Imagine a summer of swimming, exploring by the sea and discovering secret beaches and sandy coves, smugglers’ caves and deep lagoons. Britain’s beautiful coastline is studded with hidden places to swim, snorkel and sunbathe, and its waters are cleaner and more accessible than ever before. To celebrate, Daniel Start, author of bestselling Wild Swimming, decided to seek out the jewels of Britain’s lesser-known shores – from rock arches, coves and sea caves to wild beaches, dunes and lagoons. Illustrated with over 300 spectacular photos and 5 detailed maps, this book opens up a magical new world of coastal exploration.
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Wild Swimming: Coast provides all the practical information you’ll need to find and enjoy more than 350 magical swims in some of the least-visited parts of our stunning coastline.
In this great British tour you’ll be able to swim with dolphins in Cornwall, dive through rock arches in Dorset, discover wild beaches in Essex and explore deserted islands in Norfolk. You’ll also read ancient tales of smugglers, poets, kings and pirates.
Whether you’re a water baby or an occasional dipper, there are ideas for the whole family. Go snorkelling, rock-pooling or catch your own supper. Build a beach kite, swim in midnight phosphorescence or find a beach pub with a roaring fire. If you don’t like driving, you’ll find cycle routes, walks and train information. For the intrepid, there’s information on wild camping, cave swimming, cliff jumping and coastal scrambling. And for every location you’ll find difficulty ratings and safety guidelines.
Wild Swimming: Coast combines inspirational photos, engaging writing and practical information in a truly original travel guide. Come on in – the water’s lovely!
Wild Swims – our favourites at a glance
We’ve picked out our favourite types if wild swims, here are the categories from our index section that will help you find what your looking for a perfect dip and day out:
- Beach Camping - Paddle in the sunset, pitch your tent, wake up with a splash
- Cosy Pubs -A pub within reach, for après-swim warmth and refreshment
- Sunset Views - West-facing coves; perfect for watching the sun go down
- Sea Food - From curry to crab sandwiches, cream teas to big breakfasts
- Secret Islands - Uninhabited islets and lagoons: be Robinson Crusoe for a day
- Skinny-dipping - Beautiful naturist beaches and remote locations
- Caves and Arches - Temples of the ocean. Swim through arches and explore sea caves
- Great for Families and Picnics - Off the beaten track, but les than 10mins from the car
- Plunge Pools - Deluxe rock pools, warmed by the sun and big enough to swim in
- Best for Jumps - Traditional places to jump and dive. Always check the depth
- Leave the Car at Home - Swims and beaches an hour or so’s walk from a train station
- Literature and Legend - Atmospheric haunts of artists, writers and adventurers
Best beach and coast activities – from coasteering to wild food
You’ll also find an annexe section with full information on safety and sea skills. There’s also a wildlife spotting guide, infromation on seashore foraging, ideas for beach games and fun with kids, information on boogie boarding, sea kayaking and some starter information on the sport of coasteering. Enjoy!
About the author
Daniel Start is an award-winning travel writer and photographer and the author of Wild Swimming, the bestselling guidebook to enjoying the summer and exploring the freshwater swimming holes of Britain. As a boy he lived for several years in the far west of Cornwall and has spent the last 10 years touring the UK coastline, charting its secret coves, wild beaches and plunge pools. He also works as an environmental consultant.
Wild Swimming Coast – Full content pages
Swim Map and Highlights
1–4 Land’s End, Penwith and The Isles of Scilly
5–8 South Cornwall: The Lizard and Helford River
9–12 South Cornwall: Roseland, Fowey and Polperro
13–15 South Devon: Plymouth to Salcombe
16–18 South Devon: Prawle Point, Dartmouth and Torbay
19–21 North Cornwall: St Ives to St Agnes
22–25 North Cornwall: Newquay, Bedruthan and Padstow
26–28 North Cornwall: Polzeath, Port Isaac and Tintagel
29–32 North Devon: Hartland Point to Crackington Haven
33–35 North Devon: Clovelly to Woolacombe
36–39 North Devon: The Exmoor Coast
South and East
Swim Map and Highlights
40–42 Lyme Bay and West Dorset
43–46 South Dorset: Chesil, Portland and Ringstead
47–49 South Dorset: Lulworth and Durdle Door
50–53 South Dorset: The Purbecks and Poole
54–56 Isle of Wight
57–60 Chichester and West Sussex
61–64 East Sussex
76–79 East Norfolk: Blakeney and Stiffkey
80–83 West Norfolk and Scolt Head Island
Swim Map and Highlights
87–89 North Lleyn and Llandudno
90–92 South Lleyn and the Rhinog Coast
97–99 North Pembrokeshire: Abereiddi to Strumble Head
100–102 Mid-Pembrokeshire: St David’s to Druidston
103–109 South Pembrokeshire: Stackpole and Lydstep
110–116 Gower and Glamorgan
Swim Map and Highlights
117–120 Lincolnshire and Humber
121–124 Flamborough Head and Filey Brigg
125–127 North Yorkshire: Scarborough and Robin Hood’s Bay
128–130 North Yorkshire: Whitby, Runswick and Skinningrove
131–135 Cumbria and Lancashire
136–139 North Northumberland: Holy Island
140–142 South Northumberland: Beadnell, Embleton and Druridge
Swim Map and Highlights
143–147 Mull, Iona and Argyll
148–151 Ardnamurchan, Morar and Eigg
152–155 Isle of Skye
156–158 Wester Ross
159–161 Outer Hebrides
162–164 North West: Assynt and Sutherland
165–167 North East: Shetland to the Moray Firth
168–171 Aberdeen and Dundee
172–175 Fife and East Lothian
Ideas and Inspiration
- Beach with the Kids
- Seashore Foraging and Food
- Swim with Dolphins and Other Beasties
- Boats and Boards
- Currents, Tides and Safety
Introduction from the book
That first summer the sun beat down every day. The scent of gorse and heather filled the air, the whiteness of the sand was blinding and the ocean shimmered like a pool.
I had just moved to the far west of Cornwall and was meant to be studying, but the heat was so stifling I ended up going swimming every day, looking for secret swimming coves and interesting places to snorkel. Poring over my map in the evenings, I was amazed at the places waiting to be discovered with just a bit of scrambling and exploring off the beaten track: a little beach that no one knew about, a natural rock pool large enough to swim in or a deep inlet for jumping.
That amazing summer was the beginning of an aquatic odyssey as I embarked on a journey around Britain, searching for its most wild and wonderful coves, caves, beaches and islands. Ten years on and I have travelled thousands of miles on foot, by bike, kayak and camper van. I have twisted ankles, drowned camera bags and suffered from hypothermia and heatstroke. But I found solace, too, in the wonders of our foreshores – a secret slice of beach, an archway to swim through or a sea cave encrusted with pink coralline.
Our island race has long been enchanted by the sea and tales of Cornish mermaids and Scottish selkies are symptoms of our fascination with its watery underworlds. But our fondness for swimming and bathing for health and leisure is a relatively recent affair. Not until the end of the sixteenth century did the fashion for ‘taking the waters’ begin to develop. Much of this popularity was spurred on by the attendant health benefits. When Dr Richard Russell wrote about the restorative qualities of bathing at the tiny Sussex fishing village of Brighthelmstone in 1783 the Prince Regent was quick to visit and rented a small farmhouse there. The Prince enjoyed it so much that he bought the building and converted it to the flamboyant Brighton Pavilion we know today.
The more austere Royal Sea Bathing Infirmary in Margate was constructed at about the same time and opened its doors around 1791, offering treatment for complaints such as tuberculosis, skin conditions or jaundice. Patients were not only instructed to immerse themselves in the sea but, sometimes, to drink it too. Professional ‘dippers’ were employed to thrust patients under the waves, though if you were wealthy you would enter the sea from the privacy of a bathing machine: the ritual immersions were always performed naked.
Today we have a better understanding of the health benefits of sea bathing – and nakedness is definitely optional. Swimming is not only an excellent all-round activity for building fitness and strength, but cold-water dipping also has restorative effects. A plunge dilates the blood vessels and expels toxins from the body while at the same time releasing endorphins that elevate mood, creating an urge to dive straight back in. Regular dipping across a season leads to ‘cold adaptation’, which can strengthen the immune and cardiovascular systems, as well as increasing libido and improving our spirits.
The combination of a watery pick-me-up and some risqué excitement meant the sea-bathing craze was set to spread. Soon the Victorians were coming to the beach resorts simply to have fun and watch the bathing spectacles. A spate of new railways – plus the introduction of public holidays – accelerated the growth of the seaside resorts familiar to many of us. The seaside was leading a revolution in leisure, social progress and outdoor enjoyment.
The coast has long been central to our literary heritage as well. Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek were based on her childhood haunts around Fowey and Helford; Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse was inspired by holidays at Godrevy; and the wild undercliffs and remote beaches of the Jurassic Coast were beloved by Jane Austen. Arthur Ransome set hisSecret Island tales of the Swallows and Amazons at locations on the Essex shore and Scotlandwas home to the real Robinson Crusoe, its uninhabited islands firing the imagination of Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island.
Our coastline has many ancient associations. Tintagel is the home of Arthurian legend, while from many small islands holy men spread the Christian message: communities and monasteries, churches and abbeys were established at Bardsey Island in Wales, Iona in Scotland, Holy Island on the Northumberland coast and St Peter-on-the-Wall in Essex. Today these places continue to offer a spiritual retreat, a place to swim and immerse oneself in nature and reflect on our fascinating history.
Many parts of our coast reveal clues to our industrial past, too. There are old quarries breached by the sea, such as the Blue Lagoon in Wales. In Portland and the Purbecks you can enjoy the perfect lagoons and inlets that were left behind after quarrying for the great stones of St Paul’s cathedral. On a hot day with calm seas, at locations such as Dancing Ledge or Durdle Door, you could be on Crete or any other Greek island as you watch people skin-dive in the perfect blue waters, leap from ledges and sunbathe on the golden rocks.
Whether you are exploring the sea caves of the Witch’s Cauldron near Cardigan or playing with seals in the Isles of Scilly; collecting oysters and samphire in East Anglia or basking in the ethereal blue glow of the Outer Hebrides’ shallow lagoons, wild swimming offers a spectacular introduction to our island’s natural history. Britain is as rich in wilderness and secret places as ever and, if you can pick a sunny day, the swimming is out of this world!