There’s no better way to dust off the yuletide cobwebs than with a Boxing Day swim. Here are some of Britain’s barmiest spots for a festive dip, ranging from pirate outfits in Tenby, to nudism in the Isle of Wight, to a gentle “run-and-swim” in North Norfolk. 

Tenby’s famous Boxing Day Dip, Pembrokeshire

Now in its 44th year, Tenby’s Boxing Day Dip is the preferred option for swimmers with an attic full of fancy dress (this year’s theme is Pirates and Princesses). Some 600 swimmers and onlookers descend on North Beach every year, where a bonfire greets participants as they emerge from the sea. Consider warming up beforehand with a brisk stroll along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path before the great immersion at 11.30am.

Bare all at Rocken End, Isle of Wight

If you haven’t already had enough pigs-in-blankets and tats for the year, the naturist beach at Rocken End on the southern tip of the Isle of Wight is a perfect spot to strip off and face the elements. Take care on the scramble down from the car park at the end of Old Blackgang Road and then reap the rewards on the peaceful pebble beach, with dramatic views along the coast.

Wild swimming in the Thames, Pangbourne

There’s nothing particularly alluring about the tidal artery that barricades through London, but there are some stretches where the Thames is – believe it or not – delightful for a Boxing Day dip. One barely known spot is right on the edge of the Chilterns, around three miles upstream of Pangbourne. Bring a compass, a towel and a hip flask and enjoy the peace – you’ll likely have the river to yourself.

Crummock Water, Lake Districtpaul.mcgreevy via Compfight cc

Crummock Water, the Lake District

The Lake District has countless hidden gems for a Boxing Day swim, but Crummock Water is one of the finest. Often overlooked in favour of its sister, Buttermere, Crummock is a tranquil lake (watersports are banned) with impressive surrounds, flanked by Grassmoor to the west and the fells of Mellbreak to the east. After your swim, warm up with a walk to nearby Scale Force, the highest waterfall in the Lakes at 170 ft.

London Fields Lido, Hackney

London’s only heated outdoor swimming pool, the ever-popular London Fields Lido opens its doors to hipsters and cockneys – and everyone in between – on Boxing Day this year. Dust off the cobwebs with an early-doors swim (it’s only open in the morning) before heading to one of the independent cafés or pubs on nearby Broadway Market for lunch.

North Sea swim, Sunderland

One thousand swimmers and up to five thousand onlookers will gather on the sandy Seaburn Beach, a mile north of Sunderland, at 11am on Boxing Day to dash into the ice-cold North Sea. There’s no strict dress code, but participants tend to err on the side of the bizarre. The northeast of England has a taste for fun festive dips, with similar events taking place in Seaham, Hartlepool and Whitby.

Brighton beach, Brighton and Hove, England, UK

Not the Santa Swim, Brighton

The Brighton and Hove city council may have cancelled the boozey Santa Swim event in 2015 – a tradition dating back over 150 years – due to health and safety concerns, but this shouldn’t stop experienced cold-water swimmers from taking to the sea in Brighton this Boxing Day. Just remember to save the alcohol for afterwards.

Paignton Walk in the Sea, Devon

Not so much a swim but rather a stroll into the sea, this annual event in Paignton, Devon is a favourite among eccentrics spending Christmas in the English Riviera. Organised by the Paignton Lions since 1976, the event takes place at midday by the pier. Fancy dress is encouraged, and the swimmer with the best costume will walk home – albeit soggily – with a highly coveted trophy. Everyone else can head to the nearby Inn on the Green for a cockle-warming Marston’s pint.

Loch Ness, the Highlands

Best known for the cryptozoological beast that roams its waters, Loch Ness is a delightful spot for a Boxing Day wild swim (due to open access laws, you can swim in just about all of the Scottish lochs). In recent years some have attempted to swim Loch Ness’s 23-mile length in its entirety for charity. For a more leisurely experience, head to the shore opposite Urquhart Castle, where a pebbly beach offers shallow access into the water.

Urquhart Castle, famous castle ruins on Loch Ness, Scotland, Great Britain, Europe

The Prestwick Boxing Day Dip, Ayrshire

For anyone with energy to burn after Christmas Day, take a bike ride on the Ayrshire Coast Cycleway on Boxing Day before joining in with the Prestwick Boxing Day Dip in the town centre. If you’re undecided whether the swim is for you, all participants are treated to some hot soup and a tod of whiskey (over 18s only, of course) afterwards.

Run and Swim, North Norfolk

The North Norfolk Beach Runners club welcomes all for this charitable run and swim. Meeting at Cromer Pier at 10am, the easy-going route starts along the beach and then heads back along the clifftops, before participants plunge into the North Sea at 11am. The festive swim started as a dare in 1985 but has since spiralled in popularity; today, hundreds of brave (or foolhardy) swimmers take to the water annually.

Explore more of Britain with the Rough Guide to Britain. Book hostels for your trip, and don't forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Featured image by Gareth Davies. 

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