Whether you are a seasoned wild swimmer or are yet to give it a go, Dartmoor is simply the best place for the swim of your life! There are so many awe-inspiring places that provide respite from the heat of summer and invigorate your senses out of season.
What is Wild Swimming?
Basically, swimming outside in any natural pool of water, salt or fresh. It is something that has been done for generations but now has become in vogue. Perhaps lockdown had something to do with that... Whatever your motives, swimming in the wonder of nature can be a powerful and exhilarating experience that, maybe, changes you forever.
Roger Deakin wrote in his wild swimming bible Waterlog, “Swimming is a rite of passage, a crossing of boundaries: the line of the shore, the bank of the river, the edge of the pool, the surface itself. When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking-glass surface and enter a new world”. Wow!
No specialist gear is required but you may choose to wear a wetsuit. Remember that some rivers can be fast, especially in wet weather. Please consider your swimming ability before entering the water.
Here are our top places to swim while you are here in Tavistock.
Longtimber Tor - Peter Tavy | W3W #spellings.drags.walks | Grid Ref SX 5095 7826
A lovely deep pool carved by the River Tavy, perfect for swimming. Steep sides provide shelter from the sun but a grassy plain is a great bright spot for a picnic. The river can be fast after wet weather.
Access either from Peter Tavy Village via the National Cycle Route 27 or from Mary Tavy Power Station. There is a lot of history here with the Devon Consol Copper Mine nearby. The tor itself is a rocky outcrop with the pool beneath it.
Hill Bridge - Horndon | W3W #coast.estuaries.cycle | Grid Ref SX 53162 80396
A well-kept secret by locals (sorry!), this is a lovely spot for children. Just underneath the bridge is a lovely shallow pool behind a weir with sandy banks. There is another, deeper, pool on the other side of the bridge. Add on a circular walk along the leat to Horndon Clam, returning up the river, and you have the perfect day out right there!
Parking is limited on the road from Horndon to Peter Tavy.
Black Rock – Lydford | W3W #subsystem.quintet.cargo | Grid Ref SX 53268 85394
Fabulous place for kids and adults alike – both will equally enjoy jumping off the rocks into the clear water below. Under the lofty gaze of the inspiring Widgery Cross, the River Lyd tumbles gently down until it plunges through narrow rocks into what is also known as the Witches Pool.
Leave the A386 at the Dartmoor Inn and park at the end of the track. Follow the track along the wall until you reach the ford. The pool is about 200m downstream.
Double Waters - Grenofen | W3W #circus.slides.flap | Grid Ref SX 47536 69922
This is woodland swimming at its best. Where the River Walkham meets the mighty River Tavy, the river is relatively shallow and slow moving. Dappled sunlight streams through a forest of wild oak to create a magical experience. The walk from the car park takes about 45 minutes but it is very easy going and a pleasant hike.
Cross over the bridge to take the path on the other side of the river from the car park. There are two pools – the first comes after the bend in the river after the two rivers meet and the second is below the rapids. Return to the car park on the same path.
Foggintor – Princetown | W3W #ideas.breathing.signified| Grid Ref SX 56669 73624
For the adventurer in you, it has to be Foggintor Quarry. Looking up at the imposing cliff faces of the quarry as you enter the water provides for an atmospheric swim. The flooded quarry, which supplied granite for London landmarks including Nelson’s Column, can be deep in places. Jumping in is definitely not recommended, however tempting!
Access from the track alongside Yellowmead Farm or take a detour from the Dartmoor Railway track from Princetown.
Crazywell Pool – Burrator |W3W #yachting.stencil.decimals | Grid Ref SX 58221 70461
For a different experience again, this walk takes you right up into the heart of Dartmoor National Park and it is remote and exposed. Legend has it that it is a bottomless and haunted pool. It is certainly an experience like no other! Formed from old mine workings and fed by a natural spring, the pool is said to rise and fall with the tide. It’s an awe-inspiring spot to be swimming on top of the world but be prepared for the water to be rather chilly!
Park at Norsworthy Bridge.
Cowsick Waterfall - Two Bridges | W3W #snowy.oldest.move | Grid Ref SX 60536 75280
This is a lovely, secluded spot – recommended for adults and older children. Set near the ancient Wistman’s Wood, the pools have an element of mystery about them. The serenity of the surrounding woodland offers an almost other-worldly experience in the series of plunge pools.
Parking is difficult here in high season but there is limited space available opposite the Two Bridges Hotel. Cross over the bridge and take the track which runs alongside the Cowsic River. Follow it upstream towards Beardown Farm.
Bellever – Postbridge | W3W #inhaler.cardinal.serenade | Grid Ref SX 65666 77082
The river here provides a truly wonderful day out for families. Kids will marvel at the clear, peaty water which is relatively shallow and slow-moving. The sunny banks are a great spot for a picnic (BBQs are not allowed) and you can while away the hours watching the Dartmoor ponies coming to the waters edge for a drink. You can also pick up a History Hunter trail from the Visitor Information Centre in Postbridge.
There is a car park in Bellever Forest and a fully accessible track down to the river.
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