Europe's best places for wild swimming
Even if pools were open and social distancing wasn't an issue, nothing compares to the thrill of taking the plunge alone in the great outdoors, be it a mountain lake in Slovenia or a sea cave in Devon.
Whether you're a cold water cognoscente or just looking to dip your toe into this invigorating wellness activity, here's a selection of the loveliest wild (outdoor) swimming spots in Europe that won't cost a cent to use.
1. Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
The Julian Alps offer top-class swimming, including the lovely-but-costly Lake Bled lido. However, travel down the road to Triglav National Park’s Lake Bohinj and discover wilder scenery for free. The Sava Bohinjka River provides a chilly thrill for flow-swimming fans.
2. Purcaraccia Canyon, Corsica, France
The steep hike to the pools in Corsica's Purcaraccia Canyon is demanding, but worth the effort. Swim in – and slide between – a series of pools fed by crystal-clear mountain water, and enjoy unwinding in a nature-made infinity pool teetering on a waterfall edge.
3. Baggy Point, England
Swim through several secret sea caves at this delightful Devonshire dipping spot, including one tide-swept tunnel hidden from lily-livered landlubbers. You may even be lucky enough to share your swim with a seal, dolphin or porpoise, which are all often spied along this coastline.
4. Lake Walchen, Germany
Bavaria is blessed with a batch of brilliant bathing spots, and Lake Walchen, located deep in the mountains south of Munich, is one of the most spectacular. Gravel beaches surround the mineral-rich turquoise water, and there are offshore islands to explore.
5. Lac D’Annecy, France
Heated by subterranean hot springs, this Alpine lake is unsurprisingly popular. Many beaches charge during the summer, but Plage d’Albigny à Annecy-le-Vieux and Plages des Marquisats are free. Wilder spots can be found too – some with great cliff jumps.
6. Lago di Fiastra, Italy
Beneath mountains on the north shore of this stunning beach-lined lake, is where you can slide into the embrace of its gin-clear water. Take a snorkel – there’s much to explore, including a legendary submerged village.
7. Loch Lomond, Scotland
You need a brave heart to swim in Scotland, but the picturesque Loch Lomond – Britain’s biggest puddle – might just tempt you in. This is the home of the annual Great Scottish Swim (and also, apparently, a monster – albeit one without the celebrity status of its Loch Ness cousin).
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This article was first published in July 2016 and last updated in March 2020.