North Devon & Exmoor’s Top 7 Spectacular Wild Swimming Locations

Transform your typical workout into a thrilling experience with wild swimming. Unlike swimming in a controlled environment, wild swimming offers a sense of adventure, a rush of endorphins, and a connection to the natural world.

Embrace the chill of the water, the goosebumps on your skin, and the adrenaline rush as you navigate through rugged landscapes to take the plunge into pure, refreshing waters.

Wild swimming is not just an exercise but a form of rewilding, a way to reconnect with the natural world and our primal selves. But where should you go?

The untamed landscapes of Exmoor and the coastline of North Devon offer some of the best spots.

Here are a few suggestions to kick-start your wild swimming journey in Devon…

Broadsands, Combe Martin

Enveloped by the lush greenery of steep cliffs, Broad Sands may be Devon’s most scenic cove.

It is a local favourite for its crystal-clear turquoise water, which lures you down the steep 200-step descent to the dual pebble beaches below.

Broadsands, Combe Martin

The beach also offers a chain of hidden caves and an ancient island lookout to investigate, adding to the sense of adventure.

The beach gradually slopes into deep water, making it an ideal spot for gentle floating or leisurely swimming. It is protected from the open sea waves by the embrace of the headland.

Watersmeet, Exmoor

Watersmeet, a charming glen filled with ancient oaks and vibrant ferns, is where the water moves swiftly over smooth rocks, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

Where the river Lyn joins Hoar Oak water, the landscape opens up to green banks under a dappled canopy, offering idyllic swimming spots.

Don’t miss the Glenthorne estate’s fishing lodge, now a National Trust tearoom serving delicious cream teas.

The tranquil pools are perfect for a family day out, including your furry friend. Or venture 1.5km upstream to Long Pool, a surreal spot with fern-covered granite walls and inky depths of water, ideal for a serene swim.

Woody Bay, Exmoor

Tucked amidst the rugged cliffs and peaks of Exmoor’s coast, Woody Bay is a naturalist’s dream.

At the remote end of this shingle beach, there is a naturally formed tidal pool, offering a magical wild swimming experience.

Enjoy the calming rhythm of the water, the reflection of the sky on its surface, and the tranquillity of being the only one there.

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The River Barle, Exmoor

The Barle, the largest river in Exmoor National Park, is a vibrant hub for wildlife including salmon, otters, kingfishers, and a unique river jelly lichen.

This makes it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and the water, as you might expect, is absolutely pristine.

The river originates high on the Somerset moors and winds down to join the River Exe in Devon.

It offers numerous quiet spots to immerse yourself in the clear, amber-hued water. One such spot is underneath Cow’s Castle, an Iron Age settlement near Simonsbath, where a serene and open section of the river is ideal for a leisurely swim.


A haven for beach lovers, Woolacombe Beach offers three miles of golden sand, a deep blue sea, and a backdrop of verdant hills.

It’s no wonder that this beach has been recognized by TripAdvisor as one of the top 20 beaches in the world.

Woolacombe has successfully embraced dual identities – a chilled-out surfers’ paradise and a peaceful rural retreat with miles of coastal paths and endless blue horizons.

Swim in the crystal-clear shallows, frolic in the waves, or explore the tranquil inlets amongst the rocks.

After a satisfying swim, wrap up in a towel robe and treat yourself to a post-swim rasul using vegan-friendly Natural Spa Factory products at The Alchemist Spa, a short walk from the beach.

Westward Ho! Beach, Bideford

Moving towards Bideford, Westward Ho! Beach is a perfect combination of sandy beach and rolling surf, making it an ideal spot for wild swimming and other outdoor sports activities in North Devon.

Its blue-flag status confirms its safety and cleanliness, ensuring a joyful swimming experience.

Pebble Ridge, Northam Burrows Country Park

Pebble Ridge, located in Northam Burrows Country Park near Bideford, offers a unique wild swimming experience.

The freshwater pool created by the ridge provides a safe and exciting environment for a swim.

Don’t miss the chance to observe the rich wildlife in the surrounding area, making your swim an immersive nature experience.

Clovelly, Bideford

Clovelly is a privately owned village in North Devon, famous for its picturesque harbour and steep cobbled streets.

The clear waters around the harbour make it a charming spot for wild swimming. The village’s quaint charm and old-world feel add to the unique experience of wild swimming here.


Wild swimming is not only a wonderful way to exercise but a chance to reconnect with nature’s beauty and vitality.

North Devon and Exmoor, with their stunning landscapes and pristine waters, offer some of the most memorable wild swimming experiences in the UK.

This blog post took you on a journey through eight of the best spots for wild swimming in these regions, from the turquoise waters of Combe Martin’s Broad Sands to the quiet seclusion of Woolacombe Beach.

Remember to observe safety measures and respect the natural environment to ensure these precious locations remain preserved for generations to come.

Venture further to the intriguing landscapes around Bideford, with sites like Westward Ho! Beach and Pebble Ridge at Northam Burrows Country Park.

Don’t miss out on the charming village of Clovelly, where wild swimming is complemented by quaint, old-world charm.

Whether you’re seeking the thrill of a cold water dip or a peaceful reconnection with nature, these wild swimming spots in North Devon and Exmoor promise an unforgettable experience.

Author Matt Ogborne
Matt Ogborne
About the Author

Welcome to! I’m Matt, a seasoned explorer and avid fan of Bideford and the broader North Devon area. With over a decade of consistent family visits, virtually every weekend, I’ve immersed myself in the rich history and vibrant culture Bideford & North Devon.

On this site, you’ll find a wealth of knowledge amassed from my adventures here. From in-depth local guides to engaging blog posts about Bideford. Whether you’re looking for recommendations on things to do or guidance on where to stay we have you covered. Join me as we delve into the heart of Bideford, North Devon – a town that’s more than just a destination, but an experience waiting to be discovered.

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