4 Wild Swimming Spots in South Devon

By Clare Levy on April 24, 2014

Wild swimming enthusiasts will find plenty of interesting spots around the Dartmouth area at the tip of South Devon. This beautiful historic town is a joy to stay in at any time of year but the opportunities for wild swimming add a special dimension.

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1. Dartmouth Castle and Sugary Cove

Enthusiasts report a great sense of peace swimming between open sea and the town especially around the base of the Dartmouth castle. There is also a good chance of spotting a seal or two as they love lounging on the rocks and diving into the water. Wild swimmers particularly recommend a lovely little beach called Sugary Cove just around the corner from the castle. On the left hand side of the cove are rocks to swim through. The sandy beach has steep rocky sides with a wood dropping down onto it .Steps are cut into the bank and you hold a chain handrail as you descend for your swim. The bay is sheltered and ideal if you have children with you. Many swimmers round off their visit with a sumptuous Devon cream tea at the Castle Tea Room.

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2. Blackpool Sands and Skerries Bank Bell Buoy Challenge

Swimmers based in the Dartmouth area are also passionate about nearby Blackpool Sands and, for the more serious enthusiast, the Skerries Bank Bell Buoy Challenge. Blackpool Sands our local Blue Flag beach is one of the most popular in South Devon. It’s a beautiful spot with lots of luxuries like the Venus Café serving local food all year round, toilets and even free outdoor showers which make it ideal for bathers and serious swimmers. Although you often have to contend with quite heavy surf getting in and out of the water, once beyond this you can swim to your heart’s content and even do lengths of the cove if you want to build up fitness. This will set you up nicely for a chance at the Bell Buoy Challenge, which is often used for competitive swimming.

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3. Slapton Sands and Lighthouse

This feat of endurance begins at Slapton Sands and is an open water swimming challenge like no other. Short of swimming the channel there is no ocean challenge in the UK that requires more commitment, daring or focus. To complete this course requires a truly exceptional level of physical and mental stamina. The Skerries Bank Bell Buoy sits in a stunning setting in the centre of Start Bay approximately four kilometres offshore. It marks the North Eastern end of a shallow shingle bank that has been responsible for many shipwrecks through the ages and is a popular fishing mark. The other end of the Skerries Bank is marked by an elegant lighthouse that sits on the end of a dramatic promontory known as Start Point.

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 4. Start Point Bay 

Start Bay is east facing and is relatively sheltered from the prevailing South Westerly winds and swell but strong currents and fast changing weather conditions and sea state make this dynamic environment exceptionally treacherous, especially around the Skerries Bank itself. Due to the currents and tidal conditions in the bay it is often not possible to describe a straight line route to the buoy so swimmers must aim “off” in order to successfully navigate a path to the buoy and round it efficiently.

Start Bay is beautiful, remote, open and secluded. Except for the odd crab fishing boat there is rarely any marine traffic and aside from three small fishing villages (one, the village of Hallsands, has long since been reclaimed by the sea) there is little along its shores by way of development. A colony of grey seals inhabit Start Point and there are often sightings of dolphins and basking sharks, so keep your eyes peeled and you may see some incredible wildlife in its natural habitat.


We cannot be responsible for wild swimming locations and these are only suggestions. For more information on wild swimming safety read the Outdoor Swimming Society’s safe wild swimming tips before setting out.

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