The best wild swimming spots in and around Manchester

From the UK’s highest beach to a ‘secret lake’ in Levenshulme, these are the local wild swimming spots you need to check out

Damn, it’s hot out. Weather like this makes us want to strip off and take a dip in the nearest stretch of open water as soon as humanly possible.

With Manchester set to enjoy sweltering forecasts all week, we expect you’re thinking the same thing – which is why we’ve hunted out some of the city’s best wild swimming spots. It’s only partly a selfish endeavor, honest.

Of course, there are local Manchester lidos and more conventional outdoor swimming spaces to enjoy too. But if you’d rather make the most of the best that nature has to offer, keep reading. There are some cracking wild swimming spots on this list.

A historic dock that’s perfect for beginners

Salford Quays at Media City is a favourite for locals and a good choice for beginners with little to no wild swimming experience. Apparently a favourite swimming spot of Paralympic gold medallist swimmer Ellie Simmonds, roll up to the costa del Salford safe in the knowledge that its aeration and microbiological monitoring systems make the water safe for bathing.

A ‘secret lake’ in Levenshulme dredged by locals

Levy’s ‘secret lake’ is neither secret nor really a lake. Dredged by the locals over the course of roughly eight years (or so we’ve been told), people swim here regularly – but you might be taking a bit of a gamble in terms of cleanliness. Find it behind the estate, via the Fallowfield loop or Longford Lane.

Lumb Hole waterfall at the head of Crimsworth Dean, Calderdale

The UK’s highest beach

Gaddings Dam in Todmorden has become a bit notorious as the Uk’s ‘highest beach’, thanks to the erosion of the reservoirs’ foundations which create the look of sandy shoreline at its edges. At 355 metres above sea level, it’s quite a hike so not for the faint-hearted. Also make sure not to park on Lumbutts, the locals really hate it and your car will most likely get towed.

Hidden waterfalls just past Rochdale

Lumb Falls, just outside of Hebden Bridge, is a stunning wild swimming spot just over an hour’s drive out from Manchester. You’ll want to take a map as it’s quite hard to find despite being a short walk from the car, and there is some scrambling over rocks needed to get to the pools. Once you’ve made it, though, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. It’s like something out of a fairytale.

A beautiful, clear Cheshire lake with a long jetty for diving

Pickmere Lake in Knutsford, Cheshire is relatively straightforward to find and benefits from exceptionally clear water that is not too cold. With a long jetty perfect for diving or dangling toes in the water, it’s a really gorgeous spot. There is parking nearby close to Mere Lane and entry can be made via a public footpath that runs along the shoreline.

A modern water park in Manchester’s suburbs

Sale water park was formed in the 1970s. A gravel pit excavated to provide material for the construction of the nearby M60, it was later flooded and is now thought to be about 90 feet (27 m) deep in some places. To swim here you’ll need to do so during one of the dedicated sessions. There are hot showers, free parking, and wetsuit hire available on site.

How to stay safe

Whilst wild swimming can be an incredible experience, there are also some dangers that swimmers need to be aware of.

Identify your emergency exits before getting in and look around for any downstream hazards.

Look out for non-swimmers and children.

Even shallow water can suddenly deepen. Maintain constant supervision and if anyone in your group cannot swim make sure to mark out boundaries.

When water is fast flowing, it can knock you off your feet easily even in shallow streams.

Don’t dive head first into rocky pools of water.

Watch out for blue-green algae, which often multiplies in warm, wet weather. It creates a powdery, green surface scum and can cause rashes, eye and skin irritation. It can also make you sick if swallowed.

Feature image – Gareth Hughes

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