Brrrrrr! 9 places to swim outdoors this winter

Various, UK

Where can brave bodies in neoprene beanies swim in the winter in the UK? Rachel Mills dips her toe

February 29, 2024

Cold water swimming has seen a huge revival and advocates of a winter dip are shouting from the rooftops (or swimming pool) about its mental health benefits. Campaigners in cities and towns across Britain have fought to restore and reopen faded Art Deco lidos and open air community pools, many of which have been crying out for love and investment for decades, and there’s always the British seaside and country lakes (or lochs), and even a blue lagoon (who needs Iceland?). Come on in this winter, the water’s chilly lovely.

The Blue Lagoon, Abereiddi, Wales

This deep blue lagoon is part of a former slate quarry on Wales’ Pembrokeshire coast, where cliff diving and kayaking, as well as swimming, is popular. The land is owned by the National Trust (car park charges apply) and the lagoon is sometimes closed for months at a time when seal pups are born.

Photo Credit: Marcus Ludewig

Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, Margate

Up the hill from Margate, in Cliftonville, this much-loved seaside swimming spot has no life guards and no changing rooms, though there is a gorgeous community sauna. It’s a huge pool, twice daily refreshed by the incoming tide (it’s submerged totally at high tide, so check tide times ahead).

Sandford Parks Lido, Cheltenham

This Art Deco lido in the spa town of Cheltenham is in the prettily landscaped Sandford Park. This year, the lido opened for the cold water winter swimming season on 21 October (book ahead) and before you take the plunge it’s advised to book a cold water swimming induction on-site. They also organise cold water dips and “polar plunges” for charities each winter.

Bristol Lido, Bristol

Originally a Victorian swimming pool opened in 1850, Bristol Lido is in the Whiteladies Road area of Clifton. This one is a heated option so you’re toasty swimming all year-round (though it’s open-air so it still feels fresh in winter!).

Beckenham Park Swimming Lake, London

A 385m purpose-built swimming lake in a beautiful wild green space that was once a premier London golf course. It’s open all winter for booked swimming sessions only, and all swimmers must have completed a winter swim induction first.

Photo Credit: Marcus Ludewig

Hathersage Lido, Derbyshire

Built in 1936 as part of a large philanthropic complex in the King George Memorial Field, this open air pool is in an unlikely location in a village in the Derbyshire Dales. It’s heated year-round and hosts occasional live music events for swimmers (including at Christmas).

Loch Morlich, Glenmore, Scotland

The Cairngorms is a stunningly beautiful national park in the east of Scotland, and here in Glenmore Forest Park is freshwater Loch Morlich. Swim off the beach (the highest beach in the UK) and soak up the mountain backdrop.

Photo Credit: Marcus Ludewig

Lido Ponty, South Wales

Dating to 1927, this pool in the South Wales Valleys is the National Lido of Wales. They started opening in winter in recent years, and it’s only on weekends in November. The water temperature in winter is set at a reduced 15 degrees.

Hampstead Heath Ponds, London

A winter swim round up wouldn’t be complete without Hampstead Heath’s famous ladies’ and mens’ natural bathing pools. They’re open year-round, and in winter water temperatures are regularly announced on X (formerly Twitter); on May 3 the Ladies’ Pond was 4.5 degrees and the Mens’ Pond was 5.5 degrees, icy!). London’s hardiest swimmers arrive from 7am.