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Active England’s Top 10 Swimming Spots in Devon

The benefits to both mind and body of Outdoor / Wild swimming have been well documented in recent times and there is no doubt that there is a huge movement towards swimming outside in the UK. Coupled with the world being turned upside down by the pandemic there has never been a better time to grab your costume / trunks and head outside. We’ve looked long and hard at the places in the wonderful county of Devon which have inspired us on our travels and we are delighted to present them to you in this blog.

Devon has a wide range of swimming options, from the North and South coast beaches, the pools on Dartmoor and wonderful rivers and estuaries and is home to some of the best variety of swimming known to man! There are a variety of locations, from sea lidos, well known beaches, nearly inaccessible beaches, river fed lidos, sea arches and islands, all ready and waiting for exploration. We encourage everyone to swim safely, respect the sea at all times and if in doubt – don’t do it!

Devon’s Top 10 Wild Swims

  1. Tunnels Beach, Ilfracombe
  2. Broadsands Beach, Combe Martin
  3. Putsborough
  4. Sharrah Pool, Dartmoor
  5. Chagford Lido
  6. Spitchwick Common, Dartmoor
  7. Hope Cove & Thurlestone Arch
  8. Bantham & Burgh Island
  9. Start Point, Great Mattiscombe
  10. Tinside & Lido

1. Tunnels Beach

Tunnels Beaches

You get to this beach in Ilfracombe via tunnels in the rock! Here you’ll find a stunning Victorian built sea pool accessible either side of low tide. The women’s pool is still fully intact but the adjacent men’s beach has long been lost to the sea.

2. Broadsands Beach

Broadsands Beach

Broadsands Beach at Combe Martin is known by our guides as James Bond Beach, as it looks like Khao Phing Kan in Thailand! With 124 steps down, it’s hidden and difficult to find. For the strong swimmer it’s accessible from Combe Martin, just head left off the beach and follow the shore around the bay.

3. Putsborough

Putsborough

This beach can be found at the quieter end of Woolacombe, perfect for a flat swim or a gentle bob around in the waves.

4. Sharrah Pool

Sharrah Pool

This iconic and almost mythical pool sits at the top of the Dart River. The two mile walk either way (from the closest car access point) is worth every step. It’s starting to be discovered and therefore best to visit either in the morning or late afternoon.

5. Chagford Lido

Chagford Lido

Not quite ‘wild swimming’, we have included Chagford Lido in our lists as it is a river fed (by the Teign) and solar heated lido in the centre of Dartmoor. Eccentric and much loved it’s close to the great little town of Chagford. Try the Three Crowns for a spot of lunch and then head up onto Dartmoor to see stone circles and the splendour of Dartmoor unveiled.

6. Spitchwick Common

Spitchwick Common

This beautiful Dartmoor common is best visited early morning and late afternoon as it gets popular in the summer with families.

7. Hope Cove and Thurlestone Arch

Thurlestone Arch

This secluded bay and wonderful sea arch creates a stunning setting on the South Coast of Devon. It’s possible to swim between the two locations but only when the tides and sea state allows.

8. Bantham and Burgh Island

Burgh Island

You can do a brilliant round the island swim and a swim along the Estuary down from Aveton Gifford – at high tide only! Both swims are for the experienced swimmer, with a good knowledge of the local conditions.

9. Start Point

Great Mattiscombe

At the remote and picturesque Great Mattiscombe – away from the crowds on the South Hams, perfect for a spot of solace-filled swimming.

10. Tinside and Tinside Lido

Tinside Lido

Both in the city of Plymouth, home to a wonderful community of swimmers who take full advantage of the stunning sea and lido options. Head here if it’s rough in other places and always choose the Lido if you are in any way concerned.


Active England organises a range of iconic swimming holidays in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and the River Thames. Tours are inclusive and for all swimmers, from the “dippers” and the head-up breaststrokers to the 10k warriors.

Take a look at some of our Devon Swimming Holidays and Weekends Away:

Devon Wild Swimming – 6 Day Holiday

Devon Wild Swimming – 4 Day Holiday

Devon Swimming – 3 Day Wild Swimming Weekend

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