Top 5 Spots for Open Water Swimming

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A dog swimming in a calm lake with a white bird standing on its back. The lake is surrounded by leafless trees and vegetation on a cloudy day. A few other birds can be seen in the distance on the water.

Fancy dipping your toes in wilder waters? All of these open-water swimming spots can be found close by the UK’s larger towns and cities

It’s fair to say that we're all mourning a long hot summer but in true British style we’ll crack on and make the most of the sunny intervals that we’re given. If you’re not a big fan of the lido (chlorine isn’t the one), but you desperately want to cool off when the temperature rises above 19°, then check out these spots for outdoor swimming in the UK. These rural spots can all be found close by (or in) some of Culture Calling’s favourite cities, making them excellent and easy days out.

Sale Water Park - Cheshire

Aerial view of a river flanked by lush greenery and a road on the left during sunset. Several cars are parked along the road. The sun's reflection shimmers on the calm water, creating a peaceful ambiance. Power lines and distant buildings are visible in the background.

What? A vast open lake with ideal conditions for swimming surrounded by wild woodland and greenery.

Where? Around 5 miles from Manchester city centre, near Stretford.

Why? A little pocket of nature in the otherwise busy city of Manchester, this rural spot is a popular spot for family swimming. The huge lake has space for all to swim and the option of meadows for picnics, a local café, or a restaurant nearby. This swimming spot is perfect for those who are new to swimming in open water, as Open Swim UK offers extensive adult and children swimming sessions throughout the warmer months, providing a safe environment in which to learn. They also host summer swimming events that are worth checking out for open water pros.

Barton Farm - Wiltshire

A scenic view of a lush riverside area with people relaxing on the banks, some on grassy areas with umbrellas, others near blue kayaks. Trees and greenery surround the river, and buildings are partially visible in the background under a cloudy sky.

What? Idyllic family picnic spot with great river swimming and jumping in points.

Where? Less than 30 miles from Bristol. You can get to Barton Farm via a 48-minute train from Bristol Temple Meads to Bradford-on-Avon, then it’s a 15-minute walk from there.

Why? This spot is perfect for people who don’t have a car, as it’s so easily accessible via public transport. Nice and close to the town centre, there are plenty of places to stop off for a drink or a bite to eat later on. There’s a shallower side stream for younger children to paddle in and natural steps into the water. Older kids have been known to jump off the Packhorse Bridge and into the river, but this is pretty dangerous due to large rocks under the surface. Those who elect not to get wet can picnic on the wonderful banking instead.

Thames River Park - Berkshire

A person wearing a swim cap and goggles swims in a calm river, pulling an orange float. The background features a line of docked boats, lush green trees, and a tall building partially obscured by foliage. The sky is clear and sunny.

What? A hugely popular summer tourist spot; a spacious grassy area stretched across the banks of the River Thames.

Where? Just 2 miles from the centre of Reading - an ideal walk on a summer’s day.

Why? Looking at the murky depths of The Thames from London city centre doesn’t tend to fill us with desire for a swim, but upstream in the town of Reading you’ll find a wonderful spot for a dip. Fish like salmon, sea trout and smelt (strange little fish, smells like cucumber) can all be found in this area, making it popular for fishermen. The proximity of the water to the grassy bank makes it the ideal spot to set up camp, bring a picnic and do some swimming. There’s also a local water sports centre with heaps of activities for both kids and adults.

Barcombe Mills - East Sussex

A person in swim trunks prepares to dive into a calm lake from a grassy bank. The sky is clear with a few wispy clouds, and trees line the opposite shore, reflecting on the water's surface. Nearby, a colorful towel is spread out on the grass.

What? One of the UK’s most popular wild swimming destinations.

Where? About 14 miles from Brighton, on the brink of the South Downs, and accessible from the closest train station at Lewes (4 miles away).

Why? An extremely popular tourist spot for families and friends alike, the River Ouse offers perfect spots for boating, fishing and swimming. Head to Barcombe Mills and enjoy a 5km stretch of fairly calm and definitely clean waters. Local pub the Anchor Inn hires boats out by the hour or by the day, and keen fishers are advised to head a little bit further upstream to enjoy the fresh trout habitat (otherwise the only thing you catch will be an irate swimmer!).

Trifarm - Essex

A person in a red swim cap and goggles smiles while resting on the water's surface in a lake. Behind, one swimmer adjusts their goggles while standing, and another swims. Trees and buoy markers are visible in the background under a cloudy sky.