Posted by: brigid benson | May 17, 2010

Going swimmingly

As an enthusiastic swimmer, I was delighted to be asked by Kate Rew, founder of the Outdoor Swimming Society and author of Wild Swim, to suggest 5 diverse coastal swims around Britain for their website and newsletter.

So forget the ash cloud, get your kit off and have fun!

5 (of 52) great WEEKENDS BY THE SEA

Writer and swimmer Brigid Benson introduces five special swims from her beautiful book 52 Weekends by the Sea, a collection of inspirational escapes in Britain with stunning photography by Craig Easton.

As someone who has travelled all around the shores of Britain, I celebrate diversity.  I can’t help but be excited and intrigued by the quirky, unusual and unexpected, and that goes for my approach to swimming too.

I am as thrilled by the prospect of immersion in a remote sandy loch at the end of a trek in the northwest highlands as I am delighted by the strange sensation of lukewarm seawater in the Olympic size pool of an art deco east coast lido.

For me, the swim alone is not the whole experience, no matter how rewarding. I am excited by all the other stuff that goes with it, the landscape, the locals, the food, drink and accommodation. These have a huge part to play in my watery escapes. And when I come across something special, I can’t help myself, I love to share it and pass it on.

My book is stuffed with wildly diverse experiences all around Britain’s coast, from shacking up in an isolated mountain bothy to signing up for surf school and riding on  the Hogwart’s express. And there are plenty of great swimming opportunities too.

I’d find it impossible to pick five favourites, I know some really special places and there’s just too much choice out there. But let me suggest five diverse experiences that will, I hope, inspire you to pack your bags for a memorable weekend of great swimming with plenty of other good things too.

Five special swimming weekends:

Kilmory  Beach

The Ardnamurchan peninsula, Land of the Great Seas, is the furthest pioint west on the British mainland. This is a world where wildcats, pine marten and birds of prey abound. Long light summer nights are wondrous and a late evening swim under a sunset sky of rose, amber and magenta is breathtaking.   This gently sloping beach in the remote crofting community looks towards the Small Isles of Rum and Eigg. Take lanterns and a midnight feast for an unforgettable experience.

Brigid Benson author of 52 Weekends by the Sea

OS Landranger Map Sheet 47


The art deco charms of Stonehaven are magical, try a midnight swim in Britain’s one and only heated, open air, salt-water, Olympic sized pool, built in 1934 and still going strong. Feast at the stylish Carron restaurant, an art deco delight where a mysterious mirror may be the work of Picasso.

Brigid Benson author of 52 Weekends by the Sea

OS Landranger Map Sheet 45

Port Oer

There are many hidden beaches on the windswept Llyn peninsula. Managed by the National Trust, this is an especially family friendly beach with simple seaside café in season, rock pools, safe bathing and good waves for junior bodyboarders. The squeaky shoreline gives the beach its alternative name, Whistling Sands.

Brigid Benson author of 52 Weekends by the Sea

OS Landranger Map Sheet 123

Gwithian Towans

Washed by Atlantic rollers this magnificent coast inspired Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel To The Lighthouse.  Today the gently sloping beach backed by wonderful towans (sand dunes) on St Ives bay is perfect for surfing. Hire all the kit you need from the Sunset Surf café or Gwithian Academy of Surfing.

There’s lifeguarded swimming, rockpools and seals around Godrevy Island too.

Brigid Benson author of 52 Weekends by the Sea

OS Landranger Map Sheet 203


Entrepreneur Henry Pease dreamed up this handsome resort in 1859.  Eight miles of sand make family swimming, surfing  and sandcastles the order of the day. Beside the sea are the attractions of Britain’s oldest water-balanced tramway and most northerly surviving pleasure pier. Saltburn Animal Rescue Association (SARA) organise an annual New Year’s Day dip in North Sea surf.

Brigid Benson author of 52 Weekends by the Sea

OS Landranger Map Sheet 93

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