The definitive guide to caravanning and wild swimming

Wild swimming beach below Berwick Caravan Park

By Emma Dodd

Wild swimming is becoming increasingly popular and it’s a great hobby to combine with your love of caravanning. After all, what could be better than coming back and warming yourself up with a nice hot cuppa in your van after taking a dip in the sea, a lake or tarn.

Wild swimming kit

One of the best things about wild swimming is that you don’t need lots of specialist equipment to do it. A swimming costume and some warm clothes to put on afterwards is enough. But like all hobbies there is a lot of kit you can invest in if you’re going to take it for the long-term.

Swimming shoes are a good first purchase, as they make getting in and out on rough surfaces easier. A bobble hat and neoprene gloves will keep you warm if you decide to swim through winter. You may decide to buy a wetsuit, but there’s plenty of wild swimmers who enjoy the cold water at all times of the year in just a swimming costume.

Recently, swimming robes have become very popular, with the large baggy ponchos representing a handy way to dry off and get changed on beaches or lakesides. Finally, a tow float is a sensible idea if you’re going in alone, as these brightly-coloured buoys bob along behind you so you can be easily spotted in the water.

Swimming safe

There are a number of safety issues to consider when embarking on a wild swim. These include tides, the depth of the water and obstructions. Never jump into a body of water when you don’t know what lies beneath and always have a clear plan for your entry and exit points.

Even in the summer months, all of the UK’s bodies of water are classed as cold and cold water shock can be dangerous. It’s important to acclimatise and September is a good time to start swimming as the water is at its warmest. If you keep swimming as it slowly drops in temperature you will find it easier to adjust.

The cold water response includes involuntary gasping for air, rapid breathing and your heart beating faster. This can be dangerous if you’re not in control of the situation, so go in slowly and give yourself time to adjust before you get out of your depth.

Don’t stay in too long, especially during the winter months. A wild swim only needs to be a few minutes long to energise you and set you up for the day. Follow the advice of the Outdoor Swimming Society.

The pleasures of wild swimming

Wild swimming offers a unique perspective on your surroundings, allowing you to enjoy nature’s beauty away from the crowd. It’s an opportunity to pause and understand the fundamental needs of your body. Many swimmers talk about the buzz they feel afterwards, as the blood returns to the cooler parts of their bodies and their minds seem sharper. Finding a good wild swimming spot close to where you’ve pitched your caravan is like discovering hidden treasure.

Warming up after your swim

Getting warm again is really important and your caravan will be a great help in this. Get changed out of your swimming kit, get dry and bundle up in lots of clothes. Put the kettle on for a hot drink. Don’t underestimate the after drop, which is when the cold blood from your extremities starts flowing into the rest of your body and suddenly your core feels cooler. Hot chocolate and tea are good for warming you up from the inside.

Best caravan sites for wild swimming

There are lots of ways to combine caravanning with wild swimming, but if you’re keen to make it central to your trip, you may want to pitch up at one of these sites:

  • Glenbrittle Campsite – located on the shores of Loch Brittle and at the foot of the Cuillins on the Isle of Skye, this site is a good place from which to set off for the iconic Fairy Pools.
  • Berwick Holiday Park – Northumberland’s coastline is dotted with sea swimming opportunities and this caravan site sits just above a sheltered bay.
  • Cambridge Camping and Caravanning Club Site – close to the River Cam, which has a number of good places to get in for a dip. Follow in Lord Byron’s footsteps by swimming from Grantchester Meadows.
  • Trafford’s Caravan Site – situated near to Bassenthwaite Lake, which is quieter and warmer than some of the others in the Lake District.
  • Tregurrian Club Site – explore the sea swimming possibilities along Cornwall’s coast from this site near Treyarnon Bay.