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Clear rivers, fresh lakes and waterfalls — British wild swim spots by bike

erwlas (CC BY 2.0)

Clear rivers, fresh lakes and waterfalls — British wild swim spots by bike

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore

7

Tours

34:41 h

238 mi

21,300 ft

Nothing quite compares to stripping down to your bib shorts (or even less for some) on a hot, sunny ride and first dipping in your toes, before wading into the fresh and clear water of a gorgeous wild swimming spot. Whether you’re keen to front crawl for lengths of mile-long lochs or just want a bit of a splash about, the refreshing cold water of a wild swim, truly immersed in nature, is one of the best parts of summer riding.

Here I’ve collated just a few spots from across the UK, from the mineral-rich bright green waters of Meldon Pool on Dartmoor to Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms, and many in between! Would you opt for high mountain reservoirs with far-reaching coastal views like Llyn Anafon in North Wales or the secluded gorges and pools of Wolf’s Leap on the Abergwesyn Common? The expansive shores of Derwentwater in the Lake District or the tiny corner of paradise on the River Thames at the National Trust’s historic Cheese Wharf?

You’ll notice that as a general rule these tend to be in the west; thanks to the greater rainfall on this side of the country and therefore more extensive river and reservoir networks. Thankfully that also means bigger hills and even mountains, an off-road rider’s favourite place for rocky singletrack trails, sublime dirt roads and big, open views.

As well as these glorious wild swimming spots, you’ll find a range of routes here to help you find them, each taking in brilliant off-road riding. You’ll need a mountain bike for most of these routes, as they include some technical riding where you’ll benefit from wider tyres and even some suspension. Some of them also go to really quite remote areas, so make sure you have all the tools, spares and snacks you need before you set off.

All of these wild swimming spots are best enjoyed in the hotter, drier and sunnier months of the summer, where the river levels will be lower and more safe, as well as making the experience more enjoyable than ice-cold water!

Wild swimming is something that you should practice with caution and respect; I’d really recommend reading the Outdoor Swimmer’s Code from the Outdoor Swimming Society here before you go. It essentially covers points on how to keep yourself and others around you safe, consideration for others including landowners and other waterway users and the environment, including the leave no trace principles. Read more at
outdoorswimmingsociety.com/outdoor-swimmers-code

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Wolf's Leap, Abergwesyn Common — British wild swim spots

    Difficult
    04:38
    32.2 mi
    6.9 mph
    3,600 ft
    3,600 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    This area of Wales just keeps coming up again and again; incredible, vast and almost empty slick roads, leg-busting climbs, neverending gravel roads and spectacular hilltop vistas; it’s no great surprise that you’ll find wonderful wild swimming in Powys, Mid Wales too.

    Pick up this route and I’ll show

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    03:46
    23.7 mi
    6.3 mph
    3,475 ft
    3,500 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Sometimes the best rewards are the hardest to reach. Llyn Anafon is a classic example, a high and shallow lake in the Carneddau mountain range of Snowdonia National Park. It’s quite some climb to get up there on the off-road access road, but with incredible views out to the Irish Sea and usually the

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    05:24
    55.5 mi
    10.3 mph
    775 ft
    775 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Let’s face it, Oxfordshire probably isn’t your number one thought when it comes to wild swimming spots, but you don’t need to get all that remote to enjoy a dip. Not all that far from the golden stone city of Oxford, this bend on the River Thames, owned by the National Trust Buscot Estate, is a simply

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Intermediate
    03:38
    22.8 mi
    6.3 mph
    2,500 ft
    2,500 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Rough, remote and at times utterly inhospitable, Dartmoor is one of the few remaining rugged and wild places in the South West. Great moorland swathes of heather and pony-mown grassland host unique peak-top granite tors, while wooded valleys shelter deep green forests behind ancient dry stone walls

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    03:47
    25.9 mi
    6.8 mph
    3,475 ft
    3,475 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Where better to find expansive bodies of water, nestled between imposing mountain ridges than the Lake District? If you’re a wild swimmer that loves going the distance, this trip to the well-known Derwentwater could be just for you!

    

    This loop from Keswick town is by no means an easy one, and you’ll definitely

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    09:06
    47.1 mi
    5.2 mph
    3,850 ft
    3,850 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The longest and probably hardest route of the Collection, this Scottish contender of Loch Morlich is a popular swimming spot for all ages. It can be easily ridden to from nearby Aviemore, but here I’ve put together a much longer route that you can either enjoy as a challenging day ride, or more suitably

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    04:21
    30.8 mi
    7.1 mph
    3,600 ft
    3,625 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Clear, peaty-fresh water tumbles down over the small waterfalls and into deeper plunge pools, here the River Dane passes under the lovely Grade II listed packhorse bridge that marks the boundaries of Derbyshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire. Three Shires Head is not only a lovely place to enjoy a picnic

    by Katherine Moore

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    238 mi
  • Duration
    34:41 h
  • Elevation
    21,300 ft

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