Wild – or outdoor – swimming has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years, with more and more people braving the elements and swimming throughout the seasons. If winter swimming sounds a little bracing, then luckily late spring and early summer is a more favourable time to start. The water temperate is still cold at the start of the official outdoor swimming season, but through gradual acclimatisation your body will soon adjust, and you may be surprised by how much warmer the water temperature feels by the end of the summer – and you should find the experience much more comfortable.
Dartmouth is lucky to boast a number of fantastic wild swimming spots in and around the town. From secluded coves along the Start Bay Coastline to riverside creeks, there’s plenty of places to choose from for all types of wild swimmers. Below we’ve listed our favourite places.
Secluded and sheltered, Sugary Cove is a perfect spot for wild swimming. As it’s situated just a mile or so from the town centre, it’s the perfect place to go for a swim without having to venture too far. The water here is pristine with hints of turquoise, reminiscent of a Mediterranean island.
It’s tucked below some small cliffs and backed by trees so this area is very remote and peaceful, if you didn’t already know about it there’s a chance you’d miss it as it’s so hidden! Accessing the beach is done via some steep rocky steps so it’s probably not suitable for those with pushchairs or with mobility issues, but for others who can make their way down, they’ll be completely rewarded by the views.
Meander further down the South West Coast Path from Suagry Cove and you’ll find a number of other idyllic coves. Follow the path through the valley, past grazing cattle and you’ll reach Compass Cove.
This beach is quite the suntrap, perfect for spending days lazing on the shore or swimming in the crystal clear waters. Whilst Sugary Cove will certainly not be as crowded, Compass Cove will be even less so as it’s takes a little longer to get to. So, you know you’ll be able to enjoy a relaxing and peaceful swim with only the fish and the gulls to keep you company. What a dream!
Forest Cove is a scenic unspoilt inlet which sits next to Blackpool Sands. Flanked by luscious, rolling green hills and lapped up by the glistening waters of Start Bay, Forest Cove is a wonderfully tranquil place to enjoy a swim.
This small inlet can be accessed via the South West Coast Path from Strete, a quaint village near Dartmouth, or by following the path from Blackpool Sands. If you had a paddleboard or kayak, it is possible to reach the cove via the beaches.
Strete Gate Beach
If you’re someone who enjoys swimming in one’s birthday suit, then Strete Gate Beach may the place for you. This beach has all the same views and glimmering sea as the adjacent beach of Slapton but for those of you who like to get their kit off, Strete Gate is a proudly naturist beach.
If you’ve never swam in the nude, don’t let that put you off, Strete Gate beach is also a very family-friendly beach, plus dogs are also permitted here too if you wanted to take a dip with your pooch.
Mill Bay Cove (Kingswear)
At the bottom of a steep descent, Mill Bay Cove (not to be confused with Mill Bay Beach in Salcombe) is found on the Kingswear side of the River Dart, tucked behind Kingswear Castle.
The old building at the top of the beach was once a mill, hence the name of the bay, and offers wonderful views of the Start Bay coastline. It’s certainly a beach to visit if you’re up for exploring the rest of Kingswear as it’s en-route to the Brownstone Battery if you follow the South West Coast Path. Much like the other beaches mentioned above, it’s much lesser-known so there’s a slim chance you’ll see anyone else whilst swimming here.
Home to Greenway Estate, Agatha Christie’s holiday home, Galmpton is a rural village on the Kingswear side of the River Dart. This wonderful and idyllic village attracts many locals and visitors due to its attractive riverside location.
Galmpton Creek proposes a slightly different wild swimming location compared to the ones mentioned above. Swimming in the River Dart is most definitely allowed and incredibly enjoyable, but remember to be cautious of moving boats and strong currents.
You can also swim on the opposite side of the river from Galmpton at Dittisham, another pretty village on the River Dart.
Further up the River Dart you’ll find Stoke Gabriel. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, this rural parish is tucked between rolling hills and a picturesque creek. Despite being such a small village, it’s jam-packed with plenty of amenities. Two pubs, a riverside café, a church and a community apple orchard can be found here.
Much like Galmpton, the creek and river here is perfect for taking a dip, you’ll often see people wild swimming, kayaking or paddleboarding along the river at high tide. It certainly is different from swimming at the beach, but in all the best ways!
How about using the hot tub cold?
What are the potential benefits of soaking in cold water? Cold water exposure may boost circulation and reduce inflammation. These actions may help relieve pain and quicken recovery from exercise. Research also suggests that cold water therapy releases brain chemicals associated with positive moods.