The Peak District National Park covers 555 square miles across the counties of Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and Cheshire. Nestled between Manchester and Sheffield, this beautiful area of England is full of quaint villages, beautiful countryside, and bodies of open water, just waiting for you to swim in.
The rural nature of the Peak District means that many of the swimming spots on this list are only accessible as part of a countryside walk. It’s also important to note that none of the spots on this list are supervised by lifeguards. Therefore, it’s vital that you’re aware of the dangers of open water and how to stay safe.
What do you need?
To be safe when swimming in open water, you need to have the right equipment with you. It’s essential that you’re visible when in the water so that rescue teams can find you quickly in an emergency. Wearing a bright coloured swim cap and bringing a tow float or dry bag with you will help to make you stand out in the water.
The British weather isn’t always known for being hot and sunny, even in the summer. After your swim in cold open water, you need to be able to dry off and warm up. As many of these swims will be part of a longer countryside walk, it’s handy to bring a lightweight towel in a lightweight bag. It’s also useful to have a warm hat to put on after your swim.
Where to swim?
Just outside of Buxton is the Chee Dale walk along the River Wye. This walk through the gorge takes you across some magical stepping stones and past some stunning wild swimming spots. We recommend wearing some water shoes on your walk so that you can paddle in the shallow areas as well as enjoying your swims in the deeper areas of the river.
On its journey through the countryside, the River Derwent flows through the grounds of Chatsworth House. As well as being a beautiful place for a day out with the family exploring the stately home, the park grounds, and enjoying a picnic, this is also a great place for an outdoor swim. With parts of the river having a shallow side and a deeper side, it’s easy to enter and exit the river. This also creates the ideal place for you to enjoy a swim in the deeper area while your little ones enjoy paddling in the shallower area.
Three Shires Head
The Three Shires Head pinpoints where the three counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Derbyshire meet. The River Dane flows through this point with a collection of beautiful waterfalls and pools that are ideal for a summer wild swim. The water rolls straight off the hills meaning it’s beautifully clear but you also need to be prepared for it to be quite cold.
This swim spot is accessed along the Three Shires Head circular walk. There are different distances you can walk to reach the waterfalls and pools but we recommend the 3.8 mile walk from Gradbach car park.
Along the River Bradford in the village of Youlgreave, there is an area specifically designated for wild swimming. This is a great location for swimming alone, with friends, or even with children thanks to the stone slabs creating a paddling area. However, it is important that you only swim in the designated swimming area. In terms of parking, there are only a limited number of parking spaces in the village, so we think it’s better to park at Moor Lane car park (which is a mile walk away from the swim area).
In the north of the Derwent Valley area, before the River Derwent flows through Howden Reservoir, Upper Derwent Reservoir, and Ladybower Reservoir, is the Slippery Stones wild swimming plunge pool. Although this pool only has a small swimming area and you need to be wary of the currents, it’s a beautiful spot to stop off for a swim while on your walk around the three reservoirs.
Blake Mere Pool
To the north-east of Leek, surrounded by moorland, is an open water swimming pool full of mystery. The story goes that a woman lives in the lake. Some say that she is the ghost of a drowned witch, whereas others say she is a mermaid. However, this pool is not to be confused with Mermaid’s Pool near Kinder Scout which is also thought to be home to a mermaid but is more difficult to access.