To truly embrace the great outdoors in the UK, discover the delight of wild swimming in the Thames. We uncover 10 of our favourite spots to take a dip with information to plan a great day out in England.


There’s something so revitalising about wild swimming in the Thames.

Squishy mud squelching between your toes and foreign objects brushing against your legs. Dodging slippery rocks to experience the relief that comes from finding a nice flat gravel section that gives you time to plot your course into the water.

Then, with steely resolve, plucking up the courage to defy the numbing sensation in your limbs and dive into the bracing water. Both invigorating and fortifying, wild swimming is like a jolt to the senses. A reminder of the therapeutic powers of mother nature and the elation of a great adventure.

Like hiking in the Cotswolds, swimming in the Thames is one of the most candid ways to experience the great outdoors in England.

We’ve developed this list of swimming spots after years of cumulative research. Some are ideal for adventurous people looking for an alternative way to enjoy the isolation of the countryside, others are purpose-built for families with young kids. Some are perfectly located with easy access to public transport, others are out-of-the-way idylls – remote atmospheric pools where the setting takes you away from the every day.

Here are our favourite swimming spots in the Thames.

AFFILIATES / This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something following a link on this page, we’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support means the world to us – Paul & Mark.

WHERE TO GO WILD SWIMMING IN THE THAMES


HURLEY LOCK

The perfect swimming spot for young families

MEDMENHAM

A shady evening picnic and picturesque swim

SHIPLAKE

Party end of the Thames with easy access from London

MOULSFORD

Fun, adventure and a late afternoon pint

SHILLINGFORD

A peaceful swim in a shady idyll

CLIFTON HAMPDEN

A relaxing dip by a charming village

PORT MEADOW

A wild swim close to the centre of Oxford

BUSCOT WEIR

A large protected, tree-lined pool

LECHLADE RIVER PARK

Fun and games next to a Cotswolds town

MINSTER LOVELL

Swim past atmospheric, medieval ruins

HURLEY LOCK

The perfect swimming spot for young families

MEDMENHAM

A shady evening picnic and picturesque swim

SHIPLAKE

Party end of the Thames with easy access from London

MOULSFORD

Fun, adventure and a late afternoon pint

SHILLINGFORD

A peaceful swim in a shady idyll

CLIFTON HAMPDEN

A relaxing dip by a charming village

PORT MEADOW

A wild swim close to the centre of Oxford

BUSCOT WEIR

A large protected, tree-lined pool

LECHLADE RIVER PARK

Fun and games next to a Cotswolds town

MINSTER LOVELL

Swim past atmospheric, medieval ruins


1 / HURLEY LOCK

Best wild swimming in the Thames with a large shelving beach and good facilities for young families.

Hurley Lock sits on an island in the middle of the Thames. Surrounded by large swathes of green grass, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic with the family. A shallow shelving beach with almost no current makes Hurley Lock suitable for kids of all ages. However, head a little further out and the water gradually deepens allowing for an excellent wild swim.

The island has patches with both sun and shade, and a few picnic tables dotted about. There’s a tearoom and public toilets making it the perfect wild swimming spot on the Thames for anyone who likes to have facilities nearby. Hurley Lock is only a 5-minute walk from the beautiful village of Hurley; parts of which date back to 1135. The village is well worth looking around.

FACILITIES

There are public toilets and a tea room at the lock.

PARKING

Hurley Village Car Park is a 5-minute walk to the lock.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Take the train to Marlow then enjoy a lovely 1-hour walk along Thames Footpath to Hurley Lock.

2 / MEDMENHAM

Best wild swimming in the Thames for an evening picnic on a shady enclosed grassy patch

Medmenham is a mile upstream from Hurley Lock on the other side of the river. At the end of a lane of posh houses, a lovely patch of grass opens out in front of a particularly wide stretch of the Thames. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic with the surrounding trees giving it a lovely secluded feel. After a dip, enjoy a bottle of wine as the sun rifts behind the trees.

There are no gentle shelving beaches here, but it’s about a 1-foot step down off the bank into the water. While shallow at the edge, the river deepens quickly. This makes it an excellent spot for some energetic swimming in the Thames. There are two magnificent houses set on the riverbank which you can swim past and dream of what life could have been.

FACILITIES

There are no toilets at Mednemham but it’s a 10-minute walk to The Dog & Badger pub.

PARKING

Park where you can along Ferry Lane in Medmenham, then walk down to the river and turn right.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Buses run to the Dog & Badger from High Wycombe, Marlow, Henley and Reading.

3 / SHIPLAKE

Best wild swimming in the Thames with easy access from London

Just south of Lower Shiplake, a long grassy bank lines the edges of the River Thames. There are plenty of spots to put down a picnic blanket and while away an afternoon. Although a long swim is possible here, it’s a popular part of the river, so you’ll often need to give way to boats making their way downstream in full party mode. However, it’s a lovely spot to take a quick dip and sit on the banks while watching a very active part of the river.

It’s less than an hour by train from London Paddington station to Lower Shiplake station. From here, it’s a 20-minute walk to the swimming spot, making Shiplake a very achievable day trip from London.

FACILITIES

The Baskerville pub in Lower Shiplake is a 20-minute walk

PARKING

Park on Mill Lane in Lower Shiplake then walk to Sonning lock and take Thames footpath west for a few minutes.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Lower Shiplake train station is a 20-minute walk to the river.

4 / MOULSFORD

Best wild swimming in the Thames with a late afternoon pint

Moulsford is a relaxed wild swimming spot set beside a lovely meadow whose banks come right up to the edge of the river. Several picnic spots have been marked out in the long grass from previous swimmers. The river is easily accessed via tracks through the grass that arrive at gentle shelving beaches.

A little upstream, a swing rope dangles from an old large tree which you can swim over to and join the queue of people hurling themselves into the water. The best spot for a drink at the end of the day is at The Beetle & Wedge Pub. Perched right on the river, it makes an ideal location to watch the sunset over a beautiful part of the Thames. It’s a great day out in England.

FACILITIES

There are toilets at the Beetle & Wedge pub in Moulsford

PARKING

Park on the streets of Moulsford, turn right after the Beetle & Wedge Pub and walk for 15 minutes along the Thames.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / From Goring & Streatley train station walk over the bridge and turn right. Head upstream for 25 minutes.

5 / SHILLINGFORD

Best wild swimming in the Thames for a quiet stretch of idyllic peacefulness

For peace and quiet on a beautiful shady stretch of the river, Shillingford is an under-visited location and a hidden gem on the Thames. Just a 15-minute walk north of Shillingford Hotel, seven secluded picnic spots are nestled into the banks of the river. Each one is set among the trees, so once you have picked your spot, you’d never know anyone else was around.

The reed lined river peacefully meanders at a slow pace and lilies drift aimlessly on the current. With barely a house to be seen it’s the best secret idyll we’ve found and a great spot for swimming on the Thames. You can swim for miles or simply take the odd dip. Whatever you choose its pure joy.

FACILITIES

Shillingford Hotel has a bar and toilets

PARKING

Park at Shillingford Hotel, then walk 15-minute along the western bank. Please note, the car park only takes cash.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Buses to Shillingford run from Oxford, Reading and Henley.

6 / CLIFTON HAMPDEN

Best wild swimming in the Thames for a quiet picnic by a charming village

Clifton Hampden is a charming village full of thatched houses, a lovely church, a quaint post office and a couple of pubs. Just south of the village, a public meadow caresses the banks of the river before dropping down to several gently shelving beaches.

Some of the entrances into the water are a bit muddy, but a quick stroll will reveal tiny gravel beaches providing comfortable access to this attractive rural part of the river. Trees line the far bank with the odd house of the village poking between them. There are few better places to spend the afternoon than soaking up the rays, snacking on a picnic and cooling off along the river at Clifton Hampden.

FACILITIES

Barley Mow pub is a 10-minute walk from the swimming spot.

PARKING

Park at Barley Mow pub, then walk 5 minutes along the road to the Thames Footpath, then walk another 5 minutes to find a spot to jump in.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Buses run from Didcot, but they’re infrequent.

7 / PORT MEADOW

Best wild swimming in the Thames on the edge of Oxford

It’s not often you can go for a swim in a river that passes through a city, but you can here. On the northwest edge of Oxford City centre, the River Thames flows through Port Meadow. The right for Freemen to graze their cattle on this meadow was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and that right has been exercised ever since.

So today, cattle and horses continue to graze on the verdant riverbank meadow. This means you have to search for a spot without animal dung. Once you do, the edge of the gently moving river is great for a paddle. The centre is just deep enough for several ‘laps.’

The best spot for families is on the east bank just next to the Godstow Car Park where there are free toilets. A little further down on the western bank, the nicer entrance points start around 15 minutes’ walk from the car park. Either the Perch or the Trout Inn are great spots to enjoy a point and conclude an excellent day out in Oxford.

FACILITIES

The Perch is at one end of the swimming spot, the Trout Inn is at the other.

PARKING

Park at Port Meadow Godstow car park (free), then walk for 15 minutes along the west bank.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Oxford Train or Bus Station is a 30-minute walk along the Thames.

8 / BUSCOT WEIR POOL

Best wild swimming in the Thames in a large, protected pool

The further upstream you head the smaller the River Thames gets, so finding spots to swim gets trickier. But Buscot has solved that problem by building a weir in the river which forms a large pool. Like a large outdoor swimming pool, there is very little current, shallow edges and a deep centre. The whole space is surrounded by lush trees and shrubs, giving it a lovely enclosed feel.

Next to the pool, a wide-open meadow providing lots of space to bask in the sun, laze under the shade of tree or kick a football around. It’s a great spot for groups or families with a bit of extra space to run around. Buscot weir pool is run by the National Trust which has a convenient car park, toilets and a tearoom just a short walk away.

FACILITIES

Tea room and toilets in Buscot Village are a 10-minute walk from the weir pool.

PARKING

Buscot Village car park (National Trust) then 5-minute walk to the weir pool.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Not an easy option. Buses to Lechlade run from Cirencester and Swindon. From Lechlade, it’s a 3-mile walk.

9 / LECHLADE RIVER PARK

Best wild swimming in the Thames for fun and games by a lovely Cotswolds town

Just upstream from Buscot, Lechlade River Park is a great location for a day of fun and games on the Thames. The river curves around a large meadow with plenty of space to get away from everyone or bring the whole gang – whatever takes your fancy. It’s a great spot to relax in the sun and, with so much space, you could have a game of cricket, kick the football around, or practise your Tai Chi. The nearby Swindon Watersports has kayaks for hire.

After a spot of swimming in the Thames, the town of Lechlade – about 10 minutes from the river park – has plenty of facilities for everyone. The Lynwood Café is the place to go for excellent coffee and fresh pastries. Sweet As Can Bee will keep the youngsters sugared-up while The Swan Inn has a great pub menu.

FACILITIES

There are public toilets on Burford Street in Lechlade & plenty of cafes and pubs.

PARKING

Lechlade Riverside car park is a 5-minute walk to the river.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Buses to Lechlade run from Cirencester and Swindon. It’s a 10-minute walk from Market Place stop.

10 / MINSTER LOVELL

Best wild swimming near the Thames with atmospheric, medieval ruins.

Strictly speaking Minster Lovell is on the River Windrush, but it does flow into the Thames and it’s such a good spot that we had to include it. There’s no setting by a river in the English countryside, quite like this.

Minster Lovell is one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds with a ruined 15th-century manor house set beside the river. It’s the perfect place for a picnic. The river around the ruins is waist-high, so it’s more of a paddle than a swim.

However, a few minutes’ walk downstream, a small weir forms a reed-fringed pool just beyond it. Here the water is deep and the current is strong. While you can’t go very far, by swimming into the flow you can keep the strokes going until you run out of energy. There are more picnic spots further downstream for a more rural, out of the way setting.

FACILITIES

Old Swan pub is a 10-minute walk from swimming spots.

PARKING

Park at either at Minster Lovell Church (5-minute walk for swim) or at the village car park (10-minute walk)

PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Buses to Minster Lovell run from Oxford, Woodstock & Burford. The swimming is a 20-minute walk from the White Hart stop.

MAP / WHERE TO GO SWIMMING IN THE THAMES

To help you find the best wild swimming spots on the Thames, we’ve marked each of the parking locations on the map. We’ve also indicated what we think are the best spots along the river to jump in. Many of the locations listed in this guide have multiple good entry points, so just head in the general direction of the swim location and find something that works for you.

Here’s how to save our map:

1 / Click on the star beside the title to save your Google Maps account (if you’re logged in).

2 / To locate the map in Google Maps go to SAVED(the bookmark icon on the bottom menu bar), then MAPS (the last option in the row of menu items at the top of the app – you may need to scroll across to find MAPS. The order is: Lists – Labelled – Reservations – Following – Maps)

3 / Click on the map to when you get to the Thames and navigate to the swimming spot.

WHERE NEXT?

If you found this guide useful, please head over to Instagram and follow us to stay up to date with our adventures.

Nearby to these swimming locations on the Thames, we’ve spent a lot of time curating our list of best walks in the Cotswolds. Each walk includes a detailed map with all our hiking instructions.

The south-west of England is packed with options for great days out, here are some ideas:

Got a second to vote for us?

We were honoured to be selected as one of the Best Cultural Travel Blogs by Teletext Holidays, which puts us up for the Best Travel Blog at the British Travel Awards

We would love it if you could spare a quick minute to vote for us.

Got a second to vote for us?

We were honoured to be selected as one of the Best Cultural Travel Blogs by Teletext Holidays, which puts us up for the Best Travel Blog at the British Travel Awards

We would love it if you could spare a quick minute to vote for us.

BOOKING RESOURCES

For all our travel resources, see our book page

HOTELS
CAR
ACTIVITIES

We use booking.com and hotels.com to book all our accommodation.

Our preferred car rental platform is Auto Europe. Select your home location to book.

Avoid the queues and purchase tickets to attractions and tours online.


If you found this article useful, please share to your social media and pin to your Pinterest boards.

SUBSCRIBE / Sign up for our regular updates.


Trips100 - Travel Blogs
Trips100

Vote for us in theBritish Travel Awards

VOTE HERE

Trips100 - Travel Blogs
Trips100

Vote for us in theBritish Travel Awards

VOTE HERE