An icy Christmas Day swim in South Devon has been a tradition for some time now, but in the...
Wild swimming in South Devon offers something for everyone – the landscape is rich and varied, and boasts a wealth of rivers and rapids, meandering estuaries, open sea, secluded coves and even family-friendly plunge pools to explore. At its core, wild swimming in South Devon is all about having fun, and as such, regardless of distance, ability or age, you will always find a perfect opportunity to make a splash. With some of the best bathing waters in the UK, and mild and modest temperatures, you are positively spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to swim – the variation of wild swimming locations is exhaustive, from a quick refreshing dip to a gentle paddle, or for something more challenging, an arduous swim. At Coast & Country Cottages we love wild swimming in South Devon, and we encourage you to immerse yourself in nature, release your inner wild and jump into the blue.
Looking for a particular bolthole to enjoy wild swimming in South Devon? Browse our quick links below or read on for our top 10 wild swimming locations to make your own splash in the beautiful county that is South Devon…
– Sharrah Pool, Dartmoor
– Soar Mill Cove, near Salcombe
– Thurlestone Rock, Thurlestone
– The River Avon, Aveton Gifford
– Staverton, near Dartington
– Sugary Cove, Dartmouth
– Blackpool Sands, Start Bay
– Maceley Cove, East Prawle
– Mattiscombe Beach, near Start Point
– Man Sands, Brixham
Situated roughly a two-mile walk from Dartmeet (in the centre of Dartmoor, grid reference: SX672731), this riverside ramble is jam-packed with towering ancient trees and abundant wildlife. Sharrah Pool is a beautiful swimming spot that outdoor enthusiasts return to time and time again – the arduous hike there and back simply adds to the adventure, it’s all part of the journey! Quiet and secluded, you will know when you’ve arrived at Sharrah Pool because the trees open out to form an enchanting, fairy like landscape. Where the river opens up, the pool itself stretches for around 100 meters, and you will even find a small waterfall and natural water chute to enjoy a little further upstream. Sharrah Pool is surrounded by chunky granite boulders that provide the perfect resting spot, picnic table or base from which to swim. You will often find zen-like walkers here taking time to meditate and practise yoga, or simply watching those take the icy plunge into the River Dart. Do take care here because the water is naturally a little colder than the sea, and after heavy rainfall, the flow of the river can become fast and dangerous – be sure to do a safety assessment of the environment before swimming. Situated just eight miles from Buckfastleigh, Sharrah Pool is easy to access, especially if you are travelling from Ashburton or Totnes.
Location: near Salcombe
Soar Mill Cove is a popular spot with those wild swimming in South Devon, and once you’ve become privy to its magic, it’s easy to see why. Nestled amongst rolling countryside between the coastal hotspots that are Salcombe and Hope Cove, Soar Mill Cove is a wonderful sheltered bay, and due to its secluded nature, you can only walk or kayak there – this makes it ever more elusive, and the swim even more magical. Expect to be surrounded by abundant wildlife both in and out of the water, and don’t be alarmed if a seal or two share the bay with you – whilst they may be both playful and inquisitive be mindful that they are wild animals and should be treated as such. Swimming aside, the beach is a great spot to explore the myriad of rockpools and some of South Devon’s best caves.
Location: South Milton Sands, Thurlestone
For a gentle swim, head to the beautiful beach of South Milton Sands. If you can, plan ahead and try to time your swim for high tide so that you can navigate your way through the iconic Thurlestone Rock, which is situated around one hundred metres offshore. Be sure to pack your goggles because Thurlestone Rock is perfectly placed near the thriving reef that runs perpendicular to the shore, particularly renowned for its beautiful underwater garden of seaweeds and aquatic creatures. To top it off, this beautiful sandy beach is home to the popular beachside café the Beachouse which is a prime spot to enjoy a post swim treat if you’ve worked up an appetite – expect to tuck into an array of cakes, decadent hot chocolate and french fries topped with local cheddar cheese.
Location: Aveton Gifford
Starting from the picturesque village of Aveton Gifford, this gentle estuary swim allows for a mellow two mile dip seawards towards Bantham Beach. Unlike many estuaries which are often muddied with poor visibility, the Avon enjoys clear waters and has a sandy riverbed which allows for perfect clarity – beneath the surface you will be dazzled by an underwater world of oyster beds, fish, seaweed and twisted tree roots. Starting at the car park in Aveton Gifford, try to time your swim for about twenty minutes post high tide so that you can enjoy the assistance of the outgoing tide. How long the swim takes will depend entirely on the speed at which you travel, but expect your journey to be interspersed by scenic swimming, floating, the occasional somersault and perhaps a picnic. This is the ultimate spot to really ‘go with the flow’ when wild swimming in Devon.
Location: near Dartington
This river swim remains a relatively quiet spot and is perfect for those wanting to undertake a decent swim in non-tidal waters. With regards to getting in the water, the best entry point is down a public footpath which runs between Staverton Railway Station and The Old Mill. About 350m down this path you will find yourself opposite the weir, where you will find a great entry point down the sleeper built bank. Alternatively, follow the path downstream for a further twenty minutes and you will come across an exhilarating jump on a corner bend into the dark peaty waters below! Because of the weir, you can swim around 350m without touching the bottom, even in the summer season, and so as you can imagine it’s a popular bolthole with those wild swimming in Devon.
Wild swimming enthusiasts report a great sense of history when swimming between open sea and the harbour town, especially when navigating the base of Dartmouth Castle. You will find a lovely little beach called Sugary Cove just around the corner from the castle, which is a fantastic swimming spot, and there are even rocks to swim through on the far left hand side. Sugary Cove is sheltered, making it a great wild swimming spot with children, and there is a good chance of spotting a seal or two as they love lounging on the rocks and diving into the water. We have detailed the walk from Dartmouth itself to Sugary Cove here, should you want to incorporate a short walk into your activities too.
Location: Start Bay
Blackpool Sands, a Blue Flag awarded beach, is a popular spot amongst those who enjoy wild swimming in South Devon. It’s a beautiful, Mediterranean looking beach and has many luxuries like the Venus Café, public toilets and even free outdoor showers which make it ideal for bathers and serious swimmers. Sometimes, you may have to contend with quite dumpy surf whilst getting in and out of the water, but once you’re beyond this you can swim until your heart’s content in calm and clear waters, and even do lengths of the cove should you want to build up your swimming fitness.
Location: East Prawle
Maceley Cove beach is situated to the west of Prawle Point near the rural village of East Prawle, and is a magnificently secret beach – wild swimming in South Devon really doesn’t come more remote and secluded than this. Sheltered by the high cliffs of Prawle Point, this lesser known cove is quite a scramble to reach, but rest assured as your efforts will be rewarded by empty shores, soft sand and crystal clear water conditions.
Location: Near Start Point
Mattiscombe Beach, otherwise known as Great Mattiscombe Sands, is another of South Devon’s most secluded beaches and is the perfect bolthole if you’re looking for a quiet, sandy escape. A short and steep 2km walk from the Start Point car park, the beach is known for being a little challenging to access, but despite the descent, this is a double-edged sword as it makes for a quieter beach and the reward is well worth the hike! A haven for wildlife, grey seals are often spotted. In late winter, you may even be lucky enough to see seal pups. The view from the water itself is striking, with craggy rocks, rolling countryside, cattle grazing and birds of prey roaming. As with any secluded spot there are no lifeguards, so be aware of potential rips and submerged rocks, and always make sure you swim with another person if possible.
Man Sands is nestled between Kingswear and Brixham, and is one of the lesser known beaches for wild swimming in South Devon. Surprisingly large, the beach spans for over 500 metres in length when the tide is out and this consists of mostly sand that is separated into several sections of rocky outcrops. The water at the beach is relatively shallow, but despite this, the rip tides are powerful here and there are many concealed rocks on the seabed, especially at high tide so do be careful! One of our favourite ways to access the beach is via the South West Coast Path where you can enjoy dramatic views and frequently sighted pods of dolphins. Man Sands is a natural wonderland, much-loved by those who visit to enjoy some of the best wild swimming spots in South Devon has to offer.
At Coast & Country Cottages we boast an enviable collection of properties that are within easy reach of water, be it by the river, coast or estuary. From traditional coastal cottages with sea & river views, to country escapes nestled in the rolling South Devon hills, we have it covered. We even have an extensive selection of dog-friendly holiday cottages should your canine companion want to join your adventures. Why not check out our properties with a hot tub or swimming pool, so you can also take to the water from the comfort of your own self-catering holiday cottage. Regardless of whether you’re a couple in search of a romantic break or a group of friends looking for a large property, we have it covered. Browse our self-catering holiday cottages in South Devon today and book your wild swimming escape!
* We cannot be responsible for individuals who choose to undertake wild swimming in South Devon, and these locations are only suggestions. For more information on the safety surrounding wild swimming, read the Outdoor Swimming Society’s ‘is it safe’ wild swimming tips before setting out.