Top ten places to… outdoor swimming locations
If you want a raw and rugged outdoor swimming experience, this is quite literally the perfect way to dive in and drop off the radar. Outdoor swimming has long been a popular and exciting experience – whether it is at an outdoor natural pool on the edge of the sea set amid jagged lava rocks in Europe, or an old Victorian pool that was still standing 100 years ago in coastal England, a “lido” (lee-doh) or outdoor pool is a fun way to spend the day.
The term Lido is an Italian word for “beach” and possibly from English visitors returning from the Lido di Venezia, where sea-bathing was popular from the late 19th century. Lido’s enjoyed their heydey in the 1930s and the oldest freshwater pool in Great Britain is in Lewes, East Sussex. It dates back to the 1860s.
The world is riddled with outdoor swimming locations that can make you feel free and give you much needed unstructured time outside. Some outdoor swimming locations almost feel like they take you to another dimension.
Outdoor swimming locations offer stunning coastlines, fun and relaxation. Lovers of swimming in the open air enjoy warm water temperatures, the outdoors, and even an opportunity for a midnight swim beneath the stars. Some outdoor swimming pools are actually a whole linked system of water holes, especially in Europe where the captured water is a clear sharp blue on a sunny day.
But the largest system of inland waterways is the Gippsland Lakes in Australia – very popular with outdoor swimmers – where bioluminescent dinoflagellates create the unique opportunity to swim among “twinkling light”. And the Blue Cave of Croatia is a stunning spot for a plunge as the cavern turns a luminous blue when the sun is at its full height.
From Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula with its huge vaulted cave and turquoise pool in its centre to France’s Pont du Gard – a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the first century AD – outdoor swimming locations are a wild way to swim at your leisure with no ties to the hustle and bustle of daily life. Even Scotland has the gorgeous Coryvreckan Whirlpool where George Orwell nearly died crossing from Scarba to Jura in a boat!
Natural outdoor swimming locations are a refreshing alternative to man-made modern everything-at-the-snap-of-your-fingers water holes or hotels. Often, sea pool water is renewed by the tide and is so fresh and natural there are often small fish and shrimps to be seen (don’t forget your goggles!) it’s a great get-away for the kids too, although you still need to watch them especially during high tides and stormy conditions as waves can splash over the walls and catch you off guard (make sure your belongings are secure with UltraDry bags and pouches so they don’t get sucked out to sea). These swimming locations tend to be calmer in the mornings.
And last but not least, let’s not forget good old Blighty. England offers some great outdoor sea pools like Dorset’s Dancing Ledge, with an ammonite-encrusted ledge that fills naturally with sea water at high tide – just deep enough that the sun warms it to a bearable temperature. Nantwich’s ‘salt pit’ (a brine spring) known for hundreds of years for being beneficial to rheumatism was popular for recovering WWI soldiers and dates back to 1935. It may be the only inland brine pool left in the country! Even the Cornish coast offers open air natural sea pools at places like Bude, Perranporth, Portreath, Polperro, Mousehole, Cape Cornwall, Porthtowan, Millendreath, and Treyarnon Bay.
A note of caution: be careful when using sea pools and check the tides and lifeguard services before visiting. Even Dartmoor National Park in Devon has a popular river-fed pool that to cool off after a walk across the moors.
More of Great Britain’s open swimming locations:
Lymington Sea Water Baths, Hampshire (one of the oldest in the country); Arundel Lido, West Sussex (nice views of Arundel Castle); Ilkley Moor (one of the best outdoor pools in northern UK); Droitwich Spa Lido, Worcestershire (saltwater pool dating from the 1930s); The Cotswolds offers a treasure for open water swimming aficionados – the largest sea water lido in the country with spectacular views out to the sea.
The UltraDry Team.