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Winter Wild Swimming: Expert Tips for Cold Water Swimmers in the Lake District

wild swimming

I recently caught up with outdoor swim coach and lifeguard Ella Foote, who shared valuable insights in collaboration with Lake District holiday property managers Wheelwrights.

As winter approaches in a couple of weeks, Ella offers essential tips for beginners venturing into wild swimming, along with recommendations for the best spots to experience the thrill of wild swimming in the picturesque Lake District.

There’s nothing more serene and freeing than a swim in one of the UK’s many lakes, rivers and coves. Great for your skin as well as your mental health, wild swimming is a fantastic activity to take up and one that’s surging in popularity.

Is wild swimming safe?

With Google searches for “best places for wild swimming near me” up 200% year on year, it’s clear that whilst there’s appetite, there’s also a demand for sourcing spots that are safe and enjoyable at the same time.

Ella’s Top Wild Swimming Tips 

1. Be prepared and be sensible

“The simplest way to stay safe in open water is to be prepared. Like any outdoor activity, outdoor swimming comes with some risk, but you can overcome that with a little thought”, says Ella. 

“If you are new to wild swimming, think about the last time you swam in a pool and whether you are swim-fit to tackle outdoor elements.

If it has been a while, don’t swim out of depth or in difficult conditions. Check the weather, pack a jumper (even in warm weather), ensure you can get into and out of the water safely. If it doesn’t feel right before you plunge – it probably isn’t!”

2. Wrap up warm before and after

“Cold water swimming is different for everyone and even then, your personal reaction to the cold can change in 24 hours. Make sure you have had a good night’s sleep, have eaten and are hydrated before heading into cold water.” Ella Advises. 

“Be warm before you get in and be prepared for when you get out. Pack a thermal base layer, a decent jumper and weatherproof coat.

Get into the water gradually and regulate your breathing before swimming out to deeper waters. and consider some neoprene accessories to make it more comfortable for your hands and feet!

It’s also worth noting you don’t need to stay in the water for too long, you can get the benefits from cold water swimming in a few minutes. After, get dry and dressed quickly and have a warm drink if possible.”

3. Look for gentle water with easy access

“The best spots are a decent walk away from car parks and popular trails. Aim to walk longer than 30 minutes away from the most popular swim spots or areas if you can, as often there is a better spot upstream outside of where others gather” says our expert. 

“Look for gentle water, for example plunge pools in young rivers. Lakes with shingle beaches where you can paddle and slowly get used to the water are also a great option, as are beaches with small tidal movements and shallow areas. Wherever you swim, be sensible and ensure you are with someone, or people know where you are and when you plan to return.”

Swim Spots in the Lake District 

To help you have the best experience, Wheelwrights have put together a list of beautiful spots to wild swim in the Lake District For the ultimate experience, make your swimming trip a relaxing staycation affair by staying over in one of the many fabulous cottages in the Lake District nearby. That way – you can get first dibs on the best swimming spots!  


Popular for a reason, Windemere lake is a gorgeous place for a wild swim, surrounded by picturesque mountain peaks and villages. The largest natural lake in England, even if busy you’ll have plenty of space to get a few laps in. 

“Lake Windermere offers a great place for beginners, there’s good access at Rayrigg Meadow and there are also changing facilities at Fell Foot” says Ella.

Rydal Water

A wild and shallow spot, Rydal is a great place for Wild Swimming just northwest of the popular area of Ambleside. Lesser known than Windermere, you’ll get less foot traffic here, so there’s more chance of a solo swim to truly immerse yourself in the wilderness. The shallow water means it’s warmer than the deeper lakes too – perfect for the colder Spring days!

River Brathay

If you fancy a river swim as opposed to a lake, the River Brathay is a great option. Flowing from Elterwater to Windemere, pick a steady spot for swimming such as just beyond Skelwith Force. If walking along the river, it’s a great place to have a cooling dip!

Black Moss Pot

Another popular location further North, Black Moss pot is a striking swimming spot with clear water between natural rocks. Head to this destination early in the morning in the springtime to beat the crowds and truly experience the serenity of the location.