Sunset over a river scene on Dartmoor

Wild Swimming in Devon

Wild swimming is a term used to describe outdoor swimming in natural watercourses, from chilly dips in isolated lakes to rivers and sea swimming. I understand that getting into cold water has been proven to have many health benefits. If that is not your cup of tea, you can still be a warm weather only wild swimmer! Wild swimming is certainly growing in popularity in the UK.

Inland wild swimming is also the insider tip for anyone holidaying in Devon. You will avoid the crowds of tourists on the beaches in North Devon, whilst enjoying the breath taking scenery the wild landscapes of Devon can offer.

Getting Started

Whilst the benefits of wild swimming are undeniably enormous, you do need to be careful with safety and legality. Although I have set out some swimming spots here that I like to go to, you need to make your own decision as to whether swimming is permitted and take adequate safety precautions. There are always risks with water, but particularly with moving and cold water, and when you’re exposed to the elements.

Before you get started, you should of course do your research. Some starting points are the Outdoor Swimming Society, which is a great source of information, and this article in Countryfile magazine on how to get started with wild swimming in Britain. Here are some top tips to tickle your fancy.

  • You should know and follow the outdoor swimmers code.
  • Do your own risk assessment every time you swim. Consider what the risks might be for you and your party and what you can do to avoid them.
  • Do your research about the spot you are visiting. Are you permitted to swim there? What are your escape routes?
  • Are you aware of moving currents in your chosen spot? Even water which looks relatively still can still have quite a strong current.
  • You should check for hazards like depth, trees, fishermen, etc.
  • Do you need to wear a wetsuit and or precautions against the cold?
  • You should be careful of, and able to identify dangerous algae. For example, see this article about understanding algal blooms.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Ensure that you supervise children very closely.

Meldon River Pools

I love Meldon River Pools. They are certainly my favourite place to be in the heatwave this summer! You can’t beat this location to go wild swimming on Dartmoor.

There a number of different swimming spots on the same stretch of river. So you will generally be able to find a private spot to enjoy the best views on Dartmoor whilst cooling off. You can choose to paddle, or go for a full on swim under a mini waterfall. If it is warm enough, how about a sunset picnic?

To get there: from Melrose Cottage, turn right onto Station Road, left onto Mill Road, then left at the traffic lights. Follow the B3260 until you can see Betty Cottles inn. You will see a sign just before Betty Cottles, pointing left, saying “Meldon Quarry” with the dead end symbol. You should turn left here, shortly after that you will cross above the A30. Then you should keep driving until you eventually reach the turning in the picture below, at which point, turn right and you will come to a car park on the left (pictured). Here, you leave your car behind but keep walking in the direction you came from. You will find there are plenty of options for swimming – shallower ones earlier and if you go further up the path the pools are deeper.

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Cullever Steps

Cullever Steps wild swimming pool on Dartmoor, woman swimming

Cullever Steps Pool is a stunning wild swimming pool on the East Okement River.  The pool is named after a river crossing point called Cullever Steps which is just upstream of the pool.

It is a great location for a picnic, with grassy banks to lay out your picnic blanket.  If you want to warm up after your dip there are large rocks for sunbathing. The pool is around 1.5m deep and around 15m long.

You will find stunning views of the narrow rocky valley below Scarey Tor.

Make sure you check that there is no firing going on because this pool is within the Dartmoor firing range (Okehampton), the firing dates are published here.

Click on the Google maps link to the right and make sure it is on the satellite setting. You will see that the pin has been dropped on the road just by the pool. Also if you zoom in on the satellite image, you will see  Cullever Steps and the pool are visible. To get there, you walk towards Cullever Steps and then follow the bank of the East Okement River downstream. Cullever Steps Pool opens out in front of you.

You can walk or cycle to Cullever Steps Pool easily from Melrose Cottage (turn left and walk towards the Okehampton Army camp to get you started). Alternatively, you can park on the army road rising from Okehampton Camp. The parking areas are also visible on the Google map.

Other ideas

DISCLAIMER: I am not intending the descriptions in this article to be relied on for safety advice, or advice as to the legality in swimming in the spots suggested. As a result you will need to make your own assessment.

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Wild about swimming in nature?

With Melrose Cottage located in the heart of Devon, it's the perfect base to get out there and explore beautiful wild swimming locations 10 minutes away or less. Book your stay with us now and get back out into nature.

Check our availability at Melrose Cottage