Three life-guarded, open-air swimming ponds (yes real ponds, weeds and all!) in the heart of London. Each pond (ladies, mens and mixed) has its own unique atmosphere, whether you want secluded bathing among ducks and lily pads, clear open water for training, or a place to splash about with friends and wash away the London grime. At each pond, there is a grassy bank for sitting, a jetty to dive off and changing rooms complete with showers. Swimming in the pond is the most serene, yet invigorating way to finish off a summers day in the capital. Oh and did I mention that they're open all year round?
+44(0)20 7485 3873
Google map: bit.ly/QdGSKG
Nearest tube: Highgate or Hampstead
Overground: Gospel Oak or Hampstead Heath
It is a beautiful gorge where two rivers join. If you follow the right hand river you will enter a pretty gorge full of pools to swim in and waterfalls. It is only really known by locals and is rarely busy.
From the coast go through the villages of Jete and then Otivar, the entrance gate to the river is on the left hand side, just beyond the turning for the Palacete de Cazulas (approximately 2kms from Otivar). Keep your eyes open as it is very easy to miss, there is a small gateway with a hut behind. There is a person who registers all cars/people and you pay an entrance fee. The access road is private and the fee helps to keep it ‘maintained.’ The gate is manned in July and August, outside this period you need to call the phone number on the gate to get access.
Google map: bit.ly/mQijbP
A little slice of heaven in the middle of Hyde Park. The lido is part of the Serpentine - a whole 100 metres roped off in the lake itself, just for swimming, be it a leisurely paddle or energetic workout. You can spend the whole day here for £4 which has to be the capital's best bargain! The lake water is cool and refreshing on a hot summer day so much better than chlorine or salt water. There is a little area to bask in the sunshine, a cafe, changing rooms and even a paddling pool for kids, but the real star is the refreshing dark lake water. If you are lucky it will just be you and the ducks - bliss!
Most idyllic place for early morning dip, watching London come alive with a memorable view.
The ponds hidden among the trees on Hampstead Heath in North London are large natural pools complete with changing rooms and large decking areas which allow for confident dives into the water or possibly more graceful steps into the hidden depths. Once in, swimming amongst the lilly pads, reeds and low hanging branches make for the most beautiful outdoor swimming location where you can cool off and completely forget that you are anywhere near an urban setting let alone right in the middle of the countries capital.
Saturday morning and a moorhen is busy repairing her nest. Nearby a new brood cluster, while one bravely ventures out over the still water. Trees overhang in heavy green and reeds, bushes and white flowers tussel for poolside seats - for this is Hampstead Heath swimming ponds and the swimmers are visitors to this natural wonderland. Brought up in nearby Archway, these cool waters drew me in after hot days at school and then later after work office. The secluded green fields around the ponds are perfect for laying out to dry in the sun with the weekend papers and a carton of juice. There are three pools, one for women, one for men and a mixed pond, all complete with showers, changing rooms, lifeguards and wooden decks to access the deep water. Each time I have brought a friend, its such a pleasure to see their glee as they swim with ducklings or float on their backs under the blue sky, worlds away from the bustling city that lies just across the park.
One of the best self-guided trekking areas in Spain. A place of extinguished volcanoes amongst thick forests, unusually green all year round despite the Mediterranean sun. After exploring Vall d'en Bas valley, eat one of the best meals of your life in Restaurant Arnau, Granollers de Rocacorba, and swim in the pool afterwards.
Half an hour north-west from Girona. Read about Girona town and province:
Nothing wakes you up quicker than a dip in the icy glacier waters of Lac Bleu in Morillon, slap bang in the middle of the famous Grand Massif skiing area. The water is shockingly cold, but beautifully clear and refreshing, particularly during the hot summer months when a swim in the lake is much needed. The location is just like a scene from a postcard, with the Alps on one side and a recreational park and pine forest on the other. Even during peak season, the lake never seems to be overcrowded. This makes it ideal for family outings and picnics. My favourite part was plunging into the water from the jetty and scrambling back up, shivering, about ten seconds later.
This lochan (small loch) sits high above and behind the strip of cottages known as Letterfearn, on the shore of Loch Duich. It is a very steep climb up from the hamlet, but on cresting the brow of the ridge, you may be greeted with the sight of a stag, silhouetted against the skyline. Stumbling upon the lochan on a warm afternoon, nestling in the midst of the wild highland moor, its dark waters seem to simultaneously threaten and beckon. It is remote, isolated, tranquil and offers a serene wild bathing experience.
We camped at Blair Atholl a few times when I was young. We'd generally stay around the area since it's such a stunning spot with plenty to do. The most memorable moments for me were when my brother and I went swimming in the absolutely freezing cold waters of the River Tilt. I remember it being so scary and exhilarating! It's a narrow little river but pretty deep; you can't see the bottom in many parts which means there's lots of pools to jump in to! Each time we'd stay in the water until we couldn't feel our fingers or toes. I like to think that I'll do it again one day.
This area, just off the Inn Valley, contains a number of lakes, one of which is dedicated to swimming - with changing rooms and showers. Lie back and view the mountains and swim with the huge carp fed from the adjacent hotel! After a swim visit the local Tyrolean Farmstead museum with a collection of traditional buildings saved from development or ruin in the Tyrol.
Walk on the waymarked paths from Kramsach chairlift station, or drive direct to the swimming lake, the Krummsee, afjacent to the Gasthof Krummsee
Bruar falls is full of plunge pools which are very refreshing to take a dip in after a long walk on one of the trails surrounding the falls. Bruar falls is near the House of Bruar.
8 miles from Pitlochry,Perthshire.Off the A9. www.walkhighlands.co.uk/perthshire/falls-of-bruar.shtml
Gorgeous glassily calm natural pool with beautiful views of the nearby Roaches crags, the rolling hills of the Staffordshire Moorlands and, on a clear day, the Cheshire Plain.
Seemingly bottomless, this is the perfect spot for an outdoor dip while travelling through the White Peak or the rugged, much underrated Moorlands (although not suitable for children, as there are no shallows - the sides of the pool are sheer and it is not possible to stand up once in the water).
Legend has it that years back, a foolhardy local jumped in for a late-night swim, after one too many beers, and was dragged into the depths of the pool by the resident mermaid, never to surface again. Careful, sober swimmers shouldn't have this problem but if in doubt wear a wetsuit to counteract cramp and don't even think about taking the plunge without some sensible soul staying put on dry land to keep an eye on you.
The last time we visited, my companion jumped in despite warnings from a solitary canoeist, whose cheery advice ("well, don't say I didn't warn you...I'm not pulling you out if you get into trouble...") did not put him off.
Once you're out and drying off, make your way back over to the other side of the A53 and have a nice cup of tea, a sit-down and crucially, a scone, at Tisha's Teas, on the Gradbach road.
Between Upper Hulme, Upper Elkstone and Heathylee. Coming from Buxton, turn off the A53 just after The Winking Man pub, and follow the road. You'll pass the pool after approx 1.5 - 2 miles, on the right - park in the layby opposite. To get to Tisha's Teas; heading back to the A53 from the Mermaid's Pool, go straight over the crossroads at the A53 and follow the road down to the left - the tearooms are on the left (gorgeous views of the Roaches).
It is a little cascade with a small lake (in Catalan we call it GORGA), in the middle of a lovely forest. It's also known as Gorg Moli dels Murris.
When we went there was noone this was 20 August. Water was beautiful, cool and clear! A paradise.
In Girona province, Garrotxa region, outside the town of Les Planes d'Hostoles.
Glendalough in Ireland is one of the most serene places imaginable. A deeply glaciated valley (the water is cold!) with towering mountains, monastic ruins and an ever changing sky. Although its proximity to Dublin means it can be busy at the weekend , during the week it's usually all yours. The upper lake boasts crystal clear water and a shingle beach. We stayed in Aughavannagh Cottage, a short jaunt over the mountains in the next valley. Almost every morning we managed a swim before breakfast - the one exception was when we climbed Lugnaquilla, at just over 3000 feet, the highest mountain in Leinster.
Feel things getting slowly wilder and woolier as you go from the sophistication of Helsinki to the tea, cakes and ice cream of waterside Ekenäs, and then get paddling in a kayak to Kavle island (Rolling Pin island), where it's just you, the rocks, pine trees and a barbeque. Strip down to your chosen level of comfort and leap into the beautiful water, with only the remote fear of a nip from one of the resident pike. Make sure you get there in summer though, as it's frozen good and solid in winter (so you don't need the kayak). If the Rolling Pin island is not your thing, there's a cool 1297 other islands to choose from.
Any of the over 180 000 lakes in Finland! Most of them with beautifully clean water, easy access and free for anyone to swim in. Better still, make friends with a Finn to get invited to a summer house, which usually are found by a lake and have a sauna to warm up in after a dip in the lake. Alternatively, hire a summer house or make use of public saunas, which are an inexpensive way to be introduced to one of the Finnish national institutions. These are open both in the summer and in the winter, when you can try ice hole swimming - if you are brave enough!
Why not try wild swimming in Tampere, a city located between two large lakes. You can find details about ice hole swimming and public saunas on www.talviuimarit.fi
It's a fond childhood memory of mine. On paper it is a nature park with a slow river that you can swim in, but in reality it is so much more than that. It has the classic swing rope and a little bbq area, and a beautiful forest trail to explore while drying off. Also a farm nearby and another lake that kids can swim in. Photos don't do it justice!
River Allen, Near Beltingham, 16k from Hexham, NY7962
As you wind your way up into Italy's Sibillini Mountains, between Le Marche and Umbria, you will come across this dazzling tourquoise lake with its dramatic Mountain views.
If you arrive early in the morning you are likely to see boar and deer sipping from the shallow waters but as the heat of the day arrives you will be unable to resist the urge to dive in and sample a swim in the crystal clear pools.
In fact, if you take a snorkel and mask you can even view the medieval village and its church that was submerged during the last century.
There are also a number of beach areas one with a bar, a gelateria selling home made ice creams and a lakeside village with an osteria and pizzeria.
There are many marked walks nearby that take you around the lake, or high up onto the peaks and ridges of this dramatic part of the Italian Appenines. Great for building up a sweat before that wild swim!
San Lorenzo al lago, Macerata, Le Marche, Italy
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