Embracing The Chill: A Family Guide to Cold-Water Swimming Over The Festive Season

Published 29 Nov, 2023

Festive traditions come in all shapes and sizes. Some families love to celebrate the occasion with a new set of pyjamas every Christmas Eve, whilst others wait all-year-round to create hand-crafted decorations from trinkets collected on winter walks.

But there’s one festive pastime that seems to be increasingly popular: cold-water swimming in the great outdoors!

Each year on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, families are discovering the refreshing effects of a (very) cold-water dip together in their nearby rivers, lakes or in the sea. And there’s also the coastal New Year’s Day ritual when seaside communities head to the beach and take a brave run in and out of the water en masse (no wetsuits are required) – screams, cheers and laughter are guaranteed!

Ready to make winter swimming your new festive tradition? Read on for the Tom & Teddy Guide to Cold-Water Swimming this yuletide period.

The Benefits of Cold-Water Swimming

Embarking on a chilly aquatic submersion might seem a little daunting, but the benefits of cold-water swimming are nothing short of invigorating.

  • Cold-water swimming has been proven to boost your immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells. And exposure to winter-water temperatures has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and alleviate aches and pains - which is why athletes often take an icy plunge after a workout!
  • Swimming in cold water is also brilliant for circulation and for burning calories. It forces blood to the surface of your skin and encourages it to circulate to help you become warmer. The lower water temperatures will increase your heart rate, making it pump faster to warm your body up.
  • But it isn’t just a physical feat; cold-water swimming can be a very holistic experience that challenges the body and mind, leaving you with a sense of accomplishment and a renewed zest for life.
  • For families who love being outdoors, exploring the countryside and taking in plenty of fresh air, cold-water swimming is an ideal way to deepen this connection to nature. The beautiful backdrops of our waterways and coastal beaches offer the perfect opportunity to take in some spectacular views while splashing in and out of the water. The exhilaration and excitement of jumping into the chilly depths provides instant camaraderie and a true sense of bonding as a family unit.

Image owned by Essex Live.


Preparation is key to a successful cold-water swim this festive season. First things first, choose a location that suits everyone of all ages, ensuring it's safe and accessible.

You’ll want to keep an eye on the weather forecast (especially if you’ll be swimming in the sea) and schedule your swim accordingly.

For more than just a five-second plunge, equip the family with the right gear - wetsuits, thermal clothing and towels are essential. And don’t forget a bag packed with festive treats and hot drinks for your post-swim celebration!

Brief everyone on safety measures, especially if you’re new to cold-water swimming. Depending on your circumstances, it may be unsafe for some members of your family to take part, so it’s vital to research thoroughly before embarking on your adventure. Even if you’re not able to join in, cheering on those who do is a fantastic way to kick off the festivities.

The Royal Life Saving Society talks about how to stay safe, how long you should stay in the water and how to deal with the cold here.

Our top tips are:

  1. Do a bit of post-dip prep by taking regular cold blasts in the shower.
  2. Always warm up a little before entering the water as this will increase your core temperature and loosen up muscles.
  3. To counteract the shock when you first enter the cold water, practice breathing in for a count of 4 and breathing out for a count of 6-8.
  4. Invest in wetsuit-fabric gloves and boots to wear with your suit – it’s your hands and feet that will feel icy cold the most!

And, of course, don’t forget to make it fun! Encourage everyone to wear their festive best…think Santa hats, elf ears and reindeer noses for a festive atmosphere.

Where to go

Whether it’s a natural swimming pool or a coastal beach, the UK has spectacular options for families seeking a unique and invigorating experience. There are so many to choose from, but here are a few popular spots up and down the country.

Hampstead Heath Ponds, London

Watergate Bay, Newquay

Forty Foot, Dublin

Image owned by Lovin Dublin.

Loch Ness, Scotland

Clevedon Marine Lake, Clevedon

Image owned by The Water Diary.

Hope Cove, Devon

Image owned by Coast And Country.

Brighton Pier Beach, Brighton & Hove

Haven’t seen a spot near you? Take a look at some more popular cold-water swimming spots here.

So lace up those winter boots, grab your towels, and get ready for a family cold-water swim that’s as exhilarating as it is bonding!