Whether you are working off (or working up to) a festive hangover, burning off that extra mince pie, setting yourself a personal challenge or raising money for a worthy cause, Britain’s Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year swims are not to be missed.
Brilliant community events that unite all generations in a somewhat barmy past-time, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day sea swims are a much-loved part of annual celebrations. In a tradition dating back at least 160 years, these events see countless visitors and locals flock to the shores of seaside towns and villages ready to brave an icy plunge or provide vocal support (and lots of hot tea) from the sidelines.
Some of these events may not happen in 2020 due to restrictions on large gatherings but you can bet there will be some brave souls holding up the tradition in a socially distanced style.
If you fancy enjoying a dip during your coastal retreat or want to cheer on from the shore, here are some of the must-see swims that usually take place across the UK during the festive season.
Christmas Day Swims
Watched by huge crowds every year, the brilliant Lowestoft Christmas Swim sees hardy plungers dash to the sea in a flurry of colour. With no other event replicating the size and scale of this swim in Suffolk (even in the height of summer!) it’s a brilliant way to kick off celebrations.
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One of a large number of Christmas swims that take place across Cornwall, Sennen’s annual swim attracts hundreds of spectators and swimmers. With extravagant costumes a signature part of the occasion, dressing up (or down!) is all part of the fun and it’s not unusual to see a snowman or two dive headfirst into the waves.
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Perhaps one of the biggest Christmas Day swims in the UK, Weymouth’s swim on the 25th December draws thousands of people. A landmark event organised by the Weymouth & Portland Lions Club, the swim takes place from the harbour and is one not to be missed.
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The home place of all Christmas Day Swims, Brighton Swimming Club’s yearly tradition began in 1860. Believed to be England’s oldest Christmas community swim, the official event was cancelled by the Brighton and Hove council in 2015 due to somewhat over-zealous behaviour, but there are still plenty of other swims that take place around the town in celebration.
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Boxing Day Swims
Tenby’s legendary Boxing Day swim is ranked amongst Britain’s festive highlights. Not only a vibrant extravaganza of colour and cheer, this particular swim is made all the more tempting by the fact that it is also rated as one of the UK’s top ten barmiest winter dips too…
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Redcar, North Yorkshire
Hundreds of hardy Teessiders take on the chilly North Sea each year for Redcar’s Box Day swim. Despite the freezing temperatures, fancy dress is all but a must with many tumbling into the sea in sometimes extravagant, sometimes hilarious and sometimes eye-wateringly miniscule costumes. The only rule? You’ve got to get your hair wet!
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North Sea Swim, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear
Seaburn Beach’s annual swim attracts around 1,000 swimmers and a whopping 5,000 onlookers in one of Britain’s biggest Boxing Day celebrations. Braving the ice-cold temperatures of the North Sea, all generations jump into the water to raise money for charity and earn a well-deserved Boxing Day feast.
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Prestwick Boxing Day Dip, Ayrshire
If you’ve never seen hundreds of Scots run to the sea wearing little more than Santa hats and shorts, then the Prestwick Box Day ‘Dip and Nip’ is one for the list. In a tradition we can all get behind, after the dip all swimmers are rewarded with hearty portions of hot soup and – for the over 18s – a nip of whiskey!
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New Year’s Day Swims
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Usually taking place at noon each year, the Scarborough Lions Club’s New Year Swim is attended by thousands. Using the opportunity to raise money for different charities, it’s a brilliant community event where families and friends gather together in spirited merriment and support.
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“Loony Dook” Swim, Firth of Forth, near Edinburgh
The name “Loony Dook” derives from “dook”, the Scottish term for a dip or bathe, and “loony”, short for lunatic – which basically says it all. Established in 1986, this much-anticipated swim now draws participants and spectators from all over the world and is definitely an event all New Year’s Day dunkers should try at least once.
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Stokes Bay, Hampshire
GAFIRS Lifeboat New Year’s Day Swim at Stokes Bay in Gosport is yet another event that sees countless Santas, reindeer and elves run to the sea with gay abandon. Naturally, like many of these events, fancy dress is a perquisite and there are some absolutely brilliant costumes each year.
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Barry, Vale of Glamorgan
One of the most popular New Year’s Day swims in Wales, the Barry Island swim is a firm favourite amongst all ages. Making a real splash with over 2,000 paddlers, belly-floppers and nose-divers, the water is transformed into a festive wash. Reviving the senses and firing the adrenaline, what better way is there to welcome in the start of the New Year?
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