There’s a lot to think about when planning an outdoor swimming expedition, whether you’re going for a quick dip nearby or planning an entire holiday around a dip of cold water immersion. There’s the kit, the weather, your choice of swimming buddy and that’s before you’ve even decided on the location.
In reality, there are so many places to go for an outdoor swim just within the UK it can be tricky to know where to start. That’s where The Outdoor Swimming Guide comes in. This new tome gives you the lowdown on all the options – from formalised bathing spots like lidos, to lakes and rivers perfect for splashing about.
Diverse outdoor swim locations in one volume
There are a lot of outdoor swimming books available, with many focusing in on one type of swimming location, so it’s useful to have a book that covers a variety – some 400 in total. Despite being fairy comprehensive it’s compact enough to chuck in your swim bag to reference en route.
What really sets this new book apart is the Access section under each entry, giving you a clear indication of what to expect. For example, “steep, slippery paths lead to the water’s edge” tells me to have my swimming shoes on and a friend for support to get into the water. It might also say to someone wobbly on their feet to try another spot.
As a non-driver, I also appreciate the inclusion of information on local bus routes and the nearest train station. So much of wild swimming is the logistics, with the plunge being a welcome reward for the effort, making this guide all the more useful.
What’s really lovely is that books like this one give me the confidence to dip in more places. For example, I’ve crossed the Union Chain Bridge between Scotland and England many times and wandered up and down the Tweed there, but never taken a dip in this part of the river. The book outlines the best spot to get in for a swim, so I’ll certainly be doing that in the future. (At the time of writing, renovation work is being carried out on the bridge, so this will have to wait a little while).
The index has been organised into Swims at a glance categories, allowing you to find a lido, wild swimming spot or open air swimming venue easily. It’s clearly been put together by someone with plenty of swimming experience, as well as swimming book experience, adding to the sense of a sensible approach to being user friendly.
Road testing The Outdoor Swimming Guide
As always, however, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I decided to put the book to use to plan a swim in a location I’d never visited before. All of the details about Lumb Hole Falls in Yorkshire were exactly as described in the book bar one crucial element.
The layby on Old Road where the Outdoor Swimming Guide recommends stopping has a no parking sign and the path down to the waterfall has been marked as Lumb Hole Falls being closed. This is unfortunate and in reality, there’s no way that a book can foresee such occurrences.
Lumb Hole Falls is a beautiful swim spot and has clearly become a victim of overuse like a number of others during the pandemic. Antisocial behaviour on private land is a growing issue and makes things trickier for responsible wild swimmers who wish to take a dip surrounded by nature and leave a spot just as they found it.
Popular swim spots and lesser-known locations
Famous swim spots, like the Isle of Skye’s Fairy Pools, get the same billing as hidden away locations in The Outdoor Swimming Guide. All you need to do then is grab your copy, open it on the geographical area of your choice and start planning your next swim adventure! I intend to use it as a resource for daydreaming and swim trip preparations for the foreseeable future.
Vertebrate Publishing supplied a copy of the book for review purposes