Camping & Wild Swimming: Tips, Tricks & Where to Pitch

Forget the turquoise waters of purpose-built pools, our favourite way to get wet is with a spot of wild swimming. We think it’s the perfect partner to back-to-basics camping. Here’s why…

It goes without saying that here at Cool Camping we love to be immersed in the great outdoors. And there are few better ways to feel more at one with your environment than slipping in to the cool waters of a lake or the gentle flow of a river – especially when no one else is around. Wild swimming is one of our favourite things to do when we’re camping and we know there are plenty of Cool Campers out there who feel the same. You simply can’t beat that Huck Finn-feeling of warming up by the campfire after a swim in a natural waterway be it a freshwater lake or the salty water of the sea.

Reasons to love wild swimming

There are plenty of reasons why we reckon a wild swim beats a few lengths in the municipal pool. The scenery is usually more picturesque for starters! The natural wallpaper will vary depending on where you’ve chosen to take the plunge. But whether it’s beach and horizon, trees and vegetation or rocks and mountains, it’s probably nicer than the walls, ceiling and deep-end warnings of your local pool. Secondly, are the health benefits. Any swimming is exercise, of course, but cold-water swimming is thought to be especially good for you – and let’s face it, if you’re swimming in the UK, it’s likely to be a bit nippy. A cold dip can soothe muscles and is said to boost the immune system too. Repeated cold immersion has also been linked to improved circulation and lowered blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s also often reported that cold-water swimming improves the mood by encouraging the release endorphins. If nothing else, there’s no denying that a wild swim leaves you with a healthy glow and a smile on the face.

Another reason we rate wild swimming so highly is that it gives you the chance to see wildlife up close and can give you a duck’s eye view of parts of the countryside and coast that might otherwise be inaccessible. There’s an amazing sense of freedom with wild swimming too. Yes – there’s the chance of finding a bit of pond or seaweed in your hair when you emerge from the water, but your skin will feel great washed by natural water compared to the chlorine-infusion that’s necessary in an enclosed pool. Finally, and perhaps best of all, wild swimming is free!

Wild swimming for beginners

If you’ve never been wild swimming before and want to give it a go, what are you waiting for? The watery world is your oyster. As an island nation, the UK is quite simply awash with places to take to the water; from the beaches on our long coastline to the many lakes and rivers. There are even opportunities for at-least semi wild swims in the UK’s cities at open-air lidos. These and salt water pools on the shores are great places to start if you want to get used to temperatures before diving in at the deep end.

Lakes with still waters offer easier swims than places with tides and currents so choose according to your skill as there won’t be a lifeguard looking out for you. As with any outdoor activity, it’s safety first so it’s a good idea to read the advice from the Outdoor Swimming Society on how to get started and to make sure someone knows where you are. Better still, take someone to share the experience with you. If you’re looking for a wild swimming spot in a particular location, you might like to try the crowd-sourced swim map at wildswim.com. And for a wild swimming getaway, you can’t beat camping or glamping; we recommend loads of waterside campsites on our website. If it's a river swim you're after we have a specific riverside campsites collection, while those hoping to camp near the beach and swim in the open sea can check out our favourite seaside campsites too. For a very choice collection, check out five of our favourite camping and glamping sites for wild swimming below...


Diving in

Ready to take the plunge? Five of the best campsites for wild swimming

Frome Meadow, Dorset

A magical riverside retreat that pops up on a dairy farm in Dorset every August. The five-acre Frome Meadow is tents only with 14 pitches sharing a private stretch of riverbank.

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Digeddi Wildlife Camping, Powys

You can swim, canoe or kayak in the River Wye which flows past the waters’ edge pitches at Digeddi. There’s camping and glamping here a pleasant walk away from the literary hub of Hay-on-Wye.

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Kingfisher Lakes, Yorkshire

Luxury lakeside living is offered at Kingfisher Lakes in Yorkshire. The sites’ yurts, safari tents and log cabin are kitted out with everything you need and situated between two wildlife-rich flooded gravel pits.

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Gwalia Farm, Powys

It’s peaceful, back-to-basics camping for a handful of adults here. Take a dip in the site’s own lake then dry off by your campfire at this Mid-Wales site which feels blissfully like the middle of nowhere.

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Dragonfly Camping, Pembrokeshire

Glamping for waterbabies doesn’t get much better than this. Less than two miles from Pembrokeshire’s Cleddau Estuary, this farmland site has its own small lake – and one of Dragonfly Camping’s two glamping huts floats on it!

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