wooden platform floating over the water, no less than three pontoons and a diving platform to jump in from, plus a motley selection of rowing boats and rafts for you to punt around on to your heart’s content. The living room hides two little box beds suitable for children, and upstairs there’s a huge double bed and a bath with lake views for the grown-ups.
From £320 per night, sleeps four.
Cornish Tipi Holidays, Cornwall
Tall white tipis, some in a large meadow, some in their own private forest glades, encircle a glassy green swimming lake in this magical hidden valley in north Cornwall. A pontoon and a row boat make it very tempting to spend all your days messing around on the water at Cornish Tipi Holidays, although the coast is only 10 minutes away by car. The tipis are on the basic side but do have rugs and fire pits, and there are communal hot showers.
From £80 per night for a tipi sleeping up to six.
West Lexham, Norfolk
If your idea of a swimming staycation includes all the bells and whistles, take your pick from the rather luxurious tree houses, bell tents and cosy cottages at West Lexham. The tree houses on this wooded estate are especially lovely, complete with log stoves, squashy double beds and a communal outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven. The swimming pool is closed during the pandemic, but the reed-lined lake, where you might share company with herons and otters, is open for swimmers.
From £145 per night for a bell tent sleeping two.
Eilean Shona, Loch Moidart, Scotland
“A wild rocky romantic island it is too” J.M Barrie wrote of Eilean Shona – the author was inspired to write Peter Pan after a stay on this real-life Neverland off the west coast of Scotland. Now you can stay in one of eight self-catered cottages dotted around car-free Eilean Shona and go swimming in the clear, cold waters of Loch Moidart, seeking out hidden coves along its shores or jumping in from the island’s pier.
From £750 per week for a cottage sleeping two.
Tarn Foot Campsite, Cumbria
Find this simple, no-frills camping meadow near Ambleside, in a peaceful pocket of the Lake District. It has just 25 pitches and might not be rich in amenities – “just a toilet, a tap and tarn” as one camper described it – but it’s perfect for back-to-basics camping, and is a mere minute’s walk away from the calm waters of Loughrigg Tarn. Go for a cooling dip on a balmy summer evening or while away a day on the tarn’s shore, where littler swimmers can hunt for tadpoles.
£5 per person per night.