Wild swimming in the Lake District – Part I

Wild swimming at Loughrigg Tarn

‘Oh! many a time have I, a five years’ Child,
A naked Boy, in one delightful Rill,
A little Mill-race sever’d from his stream,
Made one long bathing of a summer’s day,
Bask’d in the sun, and plunged, and bask’d again
Alternate all a summer’s day…’
- From The Prelude – Childhood by William Wordsworth, 1805
Over the past few years the joys of swimming in Britain’s lakes and rivers has become more widely appreciated, and I’m sure the phenomenon hasn’t passed you by. Whether you’ve watched Kate Rew or Alice Roberts taking daring dips in some enchanting locations from the comfort of your own living room, or been inspired by the poetry and insight of Roger Deakin’s seminal book Waterlog, its impossible not to be drawn to the idea of such a simultaneously exhilarating and tranquil experience.

With some of the largest lakes in England, and countless smaller tarns, rivers and pools, you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to swimming in the Lakes. You’re in good company too, as our most famous Lake District writers and poets – Wordsworth, Coleridge and de Quincy – took to the mountain pools in their search for the sublime and the picturesque. The above extract from Wordsworth’s autobiographical opus The Prelude perfectly articulates the child-like pleasures of a summer swim. The hectic reality of our modern lives has encouraged more and more people to emulate the Romantic urge to find a way back to nature and childhood joy, and it doesn’t get much better than wild swimming. The feeling of drifting mermaid-like through peat-gold water really is incomparable, not to mention the rush of skin-tingling exhilaration you experience afterwards, and a feeling of well-being that stays with you long after your swim is over, like a delicious secret.

At Colwith, one of the most magical swimming holes in the Lakes is right on your doorstep. The dramatic backdrop of the Langdale Pikes makes Loughrigg Tarn an awe-inspiring place for a bathe, and as a relatively warm and shallow tarn its the perfect place to start your swimming adventures. Sunset above the Pikes is a more wonderful experience that any postcard can relay, and it’s worth reserving time to slip into the water under this magnificent sight one evening.

Colwith is also just a stones throw away from two other Wordsworthian swims: Buckstones Jum and Rydal Bower, both situated in the fells above Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s beloved home. The former is a beautiful triangular pool with shingle beach and panoramic views over Rydal Water and the surrounding valley. Rydal Bower is a secret, woodland grotto with a deep pool beneath the waterfall, a haunting and mysterious place.

If something a little more competitive is to your taste, The Great North Swim takes place on Lake Windemere from the 22nd – 24th June this year and is currently taking entries. The UK’s biggest open water swim, this event has three categories to suit competitors of all abilities and is set to be an incredible few days, with over 9,000 swimmers taking to the water. What better testament to the growing appeal of wild swimming? Visit the website here.

With its abundance of water, there are too many wonderful swimming spots to recommend in just one post, so keep an eye on this blog for a further exploration of the Lake District’s best and most beautiful locations.