Do you want to mix things up from just swimming in the pool?
Here is a look at my top 10 open water swimming venues across the North West of England, including my top 3 favourite picks
As a Racepace coach I would always recommend that any athlete should practise swimming in open water before they take on an open water triathlon. But where can you go to swim open water? Whilst it may not be as warm, I believe open water swimming gives interest and variety that swimming in a pool simply doesn’t offer. You may be new to open water or maybe you’re training for a triathlon, or perhaps you just want to head to some new locations.
My Top 3 Favourites are –
1) Capernwray Dive Centre – my Ultimate favourite
Top of my list of open water swimming venues is this popular disused quarry turned diving centre with its’ year-round loop (approximately 500m) marked with inflatable buoys. The crystal clear water has been ranked as some of the cleanest and freshest of any open water venue
in the country. The visibility in the water is excellent and you can even make out some of the diving ‘attractions’ down in the depths, for example, an old boat and the wreckage of a light aircraft. Unlike lots of open water centres, at Capernwray you can swim any time of day, any day of the week, as long as you have a land-based spotter for safety reasons. There’s anominal annual membership and then its £5 for a swim. Alternatively, there are monthly timed swims/races of varying distances organised by the dive centre in partnership with MyEventTime. Capernwray is close to junction 35 of the M6 for easy access from the north or the south, and the dive centre boasts great facilities with a large car park, toilets, showers, changing rooms and a cafe for post-swim refreshments. Interestingly the high walls of the quarry are often used for filming, such as for an Emmerdale storyline amongst others. Be warned though you may come across some large but friendly fish, and don’t be spooked by the eerie pillars of rising bubbles from the scuba divers down in the below.
2) Pooley Bridge, Ullswater
The idyllic village of Pooley Bridge sits at the North Eastern end of Ullswater in the English Lake District, and is the site for the challenging ‘Day in the Lakes’ Triathlon each year. Although not the warmest lake in the area it is very scenic and while there are a few boats to watch out for including the relatively frequent Ullswater Steamer, it’s still pretty quiet. Having said that using a ‘Chill Swim (LINK)’ or other tow float may be useful. You can usually park for free at Park Foot Caravan and Camping Park and post-swim Pooley Bridge is only a short walk away with a good selection of quality cafes, shops and eateries. As an added bonus it’s not too far from the motorway meaning access is easy compared to some more remote areas of the Lake District.
Similarly to my top pick this is a former quarry come dive centre that now offers open water swimming. Again you can swim seven days a week with a summer late night option on a Wednesday, there’s a marked loop, a good sized car-park, showers, changing, toilets and a cafe. Oh, and divers and fish to watch out for. Basically an almost identical set-up to Capernwray with a biennial membership fee and the usual £5 per swim. For me personally though, Eccleston Delph doesn’t quite score as highly just because I love the crystal clear water of Capernwray and how fresh it feels.
4) Salford Quays
Salford Quays is probably the premier open water swimming destination in the Greater Manchester area. Practicality is key as its one of the only venues on my list with really good public transport links, so if you don’t drive you can still get there. That said it has plenty of parking, and also an unrivalled range of restaurants to enjoy before/after a swim. It’s an interesting venue right beside the vibrant MediaCity complex, with two sessions a week organised by uswim who offer changing facilities and bag storage, three sessions available with Great Swim Local and other sessions hosted by Salford Community Leisure – there’s plenty going on!
5) Coniston Water
Located towards the southern end of the Lake District Coniston Water is possibly most famous as the location of Donald Campbell’s 1967 attempt to break the world water speed record which tragically ended when his famous ‘Bluebird’ flipped and cartwheeled at 300mph resulting in his death. Despite the harrowing tale the lake is the third largest in the Lake District and offers a great place to head for open water. I’d again recommend a Chill Swim or equivalent, especially around the more popular Coniston Launch and Bluebird cafe close to Coniston village. Alternatively there are quieter more secluded bays at the southern end of the lake and you can swim to Peel Island, the basis for Arthur Ransome’s ‘Wild Cat Island’ in Swallows and Amazons. Just get out there and make your own adventure!
Situated at the Southern tip of Lake Windermere, the National Trust’s Fell Foot Park makes a great day out for the family. When it comes to swimming the water is relatively shallow meaning it can be a good place for your first dip. There are usually a few sailing boats around but the water tends to be calm and tranquil, close to where the River Leven flows out of Windermere towards Newby Bridge. As a designated National Trust site parking is not free but it is definitely a traditional Lake District beauty spot and well worth a visit.
7) Pennington Flash
The home of the swim section of Ironman UK Pennington Flash is located just South West of Leigh (between Bolton and Warrington) and offers open water swimming in three scheduled sessions a week. The Pennington Flash Country Park has free parking, showers and changing facilities and My Open Water Swim offer a range of membership options as well as wetsuit hire and novice swim coaching.
Derwent Water sits on the edge of the popular Crow Park at the popular Lake District ‘honeypot’ town of Keswick. As with any Lake District swimming venue the temperature can be cold, but the views are second to none! There are toilets and parking right beside the venue and a pleasant cafe at The Theatre by The Lake. The nearby Derwent Isle offers a realistic target to head for and swim around as a bit of a challenge, but again watch out for a few boats close to Keswick.
9) Rydal Water
Rydal water sits between Ambleside and Grasmere and for anyone wanting a little dose of adventure, in my opinion, it offers a more ‘wild swimming feel’. The length of the lake being around 1.1km means it can be a realistic challenge for many to swim end to end (and back again) which people find more interesting than simply swimming a small loop around buoys. The tranquil shoreline gives the whole place a calm feeling, although I’m sure on a bad day the weather can swiftly change that.
10) Red Tarn
If you’re after a true adventure for an open water dip then Red Tarn certainly offers something – you’ll have a long, uphill hike to reach the tarn which sit just beneath the spectacular Striding Edge and the imposing summit of Helvellyn. At over 700m elevation it is surely one of the highest lakes in the country, but the scenery and views over the Ullswater Valley are simply breathtaking. It’s unlikely to be particularly warm at any time of the year and with such a beautiful backdrop it’s no wonder Red Tarn is something of a ‘bucket list’ spot for wild swimmers. ”