Wild Locations for New Outdoor Swimmers

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Wild swimming is becoming increasingly popular with more and more people testing the waters in British rivers, lakes and at the coast. Are you interested in trying wild swimming but are not sure where to go? Here Daniel Start, the author of Wild Swimming, reveals the best locations for first time wild swimmers to head to…

The Coast

The Lulworth coast, from Kimmeridge to Bat Hole, is one of the most dramatic in Britain, featuring the famous cathedrallike rock arch of Durdle Door and a host of lesser-known caves and hidden bays.

Durdle Door, West Lulworth

The greatest draw on this Jurassic coast is nearby Durdle Door, gnarled and scaly like an old dinosaur. To swim through this ancient archway is a rite of passage. The distance is not great but the scale is awe-inspiring: when the watery chasm below you deepens into purple and indigo and the limestone columns above you veer skyward, you’ll feel a sense of absolute wonder.


Signed West Lulworth from A352, then 5 miles. Park in the huge Lulworth visitor centre car park and follow signs up hill (30 mins). For a shorter approach, park at Durdle Door Holiday Park (BH20 5PU, 01929 400200, turn right before West Lulworth and continue up hill). There is a wooded tent only section here – the only one near the beach for miles. For tranquility, arrive evening or morning, or continue west on the coast path 500m to Scratchy Bottom to descend to a quieter section of beach. Or continue west on beach to Bat Hole sea arch. 20 mins, 50.6217, -2.2767. For a map click here.



Stair Hole, West Lulworth

On a hot sunny day, Stair Hole is one of my favourite snorkelling venues in the whole of Britain. This catacomb of collapsed sea caves and tunnels has created a shallow lagoon with three routes out to the ocean. The first is a great archway that you can climb and jump from. The second is a series of smaller holes including the Blue Door – a deep, narrow lateral chasm that only becomes negotiable at low tide. In the middle is the cavern, open on both sides, with ledges for sitting, jumping or diving.
Scramble down to inland lagoon with sea caverns and arches. Amazing rock formations and great swimming (HT only).

From Lulworth car park (see above) bear right on the track by the coastguard hut, just behind the visitor centre, 200m. From the path scramble carefully down the loose slope. Or hire kayaks from Secondwind, Lulworth Cove, (DT3 6RY, 01305 835301). 2 mins, 50.6180, -2.2524. For a map click here.


© Daniel Start (07761 375717)

Worbarrow Bay, Tyneham

Worbarrow Bay, below, is a great, perfect semicircular sweep of pale blue water and yellowish shingle. To the right is tiny Pondfield Cove with a chalk cave, clear water for snorkelling and masses of luminous yellow thongweed with spaghetti-like strands.
Near the ruined village of Tyneham. Heading north from West Lulworth back to Wool/A352 turn right towards East Lulworth (B3070), then right (straight ahead) on entering the village, at the army range warning sign (NB no access on army firing days, weekdays). After 3 miles take hard right down to Tyneham. Footpath signs to sea. 20 mins, 50.6170, -2.18. For a map click here.



The young Thames is a quiet river, rising in the Cotswolds and flowing peacefully through the Oxfordshire plains. Distant church spires peek over billowing wheat fields and wild flowers wave in the hedgerows. At the Cheese Wharf in Buscot, once a loading bay for twenty tonnes of cheese a day, there is a rope swing and deep pool for swimming and diving.

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Buscot Weir, River Thames
A large deep weir pool with trees, rope swings and lawns in a pretty hamlet. 2 miles east of Lechlade (A417), turn by mirror, signed ‘visitor parking’. 3 mins, 51.6809, -1.6683 For a map click here.

Cheese Wharf, River Thames
Deep, with a good swing. Just upstream from Buscot, on A417. Signed with some parking among trees. 1 min, 51.6839, -1.6765. For a map click here.

Find out more

Taken from Hidden Beaches: Explore the Secret Coast of Britain and Wild Swimming: 300 hidden dips in the rivers, lakes and waterfalls of Britain by Daniel Start (, £16.99). Hidden Beaches and Wild Swimming are also available as apps, priced at £4.99).

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