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Splash! Best outdoor swimming spots

It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes! Now dive into our guide to the best open water swimming locations in Bucks and Oxon. Just kindly refrain from bombing, running or petting please.

Got the Dry Robe? Then you’d better get out there and use it! Outdoor swimming was the runaway lockdown fitness fad and it’s showing no sign of drying up… So, whether you’re up for a quick dip, or a marathon swim, here are our favourite outdoor swimming destinations in Bucks & Oxon.

HIT THE POOL

Hinksey Outdoor Pool

Hinksey Heated Outdoor Pool, Oxford

Maybe not one for the serious swimmers out there but certainly a fab way to while away an afternoon with the kids. It’s run by Oxford City Council and has been in place in Hinksey Park since 1934. If it’s hot (and even if it’s not) you’ll need to book of course but what’s a bit of forward planning when there’s this much fun on offer?

Chipping Norton Lido, Oxon

A heated lido in Chipping Norton, you say? Yes, that’s exactly right and it’s been a pillar of the community since 1970. The timed sessions can be booked, or you can take a punt on the day. Plus, there’s swimming lessons for littlies (current temp is a balmy 28 degrees!) and a cafe too if you’re in need of a post-swim pick-me-up.

Wycombe Rye

Wycombe Rye Lido, Wycombe

Newly renovated and very much open for business, at Wycombe Rye park in the centre of town there is a heated outdoor pool, heated children’s pool and grassed and terraced sunbathing areas. It’s open all year, and doors swing open at 6am every morning for a life enhancing dip. Online booking available.

Chesham Open Air Pool

Chesham Open Air Pool, Chesham

Down at Chesham Moor you’ll find the open air pool, which is heated and remains open all year from 6am weekdays and 8am weekends. There’s aqua fitness, aerobics, swim fit sessions and inflatable fun for the tweens. Buy a membership or swim as you go, for £6 a session. All sessions should be pre-booked.

Thames Lido

Thames Lido, Reading

Yes, it is officially in Berkshire but it’s just over the border and it’s very pretty so we felt it deserved inclusion. The 25m pool, heated to 26 degrees all year round, is part of a very plush package of spa facilities and restaurant and tapas bar. There’s countless packages that include breakfast, lunch, dinner or a treatment (all four please!), but be warned – peak time packages get snapped up super fast.

Banbury Lido

Bit of a power swimmer? The Banbury Lido (formally known as Woodgreen Leisure Centre) boasts a whopping 50m Olympic standard pool with lane swimming as well as space for fun sessions (flumes still sadly out of action). Book ahead to nab your spot for lane swimming but the public swim is now a no reservations affair.

Not enough for you? Check out our recommendations for the best lidos, splash pools and inflatable parks in the area

GO WILD

Westhorpe Lake, Buckinghamshire

Queenford Lakes, nr Berinsfield, Oxon

I take my daughter to the open water swimming sessions at this lovely, clean lake. You need to register for a chipped wristband and sessions are limited to early morning and late evenings (there are a lot of other watersports taking place on the lake) so do have a proper read of the website rather than heading down and hoping. This is a good alternative for those swimmers who’ve previously used Marlow Open Water Swim, which is moving lakes and yet to announce its new locale (also try Caversham Lakes if you’re based that way).

Denham Waterski Club, Denham, Bucks

This 20-acre lake just outside of Gerrards Cross is home to plenty of watersports (clue’s in the name), but open water swimming is popular here. You’ll have to book a slot with a wristband, which are currently available on weeknight evenings and weekend mornings.

Port Meadow, Oxford

This stretch of the river in Jericho runs through the meadow and is so dreamy it inspired sections of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. There’s free parking at the north end of Port Meadow, just off Godstow Road in Wolvercote. Dogs often join owners here for a cooling dip.

Willen Lake, Milton Keynes, Bucks

This one offers so many activities (it’s practically a mini Center Parcs) that you might not have known open water swimming was even an option. The team here are currently operating sessions on Sat and Sun mornings and Tues and Thurs evenings, which must be booked in advance.

Buscot Weir, nr Faringdon, Oxon 

A Muddy reader recommended this one (thank you!). The weir gently waterfalls down into a large pool area that’s perfect for a cooling dip and family-friendly with it. There’s currently free National Trust parking nearby, too.

Bicester Performance Lake

Bicester Performance Lake, Bicester

This is a purpose-built 200m performance lake that is designed to help both amateur and experienced swimmers get to grips with the open water experience. It’s part of Bicester Hotel & Spa and while guests have free access, visitors can access the lake on a pay-as-you-go basis from £7 a session.

Taplow Lakeside

Taplow Lakeside, Taplow, Bucks

Open water swims take place on Sat and Sun mornings and Tues and Thurs evenings at this family owned business on the Berks border. You will need a National Open Water Coaching Association (Nowca) membership to swim (membership is £12 a year including the wristband) and then single swims are £6.50. No children under 8 allowed and 8 to 12-year-olds will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Marsh Lock, Henley, Oxon

This is a 10 minute walk from the Mill Lane car park in Henley and you get to float along admiring the town’s multi-million pound riverfront grand designs. For more info, see Henley Open Water Swimming Club – the site also has details of nearby swims further along the river in Hurley and Medmenham.

Clifton Hampden, nr Abingdon, Oxon

Head for the bridge in this village near Abingdon and you’ll find a stretch of the river lined with mini beaches. Once lockdown lifts proper, combine your swim with a visit to the nearby Barley Mow pub – Jerome K Jerome used to prop up the bar here in the late 19th century when he wasn’t writing Three Men In A Boat.

PS – The best open water swimming spots are often word -of-mouth affairs, so do pop a note in the comment box below if we’ve missed anywhere good near you.

8 comments on “Splash! Best outdoor swimming spots”

  • Nicola August 8, 2022

    Hi all, we’re looking for a campsite with near by wild swimming. Any ideas? 😁

    Reply
  • Susie Weeks July 22, 2022

    What are people’s favourite spots within a short-ish drive from Gerrards Cross?! We swim in the Jubilee river but fancy a change! We like free 🙂

    Reply
  • Amy Hill July 21, 2022

    Susan Henshaw – at Clifton Hampden you can. We love it there and have been a LOT recently!

    Reply
  • Michael Barker September 6, 2021

    Where is Banbury Lido?
    You might not like Banbury but the 50m open air pool is the best for miles

    Reply
    • muddystiletto November 5, 2021

      I do like Banbury! Thanks for the tip on the pool, I haven’t been there but will check it out. Hero

      Reply
  • jan.stiegeler@googlemail.com August 27, 2021

    Dogs can go in river at Port Meadow, Oxon

    Reply
  • susan henshaw June 24, 2020

    anyone know of any places that you can let your dog paddle

    Reply
    • muddystiletto June 28, 2020

      HI Susan, I’m not sure, I’ll look into it and get back to you x

      Reply

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