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York: Best spots for cold water swimming

York: Best spots for cold water swimming

York, located in the North of England, is full of history, culture, and natural beauty. One of the many ways to enjoy the stunning surroundings of North Yorkshire is through cold water swimming.

With several rivers and lakes around the city, it’s the perfect spot to take a paddle in the refreshing waters while enjoying the picturesque views of the UK.

Whether you’re a seasoned cold water swimmer or looking to try it out for the first time, there’s a spot in York for everyone.

In this Cold Water Swim article, we look at the best spots for cold water swimming in York and provide tips on keeping yourself safe as you make the most out of your experience.

Mini ‘beach’ and Riverside | Beningbrough

Mini ‘Beach’ and Riverside are two popular spots for cold water swimming in York.

Riverside is located in Bishopthorpe Palace and River Wharfe, a bit further from the city centre. It’s a deeper section of the river, with clear water and a more natural environment, making it a popular spot for serious swimmers and triathletes.

Conversely, Mini ‘beach’ is located on the River Ouse near the Millennium Bridge and is a perfect spot for families with kids to make a splash. It has shallow water with a sandy beach that provides easy access to a clean stretch of river.

Mini ‘Beach’ and Riverside offer a unique experience for cold water swimming enthusiasts. Cold water provides several health benefits, including boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, and improving circulation. Additionally, swimming in cold water can be an invigorating and exhilarating experience that promotes mental wellness and can relieve stress.

However, it’s essential to take precautions when swimming in cold water, especially in open water areas like rivers. It’s crucial to check the weather and water conditions, take a swimming partner or someone watching from the shore, and wear appropriate cold water swimming gear, such as a wetsuit, to stay warm and safe.

Mini ‘Beach’ and Riverside are great spots for swimmers to experience the joys and benefits of wild swimming in York.


  • Entry Fee: FREE
  • Location: Millennium Bridge, Lower Ousegate, York
  • Lifeguard: No
  • Drive from York Centre: 5 to 10 minutes
Mini ‘beach’ and Riverside | Beningbrough
Mini ‘beach’ and Riverside | Beningbrough

Allerthorpe Lake | Pocklington

Allerthorpe Lake is a man-made lake near Pocklington, around 14 miles east of York. The lake is popular for open-water swimming and other sports, such as paddleboarding, kayaking, and windsurfing.

Cold water swimming at Allerthorpe Lake can be an enjoyable and invigorating experience, especially during the summer months when the water is warmer. The lake is relatively shallow, making it a good option for novice swimmers and children. There are designated swimming areas where swimmers can enjoy their swim.

Allerthorpe Lake has on-site facilities, including changing rooms, showers, and a cafe for non-swimmers, making it a convenient location for a day out. The lake is surrounded by beautiful countryside and a stretch of grassy riverside, providing a picturesque setting for wild swimming and those spectating.

However, it’s essential to take the necessary precautions when swimming in open water. Swimmers should check the water conditions and weather forecast before entering the lake and ensure they have the appropriate equipment, such as a thermal jacket and changing robe, to stay warm and safe and enjoy a longer swim.

It’s also recommended to swim with a partner or in a group and to stay within designated swimming areas.

In summary, Allerthorpe Lake is a fantastic location for cold water swimming in England, offering a safe and enjoyable experience for cold water swimmers of all levels.


  • Entry Fee: £6 for adults and £4 for children
  • Location: Allerthorpe Lakeland Park, Melbourne Road, Allerthorpe, Pocklington
  • Lifeguard: No
  • Drive from York Centre: 30 to 40 minutes
York: Best spots for cold water swimming
Allerthorpe Lake | Pocklington

Lake Gomire | Thirsk

Lake Gormire is a small natural lake in the Howardian Hills, just a short drive from York. It’s a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts, including those looking to enjoy cold water swimming.

The lake has clear, fresh water that’s ideal for swimming during the summer months. While there are no designated swimming areas or lifeguards at Lake Gormire, the lake is generally considered safe for open water swimming, especially for confident swimmers and those swimming in groups.

It’s important to note that the water temperature can be quite chilly, even during the summer months, so swimmers should wear appropriate cold water swimming gear, such as wetsuits or rash guards, to stay warm and comfortable in the water.

It’s also a good idea to be aware of any potential hazards or risks, such as submerged objects, currents or slippy grassy banks. You can use an underwater camera to check the hidden terrain. There have also been reports of algal blooms, so make sure you can recognise harmful algae before entering.

Overall, Lake Gormire provides a peaceful and natural setting for those looking to enjoy cold water swimming. With clear water and scenic surroundings, it’s a great place for a refreshing swim on a warm summer day.

However, as with any outdoor swimming, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure safety and enjoyment for all.


  • Entry Fee: FREE
  • Location: Sutton Bank National Park Centre, Sutton Bank, Thirsk
  • Lifeguard: No
  • Drive from York Centre: 35 to 40 minutes
Lake Gomire | Thirsk
Lake Gomire | Thirsk

Hackfall Woods | Ripon

Hackfall Woods is a picturesque woodland located near the village of Grewelthorpe, approximately 25 miles (40 km) northwest of York. While there are no designated swimming areas in the woods, several natural pools and impressive waterfalls are suitable for cold water swimming, particularly during the warmer months of the year.

Swimming in the natural pools in Hackfall Woods can be a fun and exciting experience for all, as you can enjoy the natural beauty of the woodland setting while taking an icy plunge.

However, it’s important to note that there are no lifeguards on duty and no facilities available, so it’s essential to take appropriate safety precautions and to supervise your friends and children closely while they’re swimming to avoid any dangers.

Hackfall Woods offers a beautiful and natural setting for cold water swimmers looking. With its clear pools, spectacular waterfalls, and lush woodland surroundings, it’s a great spot for a refreshing dip on a warm day and a fun way to explore the great outdoors.


  • Entry Fee: FREE
  • Location: Hackfall Woods, Grewelthorpe, Ripon
  • Lifeguard: No
  • Drive from York Centre: 40 to 45 minutes
Hackfall Woods | Ripon
Stepping stones at Hackfall Woods


Where can I swim in River Ouse York?

You can swim in the River Ouse at Mini Beach or Riverside. Both locations are popular for cold water swimming in York.

As Riverside is slightly deeper, perhaps this location is best suited to confident swimmers and Mini Beach for weaker swimmers and children.

How clean is the River Ouse York?

The River Ouse is fairly clean and is safe to swim in for short periods of time; however, there have been reports which suggest high levels of ammonia, phosphate and nitrates. 

Many areas of the River Ouse have been cleared for swimming, suggesting local councils are content with the level of safety for public use. 

As with many outdoor bodies of water, there is the risk of sewage and other pollutants entering the water. So, it is important that cold water swimmers carry out due diligence and ensure the safety of any lake, river, or area they swim in. 

How deep is the River Ouse in York?

The River Ouse in York is around 5m to 8m deep or 16ft to 26ft. Many areas open to the public start off shallow and get gradually deeper the farther in you go. 

If you are not a confident swimmer, please keep to shallow areas, wear a tow float, and swim with a group of friends to ensure your safety.

Is the water in York hard or soft?

The water in York is hard, which means it contains high levels of dissolved minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium. 

Hard water may leave skin feeling dry or itchy, so try not to stay in the water for too long. 

However, some studies have also suggested that drinking hard water may help to reduce the risk of certain health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, so don’t be scared to take a dip in local York hotspots.


In conclusion, the York area offers a variety of fantastic options for cold water swimming that can provide an exciting and invigorating outdoor experience for people of all ages. 

From lakes and rivers to man-made pools and water parks, there are plenty of choices to suit different preferences and abilities. 

However, it’s important to be aware of the potential hazards and take appropriate safety measures to ensure a fun and safe swimming experience.

Check out our top swim spots near Greater Manchester!

With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can enjoy the many benefits of cold water swimming and create lasting memories with family and friends.