If you’re spending the festive season in the South West this year, then you could find yourself tempted to take part in the local tradition of a Christmas Day or a New Year’s Day outdoor swim…
It might sound a little crazy to venture into the freezing sea in the depths of midwinter, but in recent years this annual festive tradition has really taken off.
Winter swimming is not for the faint-hearted, yet it offers many physical and mental health benefits – including improved circulation, boosted immune system and enhanced well-being – not to mention the extra kudos your icy dip will earn you among family and friends!
Whether you’re looking for an extreme adrenaline rush to burn off the seasonal excesses, or a wild escapade to provide you with entertaining tales for your return home – making the chilly dash into the wintry waters is sure to be one of your holiday highlights.
The South West is spoilt for choice when it comes to lovely spots for outdoor swimming, even in winter. Either join the crowds for an organised charity event complete with festive fancy dress, or throw on a wetsuit and run into the waves on your favourite beach, or dare to bare and head to a secluded cove for a chilly skinny dip – there’s nothing like a naked swim in the winter water to make you feel alive!
If you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s our pick of the 10 best spots for a festive swim in the South West…
Organised Festive Swims
1. Polzeath, North Cornwall
Christmas Day Swim – meet at 11am sharp. Strictly no wetsuits allowed, just run in and swim! Warm up and reward your efforts with brandy-laced hot chocolates afterwards.
2. Sidmouth, East Devon
Boxing Day Swim – meet at the Esplanade at 11am. This icy dip has been taking place in Sidmouth since 1985. The swim started as a way to combat the excess of food and drink from Christmas Day and now attracts hundreds of outdoor swimmers every year. Fancy dress welcome.
3. Exmouth, East Devon
Christmas Day Swim – 11am. This Christmas tradition, dating back to 1970, attracts thousands of people and is very family-friendly despite having no official organisers. The Channel water is allegedly the best for curing a Christmas hangover!
4. Bude, North Cornwall
Christmas Day Swim – 11am, Crooklets Beach. Hundreds of swimmers from across Cornwall race into the sea for a refreshing dip to help raise money for Bude Surf Life Saving Club. This community-spirited act of madness is also rapidly growing as a spectator event!
5. Charmouth, Dorset
Christmas Day Swim – 11am, Charmouth Beach. Charity swim to raise money for RNLI. Fancy dress is required but wetsuits aren’t allowed! Mulled wine will be available to warm up swimmers and spectators afterwards.
6. Lyme Regis, Dorset
New Year’s Day Swim – the Lyme Lunge for Charity at 1pm, Cobb Beach. A dip in the waters on the stunning Jurassic coast at Lyme Bay. Wetsuits allowed, fancy dress encouraged.
A Few of our Favourite Spots for a Winter Dip
There are so many beautiful beaches in the South West where you could take your festive dip. Here are a few ideas to inspire your wintry antics…
7. North Sands Salcombe, South Devon
A small sheltered beach on the outskirts of Salcombe with stunning views across the harbour. Often misses the worst of the winter storms and currents. Great place to run in for a quick dip, though not very private as the beach is popular with families and dog walkers so you might draw a crowd!
8. South Milton Sands, South Devon
Beautiful wide sandy beach with exposed rock pools at low tide, and its iconic Thurlestone rock arch just out to sea. A popular beach among locals for a Christmas and/or New Year’s Day dip, so you won’t be alone in your moment of madness! The cosy Beach House Café is a great place for a warming drink afterwards, although check Christmas opening times.
9. Lansallos Cove, South Cornwall
A small yet stunning sheltered beach 2 miles west of the traditional fishing village of Polperro, offering perfect wild swimming conditions. Park in Lansallos village near the church and then follow the path for a beautiful 15 minute walk/warm-up through the woods and rocks down into the cove where the crystal clear waters are certain to tempt you in!
10. Talland Bay, South Cornwall
Located between Looe and Polperro, this unspoilt sandy beach is relatively sheltered and a popular spot for bathing all year round, with easy access and plenty of parking so you won’t have to far to dash back to the shelter of your car afterwards!
Find your perfect winter holiday cottage in the South West
Winter Outdoor Swimming Safety Tips
- There are no lifeguards on the beaches at this time of year, so be extra careful when checking the weather, tides and currents before getting in
- Always go with someone else, or tell someone else where you plan to swim, and what time you expect to be back
- Try doing a little exercise before and after to get your blood pumping and stop yourself from being too cold – running into the water from the top of the beach works well!
- Bring a towel and lots of warm and dry layers to wrap up in afterwards, and a hot drink in a flask
- Don’t let children stay in too long, and make sure you are confident that conditions are safe