Waterfalls, Rivers, Lochs and Lakes: Britain's Best Alternatives to the Beach

By Liz Wootton

With the weather heating up and summer fast approaching full swing, Liz Wootton shares the best alternatives to the beach in Britain. 

I'll be honest here, Britain isn’t exactly the sunniest of all the isles. And it’s probably for this reason that Brits tend to go a little bonkers when the slightest sliver of sun appears. Being the sun-deprived nation that we are, when we get a beautiful sunny day it makes perfect sense to celebrate it in style. Usually, this means hordes of holidaymakers in their suncream-covered (or else varying-shades-of-red) masses, carting coolers full of cans, sunhats, flipflops and sun umbrellas akimbo, doggedly making their way down to the nearest beach. 

However, as lovely as a weekend trip to the beach is, unless you’re up and away at the crack of dawn, the closest carparks are likely to be overflowing and the beach itself already jampacked. After eventually finding and setting up on your own small patch of sand (the dream), or stretch of tiny, but surprisingly sharp, rocks (more realistic), then you can finally sit back and enjoy the day - until you’re trampled by a horde of children playing frisbee or else covered in sand and spray by an overly-enthusiastic dog that is.

As well as falling short on the relaxation side of things, beach days en masse can also be pretty damaging for the local environment, with litter-strewn seasides being just as inevitable as sunburn after a sunny day in the UK. Although it’s lovely that everyone’s out enjoying the sunshine in nature, it also needs to be noted that, by single-mindedly making our way to the country’s most popular beaches, we’re putting large amounts of pressure on these coastal beauty spots and the surrounding areas. Getting off the beaten track and exploring some of Britain’s great beach alternatives is a great way to both lose the crowds and give the planet a helping hand. 

Wild Swimming Safety

If you are planning on taking the plunge at one of these beautiful spots, then it’s best to bear these wild swimming safety tips in mind:

  • Prepare for the water to be cold and rather than jumping in at once, lower yourself in slowly to avoid sending your body into shock. 
  • Wear swim shoes to protect your feet.
  • Try to check the water quality/online reviews before you go. 
  • Bring something to wrap up warm in once you’re out in case the sun goes behind a cloud.
  • Always check your body for leeches on leaving the water, just in case! 

Alternatively, read cold water swimmer Sophie Hellyer's dos and and don'ts for first-time wild swimmers

Before you set off, read Max La Manna's guides on how to travel plastic-free and how to plan a low-waste picnic.

See our favourite women's sustainable swimwear brandsmen's sustainable swimwear brands and eco swimwear for kids.

Waterfalls, Rivers, Lochs and Lakes: Britain's Best Alternatives to the Beach