Swimming

7 awesome wild swimming spots in the Peak District

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Written by Joe MinihanePublished on
From a dip in distant tarn to a plunge in a river with views of a stately home, these are the best wild swimming spots in the Peak District.
The Peak District may be one of the most landlocked parts of the UK but when it comes to wild swimming spots, there's plenty to offer.
In fact, the national park has some of the best river swims in the country, not to mention chilly tarns high on distant hills and a spectacular lido with a view acting as the ideal compromise for those less keen on wild water.
Whether you want a summer adventure or a blast of cold water therapy during the cooler months, these are the wild swim spots in the area that you don't want to miss.
Word of caution: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Swim England advises that only competent and experienced open water swimmers use this form of exercise, while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Check out the Swim England website for more information.

1. Chatsworth, River Derwent

Chatsworth House makes for a sumptuous backdrop
Chatsworth House makes for a sumptuous backdrop
Wild swims don’t come with swankier views than this. On a long sweep of the majestic River Derwent, this swim is all about Chatsworth House looming in the background and its surrounding park, designed by Capability Brown in the 1760s. The bank slides gently into the water, with a sandy bed that makes getting in and out nice and easy. The river here is wide, with ample room for a few adventurous swimmers.
Where to find it:
By car, you can drive to Chatsworth House, entering via the B6102 and park for £4 if you’re not planning on visiting the house. Head west to the stone bridge and cross the Derwent, before turning left and following the bank. The best swimming is found on this stretch.

2. Slippery Stones, Upper Derwent

Watch your footing - it isn't called Slippery Stone Bridge for nothing
Watch your footing - it isn't called Slippery Stone Bridge for nothing
Slippery Stones is a quintessentially English wild swimming spot. Found in the Upper Derwent Valley, it’s home to a deep pool full of icy, clear water, ideal for cooling off after a long day tramping in the hills. The visitor centre at Fairholmes is a handy stop off for picking up snacks for a post–swim picnic on the grassy banks that tumble down towards the water.
Where to find it:
Slippery Stones is a ‘reward swim’, accessible only on foot via a track that stretches from the Fairholmes car park along the eastern banks of Howden reservoir. Soak your bones after the six-mile stomp and head back via the path on the west side of the reservoir.

3. Mermaid’s Pool, Derbyshire

Mermaid's Pool is the ultimate spot for a drizzly mid–hike dip
Mermaid's Pool is the ultimate spot for a drizzly mid–hike dip
High up on the often-inhospitable Kinder Scout, Mermaid’s Pool is the ultimate spot for a drizzly mid–hike dip. To add to its allure outside of summer, anyone who sees the mermaid in the water at Easter is apparently guaranteed attain immortality. More likely you’ll get a hefty endorphin rush by tacking out to its deep centre, which some more spurious historical records reckon stretches all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Where to find it:
The Mermaid’s Pool can be found just off the main path towards the summit of Kinder Scout. The quickest route to follow heads west out of Hayfield past Kinder reservoir, following the path to the north. Make the swim part of a longer circuit via Kinder Low Trig Point and Jacob’s Ladder.

4. Black Mere Pool, Staffordshire

Black Mere Pool is said to be haunted by the ghost of a drowned witch
Black Mere Pool is said to be haunted by the ghost of a drowned witch
Like Mermaid’s Pool on Kinder Scout, Black Mere Pool is steeped in legend. It’s said to be bottomless and haunted by the ghost of a young woman drowned as a witch. Others say she was brought back from the sea by a local sailor. When you slide into its murky depths, it’s hard to suspend your disbelief. Keep your eye on the horizon and your mind will soon settle down.
Where to find it:
Drive north through Leek on the A53 and take a right onto Thorncliffe Road. Follow for around five miles until you see the pool, also known as Blake Mere, on your left. You can park here or make the swim part of a hike to the nearby Staffordshire Roaches.

5. Sparth Reservoir, Yorkshire

Sparth Reservoir is a historied open water swimming spot
Sparth Reservoir is a historied open water swimming spot
Don’t let the name deceive you: Sparth is more of a large pond than a reservoir. This popular spot close to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in the north of the Peak District was recently the site of a battle between swimmers and waterway officials, who wanted to ban swimming. The locals, with the backing of the Outdoor Swimming Society, won out in 2017, citing the fact kids once learned to swim here. In fact, taking a safe dip in Sparth dates back decades.
Where to find it:
Park at Marsden train station and walk east along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, crossing the canal a mile out of the village to reach Sparth’s lower bank. Walk back into Marsden for a drink or go for a stroll in the surrounding moors.

6. Three Shires Head, River Dane

This stretch of the River Dane has some of the purest bathing in the Peaks
This stretch of the River Dane has some of the purest bathing in the Peaks
This is a picturesque gem. Beneath a grade II listed pack horse bridge, and apparently where the counties of Derbyshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire all meet, this stretch of the River Dane has some of the purest bathing in the Peaks. The water is clear, peaty and cold, flowing straight off the hills. The plunge pools and waterfalls make it perfect for adventurers and those keen on an alternative to lengthy sessions of front crawl.
Where to find it:
This swim spot is best reached on foot. You can park at The Cat and Fiddle pub on the A537 Buxton Road (provided you buy something from their takeaway shop first), before following the path over the moors, looking for signs to Three Shires Head. You don’t have to retrace your steps, instead following the route around Cat–Thon Hill which brings you back to the pub for a well-earned beverage.

7. Hathersage Pool, Hathersage

Hathersage Pool is the ideal compromise for swimmers who want an outdoor dip without feeling the chill of icy water shoot up their legs as they slide into a river. Heated and open throughout the year, this small lido has stunning views of the surrounding peaks, not to mention a café serving up post–swim treats. Ideal if you want a swimming workout while feeling the cool air on your back as you plough out your best front crawl.
Where to find it:
The pool is in the middle of Hathersage, with parking available opposite its entrance on Oddfellows Road. Adventurers should seek out Outside Hathersage Café (which doubles up as an outdoor clothing and kit outlet) for hearty meals and tips on the best caving and potholing expeditions in the nearby hill.