Best Wild Swimming Adventures in the Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales wild swimming

Daniel Start, author of the new Wild Guide to Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, tells us about his all time favourite swims in this iconic landscape.

I have always loved the Lakes and Dales, ever since childhood, and there are endless adventures to be had. I return every year to find even more exciting places to swim and explore. These are some of my favourite…


Best for river tubing

Burnsall, River Wharfe, Dales

The River Wharfe is one of the best wild swimming rivers in the Dales, and Burnsall is one of its most popular wild swimming rivers, with pools and rapids.
The little post office even sells rubber rings!
54.04650, -1.95160

Best for Jumps

Loup Scar, River Wharfe, Dales

A fantastic stretch of grassy riverside incorporating river, meadow and beaches, with the limestone cliffs and the gorges of Loup Scar. There’s a terrifying jump here, from the path on river R, into a small very deep plunge pool. In summer there will probably be a bunch of lads attempting it. The village itself, below the bridge, is very busy, sometimes with hundreds of swimmers and families.
Follow the riverside path upstream from village bridge/Red Lion (BD23 6BU, 01756 720204), about ½ mile past the church, to Loup Scar gorge, with a very deep rectangular plunge pool beneath cliff. 15 mins, 54.0517, -1.9558


Best for Skinny Dipping

Ibbeth Peril & Hell’s Cauldron, Howgills


The Ibbeth Peril is a large plunge pool in the often-dry bed of the River Dee, where local witch Ibby is supposed to have drowned unlucky drunks. To the L of the waterfall there’s a cave, leading to miles of passageway and a very large cavern. Enter only in sustained dry weather: the Peril pool can rise fast and the caves can flood. ½ mile scramble downstream is Hell’s Cauldron, with a waterfall and a deep pool in a narrow slot canyon. This is a fascinating stretch of waterfalls and caves. The whole gorge can be explored, but does require scrambling.
Between Dent and Cowgill (leave Dent signed Hawes/Ingleton via Newby Head). ½ mile W of LA10 5TQ, find a small turn into a car park area on R with path and footbridge leading off. 100m W along the road you can scramble down below the waterfall pool. 5 mins, 54.2729, -2.3988


Best for Waterfalls

Stainforth Force, Ribblesdale

Older children will love this spectacular series of river pools and waterfalls beneath an old packhorse bridge. A large waterfall with a deep cauldron is very popular for those who like to jump, or leap from the rope swing. Further on are several idyllic deep pools and grassy banks lead down to many shallow section good for paddling.. Take great care if you jump, and avoid the river after heavy rainfall.
Park in Stainforth (B6479) then carry on up main road 200m on foot. Turn left down Dog Hill Browto the bridge (where there’s some limited parking in the off season). 54.0997, -2.2791

Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar

This beautiful crystal-clear plunge pool is set in a wooded glen beneath a spectacular waterfall. It’s the perfect spot for families wanting to cool off. The cave up to the right is allegedly the home of Jennet, a fairy queen. The amazing Gordale Scar is just upstream.
From Malham village, head east towards Gordale Scar (BD23 4DL). Take the path on the right about 300m before the campsite. 54.0657, -2.1365

Best for caves

Great Douk Cave, Ingleborough

This is one of the most amazing caves in the Dales, and a great introduction to caving for young and old alike – as long as you accept that you will probably get a bit wet! After tramping across the moor below the great hulk of Ingleborough you arrive at a extraordinary tree-filled depression. Descend and you will find a huge boulder-chocked cavern from which a waterfall emerges. Climb up to the right of the waterfall to enter the passageway. As you explore light is often visible high above, and there are intricate cave formations. Wear a bicycle helmet and bring a torch plus waterproofs.
On the road from Ingelton to Ribblehead/Hawes, 200m E of the Old Hill Inn (LA6 3AR, see 35), is an obvious wide footpath track with some rough layby parking. Follow for ½ mile past the lime kiln and turn left at the second wall, to find the depression after 250m. 54.1883, -2.3890

About the book

The Wild Guide to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales by Daniel Start publishes 1st June 2016 (£15.99, Wild Things Publishing) and contains over 800 wild and hidden places to explore.

WG Lakes and Dales 3D lr

Best Places