There are many benefits to wild swimming but immersing yourself in icy water is not a new trend, in fact, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Britten, Charles Darwin, and Florence Nightingale were all advocates of regular cold baths to strengthen the mental constitution and physical state. Cold immersion soothes muscle aches, relieves depression, and boosts the immune system.
NASA studies have shown that, over a 12-week period, repeated cold swimming leads to substantial bodily changes known as ‘cold adaptation’. These bring down blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce fat disposition, inhibit blood clotting, and increase fertility and libido in both men and women.
With this in mind, we have put together our best wild swimming and paddling spots in the Peak District.
Slippery Stones, Upper Derwent
Slippery Stones is a 3-4-meter-deep plunge pool in a picturesque location. There is a road that runs alongside the Howden and Ladybower Reservoirs that can be used to access the stones, however, this is closed at weekends and bank holidays. The waters have a brown tint but are crystal clear and very refreshing.
What3Words location: ///weekend.gobbling.frogs
Youlgreave is a wonderful place for kids (and big kids), sat within two steep banks with a 20 by 8-meter pool. It is deep enough to swim in but is shallow being 1.5m at its deepest. The limestone rocks in the pool mean the water is filtered, and noticeably clear.
What3Words location: ///slurping.solids.outcasts
Mermaid’s Pool, Derbyshire
Mermaid’s Pool is a small pool on Kinder Scout (one of the UK’s most Instagrammable spots). Legend has it that it is inhabited by a mermaid that can be seen if you look into the water at sunrise on Easter Sunday. If you see the mermaid on Esters Eve, and she looks upon you fondly, it is said that you will be granted immortality.
What3Words location: ///reef.alternate.gravitate
Photo Credit: @shot_by_amy
Black Mere Pool, Staffordshire
Another pool with a mermaid connection. According to legend, a young woman rejected the advances of a local man named Joshua Linnet. Unable to accept the rejection, he accused the woman of being a witch and he managed to convince the local townsfolk to drown her in Blakemere Pond. With her final breath, the young woman muttered a curse against Joshua and three days later his body was found by the pool, his face covered with claw marks.
A picturesque and allegedly bottomless site near to Tittesworth Reservoir and the craggy Roaches.
What3Words location: ///disco.obvious.supposed
Padley Gorge is a deep but narrow valley in the Peak District. You will find beautiful running streams and waterfalls in a woodland setting. It is an extremely popular place for kids to have a paddle, and on a warm summer’s day, we advise arriving early to make sure you can find a spot. There is parking at the National Trusts Longshaw Estate, which is pay and display, but free for National Trust members.
What3Words location: ///linked.hiding.tens
Sparth Reservoir, Yorkshire
In the Northern end of the peak district, you can find Sparth Reservoir, a small body of water that is approximately 4.5m at its deepest point. You haven’t always been allowed to swim here, but after lots of campaigning, swimming is allowed again and the reservoir attracts lots of adults and families, especially over the summer months.
What3Words location: ///cornering.tribes.inhaler
Thornbridge Hall & Gardens
Thornbridge Hall is a grade 2 listed stately home surrounded by 12 acres of quintessentially English gardens, set in the heart of the Peak District National Park.
The gardens offer the opportunity for kids to paddle in the fountain and catch rubber ducks with a net. The hall has also installed a beach so make sure you bring a change of clothes.
Thornbridge Hall is open 7 days a week, entry costs £7 for adults and £3 for the over 3’s.
What3Words location: ///gather.mango.tank
Photo Credit: http://www.francesmilburnphotography.co.uk
Three Shires Head, River Dane
Three Shires Head is where the counties of Derbyshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire meet at a waterfall and collection of pools on the River Dane. There is a 1.5km hike to get to the pools if you park in the layby off the A54, so make sure you have some good hiking boots.
The pools are quite shallow (1 meter) and are icy cold, make sure you have packed a towel to dry off!
What3Words location: ///clogging.busy.waitress
As with any kind of open water, safety is vitally important and wild swimming can be extremely dangerous. We recommend planning ahead and reading this safety advice from Swim England.
If you do go swimming remember not swim on private land, SSSI sites or any other places in the Peak District where signs tell you not to go in the water. Visitors need to park responsibly, have no inflatables, follow the countryside code and take all litter home.