Wild swimming is best when its not particularly planned and you happen to stumble across a deep pool on a hot day. However, when you have kids it tow it’s sometimes easier to have at least a loose plan in place. We’ve compiled this short guide on Where to go wild swimming on Dartmoor. We have written this for inspiration rather than a definitive guide. As with many of the Rivers in Devon the swimming spots are almost endless. We’ve picked a few that are good for various reasons as stated below. Add a comment at the end if you know any spots that are worth a mention.
“the practice or activity of swimming for pleasure in natural waters, typically rivers and lakes”
1. Sharrah Pool, River Dart
This little spot is the one that you’ll see crop up most often when looking for where to go wild swimming on Dartmoor. There is a reason for this. It’s a beautiful spot with a large natural pool with a waterfall at one end. Its set in ancient Dartmoor woodlands near Ashburton (Holne):
Grid Reference for parking at Newbridge SX711 709
Follow the south side of the valley for approximately 3.2km – There happen to be two other cool places along this stretch of river (Wellsfoot Island & Bellspool Island) however, you would need to walk along the other side of the river to reach these so they may have to wait for another day.
Grid Reference for Sharrah Pool – SX697 716
We’ve picked Sharrah pool as its the best of this stretch of River, however you could pick almost any spot from Newbridge to Dartmeet and you won’t be dissapointed.
2. Piles Copse, River Erme
At first glance this is a small stretch of river that doesn’t look promising for wild swimming. However on arrival you are rewarded with a deep swimming pool with dark petey water and crooked old oak trees. It’s a great place for lazing around all day with a picnic. As its on Dartmoor you can even extend your stay and wild camp (This is one place on Dartmoor you do have to call to ask for permission, the number is clearly displayed).
Grid Reference for parking at Harford Moor Gate – SX643595
Head north across the moor for approxinately 2.4km until you reach the tiny, but magical copse. Stop and stay awhile.
Grid Reference for Piles Copse – SX644618
We’ve picked this spot for its magical woodland and unique atmosphere. piles copse is one of Dartmoors three ancient, upland woodlands and it feels truly special. What a great place to reconnect to nature.
3. Tavy Cleave, River Tavy
A remote feeling, rocky valley with a lovely stretch of river on the moor. Slabs, Pools & Shallow Rapids to wallow around in. This spot feels really wild as you are already quite remote when you park the car but the walk is still short enough for little legs.
Grid Reference for parking at Lane End – SX537823
Lane End is near Mary Tavy, from Mary Tavy drive towards Horndon and then onto Lane End. Free Parking. From the car park, walk up the hill and you’ll meet a leat, follow the leat to the right (upstream) up into the valley. At the end of the leat you’ll find the good spots a few hundred meters futher up the river.
Grid Reference for Tavy Cleave – SX554831
Probably the most dramatic bit of the open moor and a wild swimming spot all in one. Please note this falls within the Dartmoor Live Firing Range, please refer to THIS GUIDE for details on when the military are firing as you may not be safe to access this spot. Please note if the red flags are raised do not proceed any further. The guide is kept up to date so you shouldn’t have any issues if you’ve checked first.
4. Salmon Leaps, River Teign
Wooded valley with a cascade of three, manmade, square pools making natural jaccuzzis. As a wild swimming spot its pretty unique and very beautiful. The water is often fast flowing in places so this isn’t the best spot for the small smalls.
Grid Reference for parking at Dogmarsh Bridge – SX713894
From Dogmarsh bridge (Limited Free Parking on the side of the road, can potentially get busy). Follow the river East (Downstream) across fields and into the steep wooded valley. It’s pretty much here just past the suspended bridge (not over it).
Grid Reference for Salmon Leaps – SX723896
As above this is a unique spot and well worth a visit. It’s easy to get to and a fun spot to get wet! Think of this spot as more of a water massage than a tranquil swim.
5. Hexworthy Bridge, West Dart River
Just along from a nice country pub, on a lovely stretch of river, by a lovely old bridge.
Grid Reference for parking at Hexworthy Bridge – SX659729
Free parking and no walk, you swim where you park. Great for small smalls who can’t walk too far, plus there is a riverside stony beach and shallow waters to paddle in as well as deeper areas to swim in.
Grid Reference as above
Very Dartmoor. Petey river with granite rocks, great for all the family.
Don’t just think about where to go wild swimming on Dartmoor but also how.
As with any outdoor activity please ensure you know the capabilities of the group. Wild swimming often involves swimming in water that is considerably colder than many people are used to. When wild swimming with kids it is also important to note they can get into trouble much quicker than adults and they are much more susceptible to hypothermia. Don’t be put off but please be prepared. Take spare clothing and limit their time in the water even if they don’t want to get out. This is by no means exhaustive, take a few minutes to read up about the risks before you go so you know the potential dangers and how to deal with them. A special note on the area, it’s not advisable to go swimming in any of the rivers on Dartmoor after heavy rain as they are very dangerous.
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