The Boulter’s to Bray swim, Maidenhead
A swim with a side-helping of London history, the Boulter’s to Bray started in the 19th century, when it was a race organised by Maidenhead Swimming Club. Boulter’s Lock, a Victorian swimming and boating spot, is the starting point. The swim heads downstream, passes under the 13-arched Maidenhead Bridge and past Guards Club Island, where the British army guards brigade had a club for punting and rowing. It then continues under Brunel’s ingenious Sounding Arch railway bridge to the finish. This stretch of the Thames is known as “millionaires’ row”, but you don’t need to be part of the super-elite to take part in this swim, and it’s ideal for beginners, too, taking place along a narrow, quiet stretch of river. Afterwards, watch the swish rivercraft from the terrace at The Boathouse at Boulter’s Lock, or take a picnic to Ray Mill Island.
3 July, tickets on sale in May, distances: 1.4km and 2.8km, £31-£35, wetsuits mandatory, boulterstobrayswim.org
Outdoor Swimmer Henley swim festival, Henley-on-Thames
The Henley swim festival takes place at Temple Island Meadows, a scenic spot and location for the Henley royal regatta (the course takes the same route). There are several swim events, a pool for practising technique, swim gear for sale, as well as a pizza barge, bar, veggie food, live music and inspiring figures such as polar swimmer Cath Pendleton. Charity places are available. There is fun for all the family, with swims for those aged eight and above, and an enclosed segment of the river, where under-8s can splash around. Festival camping in the meadows is available.
11 July, distances: 200m, ½ mile, 1 mile and 4 miles, £28-£95, wetsuits optional, henleyswim.com
Castle Howard, North Yorkshire
Swim in Castle Howard’s Great Lake, which was built in the 1790s, at this popular triathlon weekend. There are three swim-only events, including a leisurely one-miler if all you want to do is potter and enjoy the views of this baroque country house. Live music, food and drink and access to the grounds, woodland, and Grade I-listed gardens is included. On-site camping is available (from £25).
24-25 July, distances: 1 mile, 2.5km, 5km, £30, wetsuits mandatory if water temperature less than 14C, castletriathlonseries.co.uk
Go Swim Loch Lomond
Swim in the largest loch in Britain in the shadow of mighty Ben Lomond. The swim starts at Drumkinnon Bay and goes alongside the restored pleasure steamer Maid of the Loch, then out into the middle of the loch and back. Beginners and youngsters can tackle a 250m swim, beyond which there is a range of distances to suit all swimmers. There is plenty to do on the bonnie banks, from hiking to nature walks. At the Sea Life Centre, get a close up look at the creatures that inhabit the loch. There are several campsites around the lochshore.
28 August, distances: 250m, 750m, 1.5km, 3km, 5km, 10km, £15-£75, wetsuits mandatory unless water temperature above 18C, go-swim.uk
Aquasphere Chillswim Coniston, Lake District
If you’ve only ever swum in your local lake or river, you can expect a thrilling sense of freedom traversing the length of Coniston Water from south to north. Along the way, take a peek at Peel Island, which inspired Wild Cat Island, where the Walker children roamed in Swallows and Amazons. Boat-based rest points along the way offer the chance to take a breather and appreciate the surroundings. With staggered start times (depending on your swim speed), take things at your own pace – or challenge yourself to improve your time.
4 September, distance: 5¼ miles, £95, wetsuits optional, chillswim.com
Keswick mountain festival, Lake District
This 3.6km lake swim has a fun beginning, where you’ll be ferried to the start point at High Brandlehow aboard a wooden Keswick launch. Follow the course past secluded Derwent Isle to the northern end of the lake, dwarfed by the fells of Cat Bells and Skiddaw. Shorter swims are also available. The option to dance away the evening on the lakeshore to live bands is included in your swim ticket. A host of other sporting challenges take place during the festival, including trail runs, hikes and triathlons. Pitch up at the festival campsite close to the lake.
10-12 September, distances: 750m, 1.5km, 3.6km, £21-£53, wetsuits mandatory, keswickmountainfestival.co.uk
Swim Serpentine, London
The Serpentine Swimming Club was the home of some of Britain’s outdoor swimming pioneers, but even they would surely have gawped at the 6,000 people who arrived to take part at Swim Serpentine 2019. This year, it’s a socially-distanced event, meaning there won’t be the same festival vendors as in previous years, but it’s still likely to be fun, as you follow former Olympians up to the top of the lake and back down to Serpentine Bridge. Entry opens in the coming weeks and pre-registration is available on the website. Charity places are available if you want to swim for a cause. When the swim is over relax in either Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, which have plenty of eating options, such as the Italian Gardens cafe and the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen.
18 September, distances: ½ mile, 1 mile, 2 miles, 6 miles, £25-£150, wetsuits mandatory unless water temperature is 15C or higher, swimserpentine.co.uk
Go Swim Loch Morlich, Highlands
Though a couple of degrees chillier than most lake or river swims, this dip in the mountain water of Loch Morlich will be worth braving the cold for. Deep in the Highlands, this is one of Scotland’s prettiest lochs, fringed by thick forests of native Scots pine, with views of the Northern Corries and the glacial valleys of Cairn Gorm mountain. There are distances to suit all abilities. The start and finish is on the sandy loch shore, which, at 318m above sea level, is among Britain’s highest beaches. There are enchanting things to do in this region if you want to make a weekend (or longer) of it. Follow the trails through Glenmore Forest on the lookout for red squirrels and pine martens, or visit the 150-strong Cairngorm reindeer herd. Pitch up at Glenmore Campsite, a short walk from the loch shore.
18 September, distances: 250m, 750m, 1.5km, 3km, 5km, 10km, £15-£75, wetsuits mandatory unless water temperature above 18C, go-swim.uk
Aberdovey Swim, Mid-Wales
These swims take place in a Unesco-protected corner of Wales surrounded by sand dunes, Cambrian mountains and miles of wide sandy beaches. From the pretty harbour in Aberdovey/Aberdyfi you’ll swim from the sea up into the Dyfi estuary with the flood tide, then turn around and return with the ebb. The longer swims feel like real adventures as you journey deeper up the Dyfi River into a lush valley. Afterwards, lunch on seafood at Seabreeze in Aberdovey, walk among the wild dunes of Dyfi national nature reserve, or tackle a hike up Cadair Idris.
25-26 September, distances: 4km, 8km, 13km, £40-£85, wetsuits optional, aberdoveyswim.co.uk
Welsh Winter Swim, Snowdonia