Cold Water Swimming,  EXPLORE,  NEWS

New cold-water swimming retreat in the Lake District

Rothay Manor, a boutique hotel in Ambleside, is launching a new series of cold-water swimming retreats this winter, focusing on mental and physical wellbeing.

Hear cold-water swimming experts talk about their experiences around a roaring fire, take a dip in some of the most captivating bodies of water in the Lake District and watch inspiring cold-water films in a pop-up cinema. This new cold-water swimming retreat at boutique hotel Rothay Manor promises to shine a light on the mental and physical benefits of cold-water immersion with guided swims led by Gilly McArthur, Vicki McCreadie and Outdoor Swimmer’s Contributing Editor Jonathan Cowie. 

“The Lake District National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world to swim. I can’t wait to share some amazing swimming experiences with our guests, exploring some of my favourite lakes and tarns – with the added thrill of some very cold water!”

Jonathan Cowie, co-founder of Blue Mind Men

The new two-night cold-water retreat will run 19-21 January and 1-3 March 2024, and include an introduction into cold-water swimming with advice on how to safely acclimatise to cold temperatures; a guided swim in Loughrigg Tarn, with views of the majestic Langdale Pikes; a guided afternoon woodland walk and a dip in Rydal water with the opportunity to explore Rydal caves and swim beneath the waterfalls; a swim in the one-mile Grasmere Lake; and a pop-up cinema showing a selection of inspiring cold-water films – with popcorn. 

One of the things that makes this retreat distinct is the focus on cold water and mental wellbeing as Jonathan Cowie, co-founder of Blue Mind Men, a men’s cold water swim club in Windermere, explains: “The whole weekend will be a chance to recharge and reconnect, both through cold-water outdoor adventures and the relaxing experience of staying at the beautiful Rothay Manor hotel. It’s the best of both worlds! We will be leaning into the mental well-being benefits of cold-water immersion as well as showcasing some great films exploring the world of winter swimming.”

Meet the swim coaches

Each of the three cold-water experts are STA Level 2 Open Water Swim Coaches and will bring their own cold water expertise and experience. Coach Jonathan Cowie, contributing editor of Outdoor Swimmer magazine, co-founded Blue Mind Men, a men’s cold water swim club in Windermere, and The Swimmer, a half-marathon with four cold water swims through London. Over the past 15 years, Jonathan has competed in marathon swims and winter swimming competitions around the world. He regularly coaches with double world champion and Olympic open water silver medallist Keri-Anne Payne and is recognised as a leader in the field of all things outdoor swimming.

“Loughrigg Tarn is one of my favourite places to swim because of the view of the Langdale Pikes from the water. It must be one of the most iconic Lake District views. You really feel immersed in the landscape. The mood is so dependent on the weather – sometimes the mountains are a brooding presence, shrouded in clouds. It is really atmospheric. Another time a rainbow appeared as I was swimming – that was pretty special!”

Jonathan Cowie, co-founder of Blue Mind Men

Gilly McArthur is an open water coach, lifeguard and has worked professionally in the outdoor industry for over 20 years. She is the co-founder of Blue Mind Swim, a group which offers a free introduction to open water swimming in the Lake District, and is part of Wonderful Wild Women, a community that aims to inspire women of all ages to get active outdoors.

Vicki McCreadie is trained as an open water coach, lifeguard, mountain leader, outdoor education instructor and is part of the Wonderful Wild Women team. With over ten years of working professionally in the outdoors, the Lake District is Vicki’s playground, home and office. She is passionate about making the outdoors more accessible for people of all backgrounds. Vicki has worked with children and adults throughout her career and with mental health charities, introducing people to the health benefits of outdoor swimming.

The new Cold-Water Retreat at Rothay Manor is available from £650 for 2 nights on a B&B basis. Price includes expert swimming guidance, three escorted open water swims, robes, reading material, high tea and use of the pop-up cinema. Please note that the guides will adapt the weekend’s swims to suit the group and Lake District weather conditions.

Photos: Jumpy James

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.