© Chris Warren.
10 UK waterfalls you absolutely need to swim in
As if wild swimming wasn’t cool enough – try it under these beauties.
Waterfalls are one of nature’s most magical spectacles, and we’ve got a spectacular selection right here in the UK. Even better, the pools they plunge into make fantastic spots for a wild swim. We dive into the Wild Swimming guide and pick out ten of our favourites.
1. Falling Foss, Yorkshire
Best for: Swimming in a fairytale forest
Wind your way through this magical woodland in Yorkshire’s far east, passing a pretty tea garden en-route to this 10m falls – or, if you’re feeling lazy, you could pull over in the nearby car-park. Pick your way across the shingle beach, then paddle in the shallows or sink into the depths and feel the spray of the falls on your face.
2. Double falls, Cumbria
Where: Rydal Bower, Ambleside
Best for: A waterfall with literary connections
Wander down the lane past William Wordsworth’s former home of Rydal Mount (a route the poet himself often walked) until you reach Coffin Road, where the dead were once carried from Ambleside to Grasmere. Follow the signposted trail to Rydal Falls and pick between two cascades and pools for your dip – the second fall is the most impressive.
3. Rhaeadr Mawddach, Gwynedd
Best for: A mountain biking and wild swim combo
Accessible from Coed-y-Brenin bike park, this well-known waterfall powers into a large plunge pool that wets the goldmine ruins on the River Mawddach. It's perfect for a refreshing dip after sweating it out on the mountain bike trails. Do take care of the turbulent waters when levels are high, though. Wander upstream to find the smaller Pistyll Cain falls.
4. Galleny Force, Cumbria
Best for: A weekend of camping, waterfalls and wild swims
Roll up your towel and follow the gurgling waters of Langstrath Beck to dip your toes in two sets of small but striking cascades. Surrounded by ferns and ancient rowan trees, this is a great spot for picnics, plunging and paddling. Make a weekend of it and stay 20 minutes’ walk away at Stonethwaite Campsite.
5. Lady Falls, Powys
Best for: Multiple dips along a watercourse
The River Fechan has a super stash of waterfalls, with Lady Falls the best-known. Brave the climb behind this 10m cascade before heading east to the crescent-shaped Horseshoe Falls to fling yourself into the top pool from the cliffs and overhanging tree. After, head to Pontneddfechan’s Angel Inn for a post-plunge pint.
6. Llanberis falls, Snowdonia
Best for: The perfect end to a summit hike in summer
Climb the highest peak in Wales, Snowdon, then make your way back down the Watkin Path and cool off in this series of pools and falls. Particularly popular on sunny days, there are several more to seek out, including the spectacular Llanberis falls which sit a few hundred metres upriver from Llanberis town.
7. St Nectan’s Waterfall, Cornwall
Best for: Sacred swimming
A unique location with a narrow waterfall, this holy place features a shrine room and hermitage café (with an entrance fee). Set near a wild glen, St Nectan’s pours into a plunge pool (the kieve) that’s perfect for swimming. Further downstream, towards the sea, the waterfall pools at Rocky Valley are also well worth a wander.
8. Falls of Falloch, Perthshire
Best for: A natural swimming pool fed by dramatic falls
It’s hard to decide which is more impressive, the huge falls or the natural swimming pool in this pretty glen. Known as Rob Roy’s bathtub, you can splash, swim, dunk and dive to your heart’s content. Nearby, the historic Drover’s Inn at Inverarnan is the place to head for après-swim ale.
9. Plodda Falls, Highlands
Best for: Powerful falls with a dramatic descent
In Glen Affric reserve, follow the forest path past Douglas Firs and peer down on Scotland's second-highest waterfall. Next, slip and scramble your way into the canyon where this 46m cascade empties into a pool that’s deep enough for diving. The pool is sprayed by mist and surrounded by a ruined Victorian viewing platform.
10. Witch's Cauldron, Highlands
Best for: Easy access by car
An ideal ‘park and plunge’ site, these falls and pools lie east of Loch Arkaig, and can be seen from the road (B8005). Known locally as Eas Chia-aig, the 7.5m fall was used as a setting in the film adaptation of Rob Roy (1995). The first pool by the bridge is the deepest and largest.
Discover more waterfalls and swim spots in Wild Swimming: 300 hidden dips in the rivers, lakes and waterfalls of Britain by Daniel Start @wildswimming.