To some, it may seem pretentious to call swimming “wild” swimming. They are mistaken, however, in thinking all swimming opportunities are created equal. Wild swimming is the difference between taking a dip in a chlorinated leisure centre pool and plunging into a pristine lake in the middle of nowhere.
One is convenient and makes your eyes sting—the other is an immersion in vitality.
In the 21st Century we are more disconnected from the natural world than ever before. Our lives are split between offices, cars, public transport, supermarkets, and home. These synthetic environments keep us from our primal selves. No greenery, no elements.
When we do venture out of our comfort zones briefly, we snap a photo and move on to the next Instagrammable sight. We rush to consume the world as quickly as possible. This detachment from nature is depressing us. Wild swimming is an antidote to sterile living and a recapturing of our forgotten, but not lost, sense of childhood adventure.
The Peak District is a haven for wild swimming. Now is your chance to get off the beaten track and feel passionately alive. Here are five spots to get you started.
BLACK MERE POOL, STAFFORDSHIRE
Up on the moors near the quaintly named town of Leek is an isolated pool. A small wellspring surrounded by rippling upland grasses and swirling fog (sometimes). Black Mere Pool is a place steeped in legend.
One of these legends claims the pool is bottomless; a watery abyss reaching down to the depths of the Earth. Disconcerting as this is science has shown it to be approximately six feet deep. Another legend tells of the roving ghost of a drowned witch…
Macabre stories aside, Black Mere is a wonderful wild swimming spot with vast views of the lowlands.
MERMAID’S POOL, DERBYSHIRE
Mermaid’s Pool is high up on Kinder Scout, a wind scoured moorland plateau, and like Black Mere, is rife with tales. It is said to offer healing qualities for bathers and despite its landlocked location is home to a mermaid.
Rumours say the water is salty, because it is connected to the Atlantic via an underground passage. Perhaps this is how the mermaid appeared? Quite the journey. This mermaid can grant eternal life, a skill which is in decline. Make sure to turn up at midnight on Easter to be in with a chance of seeing her. Or go anytime you feel and have the calming waters destress you. Let others go on a mythical mermaid chase.
RIVER DERWENT, CHATSWORTH
Where better for a soothing swim than in the shadow of Chatsworth House, thought to be the inspiration for Pemberley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The neatly clipped lawn in front of Chatsworth leads up to the banks of the River Derwent, lined by lush trees. A quintessentially English place to swim and perhaps not so wild as it is romantic. Why not take a picnic hamper to enjoy afterwards?
SLIPPERY STONES, UPPER DERWENT
Nothing beats plunging into a deep pool after trekking over the moors. An instant way to cool off and cleanse yourself of sweat and toil. This is many people’s favourite Peak District swimming spot. There’s ample space for picnicking and relaxing, with nothing but the fluttering breeze and lilt of rushing water for company. There’s also the Fairholmes visitor’s centre on the way, for any last-minute supplies.
THREE SHIRES HEAD, RIVER DANE
At the confluence of three counties way up in the peaks, is a remarkably attractive place to swim. Discover a whispering waterfall, beyond an ancient stone bridge, tumbling amongst ferny rocks. All nestled in a steep sided valley, cleft from rugged heights. The water here is peaty, clear, and chilly. Come with cobwebs and leave with clarity.
MAKE THE MOAT HOUSE YOUR WILD SWIMMING BASE
At the Moat House we’re only an hour’s drive from the edge of the beautiful Peak District. You could be refreshing yourself in a crystal stream at lunchtime and be back with us in time for a luxury dinner and a blissful sleep. Mix wild with indulgence, for the best of both worlds.