Wild Swimming in the Peak District: Best Spots & Tips

Wild swimming is an invigorating experience that connects you with nature. Although it’s banned at most Peak District lakes and reservoirs some of the best spots are still available. Each offer unparalleled beauty, chilly waters, and natural wildlife. And while there’s something for everyone, each unique location was chosen with safety and relaxation in mind.

River Derwent, Chatsworth park

River Derwent waterfall at Chatsworth

Derwent river runs through the Chatsworth Estate, one of the most visited places in the Peak District. This is the best spot for wild swimming because it’s easily accessible, has plenty of space, and the water depth in some areas is ideal for diving in for a good swim. Officially, Chatsworth House states not to wild swim in the park due to the potential danger of sharp debris, currents, and disruption to wildlife but the river remains commonplace for visitors swimming. For extra safety you can take some swimming shoes since visibility is obscured in the brown water and you never know what rubbish has blown into it. Chatsworth park is free to roam. You’ll want to find the pool area with a mini waterfall and surrounding rocks. Amateur swimmers shouldn’t venture much further out as the water levels, while usually around 1.5-1.8 metres, can sometimes get 3 metres deep, with a record of 5 metres in 2019.

Mermaid's Pool, Kinder Scout

Mermaid's pool

Mermaid’s pool is a popular wild swimming spot in the Peak District. It captures the spirit of the wilderness situated on a hill in Kinder Scout. Getting there requires a scenic hike but allows you to enjoy a good splash without swimming ban enforcements you may find at lakes and reservoirs. This crater of water is shallow around the edge and no more than 6 feet in depth during the wettest periods. There’s enough room for small groups to swim around but can also be occupied by other visitors, some who camp for the night. Though most are friendly and won’t mind you showing up. The low temperature is often ideal for cold water swimming while the surface is boggy so it feels like you sink into the ground, but hey, that’s nature! Unless you’re unfortunate enough to encounter remnants someone has left behind, it’s pretty safe to walk in barefoot.

Little Barbrook reservoir, Bar Brook

Little Barbrook reservoir

Barbrook reservoir was owned by Severn Trent but eventually discontinued and drained. Luckily, downstream remains a smaller area known as Little Bar Brook reservoir, kept intact with natural habitats in mind. Although hazards exist such as an outflow or potential for hidden debris and weed entanglements, it’s a safer alternative to active reservoirs (which enforce a swimming ban) because there’s less risk of underwater currents without pumping machinery and pipes in use. Also, Peak District reservoirs can go 31 metres deep but Barbrook reaches just over 8 metres towards the middle when full. This means you can do long swims while being easier to spot if assistance is needed. This pool has shallow edges that provide extra safety for getting in and out but this is only a spot for highly competent adult wild swimmers who visit in groups. Stay on top of the water as there’s no visibility underneath. Wildlife has returned to this site in recent years so take extra care to avoid disrupting ducks, geese, and water vole nests.

Three Shires Head, Axe Edge Moor

Three Shires Head

If you’re looking to make a splash and relax in a picture-perfect water spot, three shires head is hard to beat. It boasts mini cascading waterfall streams to bathe under and elevated ground to jump into the pools. The water is deep enough for lower body immersion, making it fun for families and laying in during the summer. Water colour varies but is usually clearer than other areas, which is much more inviting and you can see what you’re stepping on. It’s best to go around 5pm or 2pm to avoid excess people in the summer.

Slippery Stones, Derwent Valley

Located in Derwent valley, at the top of Derwent reservoir, an iconic stream called Slippery Stones sits between some small hills and forestation. It’s a picturesque spot with ample grasslands for a picnic, and more importantly, features a small pool area with enough depth for a wild swim. While you can’t dive in head first, there’s plenty of space to jump in and make a splash. As the name suggests, be careful for rocks in and around the water. You can get some breaststrokes in and full body immersion for a relaxing paddle. It’s a better dip and not as busy as three shires but is still be a hotspot during peak times, especially in summer. Accessibility can be difficult by car on weekends and walking may take a while so cycling is the best option for this wild swimming spot.

Bradford river, Youlgreave

Just below Youlgreave the River Bradford sits in Bradford Dale. The cleaning area was repurposed into a dedicated swimming area. This is the best wild swimming spot for kids. The water is deep enough for exposure and a gentle swim. Notably, the water is some of the clearest you’ll find in the Peak District so it’s safe for watching your step. It’s not recommended for dogs as the edge is too high to climb out but kids won’t have a problem standing up and to lift themselves up. It can get crowded in the summer so expect to share in warm weather and outside early hours.