Why wild swimming is not just another wellness craze

A young woman relaxes in a lake looking out at the mountains in the Lake District.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably would’ve heard about the latest wellness craze that has surged across the UK.

Whether in London’s freezing cold reservoirs or the refreshing waters of the Lake District, people are coming together in the dozens to dip their toes in the natural therapy known as wild swimming.

But what’s all the fuss really about?

It’s just floating around or swimming in freezing cold water, right?

Well, not entirely.

Wild swimming has been praised as a miracle cure for many ailments with wondrous physical and mental health benefits.

Join us as we surface the many mysteries of wild swimming and reveal the best spots in the UK to take an icy plunge.

Let’s dive in!

What is a wild swim?

Although it sounds like an adrenaline-pumping plunge with tiger sharks and maybe even the odd crocodile, wild swimming is far tamer, some might even say relaxing.

Wild swimming is a form of cold water swimming typically done outdoors in large bodies of natural water such as lakes, rivers, lochs and seas.

Much like yoga, wild swimming is better with company. You can join an outdoor swimming society, nature retreat or take to the freezing water with a friend. 

Swimming outdoors in cold water is also a fantastic way to feel alive and refreshed, but its remarkable benefits go far deeper than that. 

Why is cold water swimming good for you?

A middle-aged woman lifts her hands in the air with a smile on her face as a wave crashes against her body while wild swimming in the ocean.

We know it might look crazy, but there’s a good reason why people are plunging into thawing lakes and cool rivers.

“Wild swimming is one of those activities that allow you to get away from technology and be immersed in nature quite literally,” says The Zest Life founder, Laura Bell.

She adds, “The guests that take part in our retreats feel a huge sense of achievement. It has a 360-degree effect on your physical, mental and emotional systems.”

Whether taking a dip in a nearby river or venturing into a still loch on a wellness holiday, you can expect to reap the following benefits.

Reduces stress levels 

If you’ve ever jumped into a froth-lipped waterfall or submerged yourself in a refreshing river, then you know how relaxing it can be.

Although an initial shock to the system, after a few minutes your mind and body start to relax, releasing pent-up tension and stress.

Swimming in nature also teaches the body how to cope with challenging situations through breathing exercises and meditation.

Speeds up muscle recovery 

Jumping into a cold body of water pumps blood through the body, improving circulation and mending sore or damaged muscles.

Many athletes swear by immersion therapy, speeding up their body’s recovery time and providing pain relief after a gruelling workout.

Bolsters the immune system

Our parents all told us to keep out of frigid water for fear of getting a cold, but studies show that it could in fact do the exact opposite.

Short-term exposure to cool, freshwater boosts the body’s white blood cells which can improve the activity of the immune system.

Boosts the metabolism and burns calories

Just when you thought wild swimming couldn’t get any better!

Exposing your body to cool water means it has to work extra hard to stay warm. The energy used increases your metabolic rate which burns calories and aids weight loss.

So, next time you go wild swimming, you can count it as a workout for the day!

How long should you go wild swimming for?

Three women walk into a lake in the UK with inflated buoy bags.

We know wild swimming has many fantastic health benefits, but it also comes with plenty of potential hazards.

Currents, extremely cold water and the temperature outside are all risks that you should consider when dipping your toe in wild swimming.

It’s best to join outdoor swimming groups when swimming in open water and to not push it past 20 minutes, especially if it’s your first time.

After a refreshing dip, burrito yourself in a towel and gradually warm up.

What are the best wild swimming spots in the UK?

With silken lakes, refreshing waterfalls and roaring rivers, open water swimmers are truly spoilt for choice in the UK.

Although many locals simply escape to the British countryside for a relaxing dip, there are many idyllic spots all across the UK.

Here are a few of our favourites.

Lake District 

One of the best swim spots in the UK has to be the Lake District in Cumbria.

The national park is teeming with epic lakes, 17 to be precise.

Here, you’ll find many wild swimming retreats that are centred around the refreshing practice.

Wild swimmers can immerse themselves in the cool waters of Lake Windermere, frolic in Buttermere’s beautiful scenery or join a local group for a sunset swim at Derwentwater.

Scotland

Although renowned for their mysterious monsters, Scotland’s lochs are also popular for their wild swimming spots.

In the Scottish Highlands, Loch Duntelchaig’s crystal clear waters open up an underwater world, perfect for snorkelling or a relaxing swim outdoors.

If you’re not a fan of the frigid waters, Loch Ceo Glais’ warmer water promises a more pleasant swim, especially in the summer months.

Two women swim breaststroke in a reservoir wearing swimming caps and goggles.

London

Although it’s hard to imagine a natural oasis in the bustling city of London, you’d be surprised to learn that there are many serene swimming spots in and around the city.

In north London, Hampstead Heath Ponds is a delightful spot for a morning or evening dip with many locals flocking here in the summer months.

With breathtaking views of the city and two courses, West Reservoir Centre in Hackney offers a unique open water experience.

Wales

From secluded cloves to sprawling lakes, Wales is one of the most stunning places to go wild swimming.

The crown jewel of this outdoor swimming haven is Snowdonia.

Located in north Wales, breathtaking lakes and waterfalls pepper the region. Lake Llynnau Mymbyr and Watkins Path Waterfall are two local favourites, offering a refreshing dip with a view. 

The Isle of Anglesey is another wonderful location for open water swimming. Here, swimmers can plunge into the calm waters of Trearddur bay, Porthdaffrach and the beautiful Rhosneigr beach. 

Ready to plunge into a wild swimming adventure in the UK?

A yoga retreat is one of the best ways to soak up the beauty and benefits of open water swimming.

With Basubu, you can find the best wild swimming spots in the UK and embark on a journey of a lifetime.