Wild swimming is an outdoor activity that’s rocketed in popularity over recent years as it is said to be good for mental health and can improve circulation and reduce inflammation.
Luckily there are plenty of waterfalls, lakes and safe stretches of river where you can try out wild swimming during a Yorkshire getaway, whether you fancy going it alone or joining an organised group.
This guide highlights some of our favourite places to go wild swimming in Yorkshire. For more holiday inspiration, take a look at some of the other outdoor activities to try during a Yorkshire getaway.
Wild waterfall swimming in Yorkshire
Kisdon Force is one of the top wild swimming spots in the Yorkshire Dales. This series of waterfalls on the River Swale has an idyllic location deep within a woodland gorge. You can enjoy a scenic Swaledale walk, a pretty picnic and a cooling swim in the plunge pool that the waters tumble into.
After your swim you can visit the nearby Tan Hill Inn which, at 1,732 feet above sea level, is the UK’s highest pub.
Located just a short walk from Goathland in the heart of the North York Moors National Park is Thomason Foss, a Yorkshire waterfall that’s just right for wild swimming. It’s a little bit challenging to reach the plunge pool but this peaceful spot is well worth the effort.
The falls are nestled in woodland, close to the sleepy hamlet of Beck Hole where you’ll find one of the smallest pubs in Yorkshire, the wonderfully quirky Birch Hall Inn.
The trail between Janet’s Foss and nearby Malham Cove, a dramatic natural amphitheatre made out of limestone, is one of Yorkshire’s most popular walks, and a paddle or swim in the still waters that were once used for sheep dipping is a great family-friendly activity.
The waterfall is a gentle one and it’s said that a fairy queen called Janet (or Jennet) once lived in a hidden cave behind the falls.
Wain Wath Force
This secluded gorge is tucked away in Upper Swaledale, close to the pretty village of Keld. It’s possible to jump from a limestone ledge at the top of the waterfalls into the deep pool below and enjoy a swim with a view of the surrounding Yorkshire Dales.
There are ledges where you can sit and let the water wash over you or head a little further upstream and you’ll find the water is much shallower and perfect for a paddle.
Wild river swimming in Yorkshire
The beautiful ruins of Bolton Abbey are perched next to the banks of the River Wharfe with stepping stones where you can reach a small area of beach and still waters where you can enjoy a paddle or a swim before settling down to a picnic.
There are woodland and riverside walks to enjoy at Bolton Abbey too along with ice cream kiosks and a children’s play area to keep little ones happy.
Also just off the River Wharfe is a small patch of riverside common between the popular Yorkshire Dales villages of Grassington and Linton. The weir is a popular spot for wild swimming in the summer months so it can get fairly busy.
Kids will love splashing about in the water at Grassington Weir so it’s probably not one for serious strokes but a great choice for bringing along an inflatable ring for a day of fun in the sun.
Burnsall and Loup Scar
This stretch of grassy riverside comes with dramatic limestone cliffs and a refreshing plunge pool in the form of Loup Scar. The pool is deep and should only be attempted by accomplished swimmers but the stretch of the River Wharfe leading up to it is gentler with meadows and beaches where you can relax with a picnic.
Burnsall itself is a beautiful Yorkshire village that’s well worth visiting, with a packhorse bridge, wonderful views of the surrounding fells and a couple of tearooms to call in for refreshments.
The River Ure is generally more challenging for wild swimming than the River Wharfe and much of it should be avoided, especially after a heavy rain downpour. One hidden stretch that is a safe spot for wild swimming lies in a bend of the river near Redmire which is sheltered by a steep wooded bank.
Not far from here you’ll find Bolton Castle where you’ll find gorgeous gardens, towers to climb and falconry experiences.
Wild swimming in Yorkshire lakes and reservoirs
North Yorkshire Water Park
If you fancy trying outdoor swimming in a safe and secure environment, North Yorkshire Water Park is an ideal option. It’s home to one of the largest natural water sport lakes in North Yorkshire with open water swimming available around a 250-metre circuit and lifeguarded sessions available.
Floats and wetsuits are available to hire and there are a range of other water-based activities available such as fishing, paddle boarding and kayaking in a beautiful countryside setting on the edge of the North York Moors.
Nestled high up in a remote part of Wensleydale, Semerwater is the second-largest natural lake in North Yorkshire. The beautiful lake is surrounded by a patchwork of green countryside with still waters that start off shallow so you can get acclimated to the temperatures before starting your swim.
Parking is available close by and there’s a scenic walk around the perimeter of Lake Semerwater to try before heading into the water.
The glacial Gormire Lake is thought to be around 20,000 years old and lies at the bottom of Whitestone Cliff in the Hambleton Hills area of North Yorkshire. The lake is deep so only suitable for confident swimmers to go into, but there is very little current and the waters which are fed by a natural spring are also fairly warm.
Gormire Lake is kept sheltered by the surrounding cliffs and one of the best ways to reach it is from The Cleveland Way where you can enjoy views out over the water from Sutton Bank before following a steep path down for your swim. Keep your eyes peeled for the coots, grebes and mallards which breed here.
Advice for safe wild swimming in Yorkshire
While wild swimming in Yorkshire is an exhilarating outdoor activity, it is important to remember that it can be dangerous and should always be done with proper planning and care. A safe way to try wild swimming is through an organised society and you can find information on local Yorkshire groups on The Outdoor Swimming Society’s website.
Wild swimming tips include:
- Get into the water slowly to get your body used to the colder temperature. You should also only go in for a short period of time, especially as a beginner.
- Always go with someone else and stick close to the water's edge if you are new to wild swimming. We recommend having someone on dry land to keep an eye on you.
- Heavy rainfall can make rivers in particular more unpredictable and wild swimming should be avoided at these times.
- Always remove contact lenses, try not to swallow the water and cover up any cuts and grazes to avoid catching any infections from wild swimming.
- While a wetsuit isn’t a requirement for wild swimming it will help to protect you from the cold.
- Get dressed quickly after coming out of the water with lots of layers - having a flask of warm tea to drink after your swim can help your body to warm up.
Map of Yorkshire wild swimming spots
This handy map shows the location of all the wild swimming spots mentioned in this guide:
Wild swimming during a Yorkshire getaway
If you fancy trying wild swimming in the beautiful surroundings of the North York Moors or Yorkshire Dales, there are lots of lovely holiday cottages where you can dry off and get cosy and warm after your scenic dip.
Browse our full range of Yorkshire cottages to find your perfect base for a relaxing UK holiday.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.