The Go Wild Go West blog

Cold water swimming in Somerset

Love it or hate it, cold water swimming is really, really good for you. It’s the ultimate mood lifter, great for the body and most importantly, awesome fun!

In Somerset, there are many places to enjoy cold water swimming; especially where I live near Bristol and Bath. Like wild swimming, cold water swimming involves dipping into a local river or quarry lake, or it may be swimming in a man-made lido. Either way, as the name suggests, the water is cold and this is the charm.

Will cold water swimming be on your 2024 adventure bucket list?

open water swimming
diving in!

Cold Water Swimming in Somerset

Here we explore the 6 best places to go cold water swimming in Somerset (within 1 hour drive from Bristol/Bath). These places are great to visit for a cold water dip or wild swim all year round.

If you’re looking for more wild swimming suggestions, check out our top 5 wild swimming spots in Somerset

1. Vobster Quay

  • Cold water swimming
  • Year-round
  • Members (& guests) only

Vobster Quay is a brilliant place for cold water swimming. There is a marked swim route with different ‘exit points’ allowing you to be flexible in how far you want to swim.

I’ve always been slightly sceptical about the concept of paying to swim in open water but the benefits can really be enjoyed here. It’s never over-crowded as numbers are managed via membership and a strict booking system. In return for a £45 annual membership (plus £5 each time you swim), you can swim all year round in beautifully clear, cool waters. There are lifeguards on duty, a café serving food and hot drinks, plus heated changing rooms and showers (luxury!)

The barbed wire fence surrounding the quay is always off-putting when entering but inside is a tranquil place of beauty. I’ve swum alongside grazing deer on the water’s edge, and had a grebe diving beside me. The occasional bubble explosion from the divers below may be a little unnerving at first but you quickly get used to it!

vobster quay cold water swimming
Vobster Quay

2. River Parrett, Muchelney/Cocklemoor

  • Cold water & wild swimming
  • Year round but pontoons taken away in winter
  • Free access to all!

This is a beautiful spot for a bit of cold, wild swimming. Set amongst the backdrop of the Somerset Levels, this stretch of the River Parrett is deep and long enough to enjoy a proper swim.

It’s also lovely to see a Town Council that are aiming to encourage water sports. There are steps and a pontoon down into the water at Cocklemoor to start your swim or to launch your kayak or SUP. At Muchelney, there’s a pontoon with steps.

*the pontoons are removed during winter but the river is still accessible (if a little more challenging to get in and out).

Muchelney and Cocklemoor are connected via the River Parrett Trail which has plenty of picnic spots. One of my favourite places for wild swimming in Somerset.

wild swimming in Somerset
Swimming near Muchelney Abbey

3. Cleveland Pools, Bath

  • Cold water swimming
  • Pay-as-you-go
  • Year-round

Cleveland Pools was first built in 1815 and is the UK’s oldest public outdoor swimming pool. Under threat of demolition, local campaigners have fought to restore and protect the pools – and with great success!

Great news is that Cleveland Pools have re-opened from September 2023!! Make sure you book up in advance and check access information.

cleveland pool
Courtesy of Cleveland Pools

4. River Avon, Bradford-on-Avon and Avoncliff

  • Cold water and wild swimming
  • All year round
  • Free access

Technically in Wiltshire, this is such a beautiful stretch of river and perfect for a long, cold water swim that I temporarily forgot about county boundaries.

There are multiple points to access the river between Bradford-on-Avon and Avoncliff. You may want to hop in by the weir at Avoncliff – stopping for a play on the rope swing- or by the Tithe barn at Bradford-on-Avon… The river is so deep and enjoyable that you can even swim between the two.

SUP and kayaking are possible too.

Stop for a pint and a bowl of chips at the riverside Cross Guns pub to celebrate your swim.

Thoroughly enjoyable for a wild, cold water swim in both summer and winter (and everything in between).

If you prefer swimming in company there are many swim groups to join here. Check out Go With the Flo Swimming Adventures and the Wiltshire Wild Swim network.

wild swimming somerset
image courtesy of canva (because mine were all rubbish!)

5. Clevedon Marine Lake

  • Cold water swimming
  • Free access but please donate an entry fee
  • All year round (except for organised closures)

This tidal marine lake seems to have a bad reputation. Many people worry about cleanliness and potential illness from the water. Personally, I’ve been many times and always enjoyed a fantastic cold-water swim.

Clevedon Marine Lake is a tidal infinity pool filled with seawater, built on the shores of Bristol Estuary. The views are incredible. Given how limited we are for sea-swimming here in Somerset, this is a fantastic compromise as the salty water and sea views feel like the real thing.

It can be busy at peak times so worth venturing to the lake early morning or in the evening… I’d highly recommend enjoying the sunset whilst swimming.

SUP possible too.

It’s a brisk change out of your swimming gear on the side of the lake but only a short walk to the car park behind. Take a thermos of tea and enjoy the views out to sea from the rocks after your cold water swim.

clevedon marine lake
Clevedon Marine Lake

6. River Frome, Farleigh Hungerford

  • Cold water and wild swimming
  • Annual membership (£12 per adult, £25 for a family)
  • Access May – September

Farleigh Hungerford is the last British river swimming club in the UK and it’s very popular. Since my kids were young, this has been our favourite place for a cold water swim on a sunny day.

Parking is easy in the entrance field, then it’s a hop, skip and jump through to the beautifully manicured lawns – perfect for a picnic and a sun bathe.

The club is adjacent to the old weir which creates a shallow stretch where children can paddle. Tip toe further out and the river is beautifully deep with a great length to swim under the shade of the trees. There is wildlife aplenty and you’ll likely be joined by a number of dragonflies as you go. There’s a diving board for the brave and even a tree to leap from further upstream.

With plenty of space spread across a number of fields and a long stretch of river, this is a fantastic place for wild, cold water swimming.

When the club is closed, there are numerous other spots along the Frome that you can find to jump in for a winter swim.

Stowford Manor Farm campsite is in the neighbouring fields which is both a great campsite and serves a cracking cream tea. Dreamy days.

swimming farleigh hungerford
Farleigh Hungerford Swim Club

Listen to this fantastic podcast about the benefits of wild swimming

*cold water and wild swimming carry certain risks. Please read safety guides before swimming and stay safe

Looking to find your own secret wild swimming spots? We’ve been inspired by the Wild Swimming Guide filled with hidden natural pools, beautiful rivers and epic coastal swims. Check it out here.

wild swimming

*I have used and enjoyed the Wild Guide book series for years and I hope you will too. Though I take an affiliate commission for each book sale from my website, this helps cover the running costs of Go Wild Go West.

Love wild swimming? Find out more…