Fancy wild swimming in the Yorkshire Dales national park? While the Yorkshire Dales may not have as many wild swimming spots as the nearby Lake District, there are still plenty of places for a dip! From amazing waterfall wild swims to spectacular riverside locations, here are 18 wild swimming spots in the Yorkshire Dales national park. This article also contains a few places on where you shouldn’t wild swim in the Yorkshire Dales!
- Where you should and shouldn’t wild swim in the Yorkshire Dales
- Safety tips for wild swimming in the Yorkshire Dales
- Amazing wild swimming spots in the Yorkshire Dales
- Map of Wild Swimming Spots in the Yorkshire Dales
- Further Yorkshire Dales wild swimming research
Where you should and shouldn’t wild swim in the Yorkshire Dales
When initially looking at a map of the Yorkshire Dales, you may be surprised to not see as many bodies of water like in the neighbouring Lake District. This is due to the geology of the Yorkshire Dales. Due to the limestone, much of the water in the dales can be found under the ground in huge caves and caverns. The land is quite boggy and porous which made it hard for lakes to form after the ice age. There are actually only two natural ‘lakes’ in the dales, Semer Water and Malham Tarn. Malham Tarn exists due to sitting on a bed of slate rather than limestone. There are lots of smaller tarns but these can be quite murky. Furthermore, there are quite a few reservoirs and rivers in the Dales.
If you do want to visit Malham, check out this one day itinerary in the Yorkshire Dales which includes a visit to Malham.
There are quite a few places to go for a wonderful wild swim however you should still be aware of where you can and can’t swim. Scroll down to see the list of the best wild swimming spots in the Yorkshire Dales, but just before you do make sure to take note of places that you should not swim in the dales!
Firstly, please do not swim in Malham Tarn. Malham Tarn is one of the few upland alkaline lakes in Europe. It is home to endangered white-clawed crayfish and is a designated site of special scientific interest and conservation. If you swim in it, you can bring in foreign bacteria which can harm the wildlife. Let’s protect the lake and choose another wild swimming spot in the Yorkshire Dales instead.
Secondly, don’t swim in the reservoirs in the Yorkshire Dales. Every reservoir is different but many have dams, machinery, Aerators and towers which can be very hazardous to wild swimmers. They can also be quite deep meaning they rarely warm up. While they may look very tempting on a hot summers day please don’t swim in the reservoirs in the Yorkshire Dales.
Thirdly, the strid! You may have heard of the strid. If you haven’t you may be surprised to learn that this stream in the Yorkshire Dales is one of the deadliest rivers in the world! The River Wharfe is a great place to go for a wild swim in the Yorkshire Dales. Just make sure you choose the right part of the River Wharfe for a paddle! The Strid is located between Bolton Abbey and Barden. The River Wharfe goes from being around 16m wide to just 2m as it is pushed downwards by hard rocks. This causes strong undercurrents. People sometimes try to jump across, not knowing the danger beneath. Just be aware if you are swimming around Barden not to get too close!
Safety tips for wild swimming in the Yorkshire Dales
A few of the safety tips for wild swimming in the Yorkshire Dales were mentioned above. As with all wild swimming spots in the UK, there are a few things to be careful of.
If it is your first wild swimming trip, see if you can go with a friend or even better someone who has been on a wild swimming dip before. Great places to find people to swim with include these Facebook groups:
You can also go on a guided wild swim with The Dales Dipper
Otherwise, be sensible on your wild swim. Avoid rivers after heavy rain or snow as the currents can be very strong. Similarly, with waterfalls, be careful of debris coming over the waterfall.
The water, unsurprisingly, is quite cold for most of the year meaning you need to watch out for hypothermia and making sure you warm up afterwards. Many of these spots can be a way away from a carpark so bare that in mind that you will need to walk a way after your dip!
Watch out for things like cramps, weeds, blue-green algae and slippery rocks.
Amazing wild swimming spots in the Yorkshire Dales
Janet’s Foss is a classic wild swimming spot in the Yorkshire Dales national park. In fact, it may even be a little too popular!
Janet’s Foss is a beautiful Yorkshire waterfall close to the idyllic village of Malham. Said to be home to Janet, the queen of the fairies, who lives behind the waterfall, this is an enchanting Yorkshire Dales spot! Popular year round with wild swimmers, this is a lovely place for a dip. You may also recognise the spot from the recent channel 4 programme of “All creatures great and small”
If you are looking for an atmospheric wild swimming spot in the Yorkshire Dales, look no further than the magnificent waterfall and gorge of Catrigg Force.
Catrigg Force is close to the village of Stainforth and not far from Settle. Do take care on the rocks as they can be quite slippy.
Even if it looks a little too slippy for you, it is a great Yorkshire dales hike!
Firstly, if you are worried about the name, don’t be. The eel pool doesn’t actually contain any eels!
The eel pool is in Stainforth, not far from Stainforth force. This is a lovely place to swim.
This wild swimming spot in the Yorkshire Dales is very popular in summer and it is easy to see why. Dramatic cliffs are on one side of the River Wharfe making it great fun to jump from. Even walkers admire this stretch of the wharfe so why not jump in for a dip yourself?
Stainforce Force is another popular swimming spot in the Yorkshire dales in summer, especially with children given its proximity to a caravan site.
Stainforce Force is a lovely waterfall which consists of a series of little pools which are great for paddling in.
The River Dee offers some much quieter wild swimming spots in the Yorkshire Dales for those looking to escape the crowds. Located in Dentdale, one of the loveliest dales in the national park, the river runs under Dent Head viaduct through Dent & Cowgill before joining the river Rawthey in Sedbergh. Particularly interesting spots include Ibbeth Peril home to the local witch Ibby and Hell’s cauldron. Do be careful though as both of these require some scrambling to reach.
If you are looking for a lake to swim in rather than a river then Semerwater in the northern part of the Yorkshire Dales is perfect for you! After Malham Tarn, Semerwater is the biggest lake in the national park. As you cannot swim in Malham Tarn, Semerwater is the place for a wild swimming lake dip!
Semerwater is about half a mile long meaning there is plenty of space for a good swim. There is also a pay and display car park making access easier.
The Devil’s bridge can be included in our list of the best wild swimming spots in the Yorkshire Dales as it is situated within the national park boundary – just!
While this spot is called Devil’s bridge, you will actually be swimming under the bridge! Located in Kirkby Lonsdale on the river Lune this is a very picturesque spot for a wild swim! Again, please be careful after heavy rain.
Cotter Force is a lovely waterfall and very easy to reach due to the accessible path from Holme Heads Bridge.
Thornton Force is a very impressive waterfall on the Ingleton waterfall trail. While this is one of the more expensive wild swims in the Yorkshire Dales (entrance to the trail costs around £7) it is worth it!
The towering waterfall thunders as you splash about in the pool. You will make the other walkers who did not bring their swimming kit jealous!
A lovely wild swimming spot can be found in Appletreewick. This was my first ever wild swim in the Yorkshire dales. I still remember the lovely warm August sunshine on my face as I dipped my toes into the cold waters of the wharfe.
Appletreewick is a lovely village and it has a lovely section of the Wharfe. Popular with families due to fairly shallow parts and the proximity to a caravan site, it is a lovely Yorkshire dales wild swimming spot.
Redmire Force are in Wensleydale further downstream from Aysgarth Falls. Not too popular making this a very peaceful spot for a dip
Wain Wath Force
This wide waterfall is located on the River Swale. It can be a lovely place for a paddle but after heavy rain can be quite murky.
Cautley Spout is the tallest waterfall in England! Located in the wonderful Howgills, a walk up the steep path next to Cautley Spout takes you up to several shallow plunge pools. An idyllic place for a little dip. Just be careful not to get too close to the main drop and fall down the waterfall!
Barden is one of the prettiest villages in the Yorkshire Dales with its lovely cottages, picturesque bridge and gorgeous scenery. The Wharfe is fairly wide at this spot making it a great place for a dip.
Kisdon Force is a wonderful waterfall is Swaledale. Located in a woody gorge, there are two main drops and both have plunge pools. It can be great to jump in too!
Take care after rain as the path down to the gorge can be quite muddy!
Fancy swimming at the foot of England’s highest unbroken waterfall? Well head to the pub! This waterfall is located behind the Green Dragon pub meaning there is a small entrance fee. It is very fresh and be careful of debris coming off the waterfall. Otherwise, what a wild spot to swim in!
Our final wild swimming spot in the Yorkshire Dales is Grassington Weir. There are various cascades and plunge pools on this section of the River Wharfe. For those looking to slide rather than swim, you can bring a rubber ring and slide down the Grassington Weir!
Map of Wild Swimming Spots in the Yorkshire Dales
If you are not too sure where all of these wild swimming spots are, use the handy map below! This includes the location of all 18 of the best wild swimming spots in the Yorkshire Dales.
If you would like to find more wild swimming spots in the North of England, check out this book called “Wild Guide Lakes & Dales“. It’s a lovely to just flick through and plan your next wild swimming adventure!
Where would you like to go on a wild swim in the Yorkshire Dales?
I hope this list has inspired you to seek out a Yorkshire Dales wild swimming spot! Have I missed your favourite wild swimming spot in the Yorkshire Dales? Let me know and I’ll add it in!