We’re just over a month away from Christmas Day. By now you’ll be in the throes of gift buying and food ordering, not to mention the mild frisson of panic induced by the phrases ‘drinks party’ and ‘what am I going to wear’...But once Christmas Day dawns, whether you’re spending it at home, or in a self-catering cottage, the holiday excitement descends upon us all, and the frantic run up is all but forgotten. It’s time to enjoy the pursuits of the season.
Whilst the nation groans under the collective weight of Christmas dinner, the last thing you might be thinking of doing is exposing your current winter-clad white bits on a British beach. But what better way to shrug off the excesses of the month than to join in with one of the many Boxing Day swims and dips that take place around the country come 26th December.
Yes the temperature of the sea may be a rather chilly 11 degrees or so,, but the benefits of salt water swimming are vast with boosting the immune system, easing aches and pains, and improving allergies all cited. So wherever you are in the UK come Boxing Day, and whether you actively participate or just applaud from the sidelines, these events are fun and a great reason to leave the comfort of your cottage behind, at least for a little while.
West Bay Wallow, Dorset
Those fans of acclaimed ITV series Broadchurch will be familiar with West Bay, also known as Bridport Harbour. This pretty little coastal town sits on the mouth of the river Brid, on the Jurassic coast in west Dorset, and sets the scene for many a backdrop in the popular crime whodunnit. In the winter months it still holds charm with The Bull Hotel and The Ropemaker’s pub highly recommended for gourmet meals and great beer and gigs. But back to the matter in hand, now celebrating it’s 12th anniversary, swimmers are invited to head down to the marina at midday. Bridport Roundtable host the event, safely watched over by the coastguard, and with participants invited to don fancy dress, if they’ve a mind.
Tenby Boxing Day Swim, Pembrokeshire
Tenby is a popular year round holiday destination, so for those of you heading to Pembrokeshire this Christmas, some spectator sport at the Tenby Boxing Day swim, should be on your list of activities. Weather forecasters are predicting the warmest weather ever in Wales this Christmas, so no more excuse needed to join the 600 or so swimmers expected this year. Fancy dress is optional at this one, but this year’s theme is ‘Cool Cymru’, and with prizes for the best dressed our minds are racing. Red dragon. Dragon. Komodo dragon. Planet Earth II. Surely the coolest programme on TV right now. Take your komodo costume and be at Tenby North Beach at 11.30am.
Run + Swim, North Norfolk
The clue’s in the title here folks, as well as dipping yourselves in the North Sea (bbbrrrrrr) you can also start your ‘new year, new you’ promise to yourself early by going for a gentle jog beforehand. Organisers, the North Norfolk Beach Runners, invite you to meet at Cromer Pier at 10am to enjoy a run along the clifftop to Overstrand, before returning, gasping, whence you came for a brisk immersion to finish off at 11am. Or finish you off, quite possibly. As with most of these dips, you’re encouraged to raise money for charity with this year’s worthy recipient being the RNLI Cromer, Norfolk station. Being protected in the sea, by experts on the sea. Quite right too.
Prestwick Boxing Day Dip, Ayrshire
For a no doubt freezing festive swim, or a dip then a wee nip, head up to the Prestwick Boxing Day dip in Ayshire, Northumberland. Registration is free of charge but the organisers do ask that swimmers try and raise a £100 donation for a new Malcolm Sargent House in the area, a vital holiday home for children and young people suffering from cancer in the UK. Meet at the RAFA Club at 2pm where you’ll be judged on your fancy dress effort before plunging into those icy waters. Your knees may be knocking with cold, but the cockles of your heart will be warmed by your charitable Christmas deed. And for your wee nip? Why not fill your hip flask with some King’s Ginger. Bottom’s up!
Whitby District Lions Boxing Day Swim, Scarborough
Summon your courage with a roar for the Whitby Lions as you join them in taking to the icy North Sea in Scarborough. Not the faint-hearted, this dip is over 45 years old and is a frantic but fun occasion for both spectators and swimmers. Last year nearly £9,000 was raised so this is a big event in the calendar for the local community. You’ll be heading into those frosty waters at 10.30am, so plenty of time afterwards to thaw out and warm up before heading back to your holiday cottage, or home, for a splendid lunch of obligatory left-overs.
Ventnor Beach Boxing Day Swim, Isle of Wight
You’ll have quite a view of the Solent as you saunter down the hill to the seafront ready for the Ventnor dash on the Isle of Wight. Crowds will have gathered, much like the other dips we’ve mentioned above, the sight of a hundred (or more!) slightly barmy British citizens stripping off, donning costumes, and racing into the sea is something to behold. The pebbly beach slows some down, no sandy bay for ease and comfort here, for others more fleet of foot the icy waters await. Of course, you don’t need to fully immerse yourself in the sea to claim to have ‘been in’. Up to your knees? Yes that’ll do, you’ll be within your rights to hasten out, straight into your onesie. For a light bite post plunge, why not head over to The Spyglass Inn, serving food from midday and closing at 11pm it’s the perfect place to let the excitement of the day simmer down.
Holidaying over the Christmas period is a real chance to relax and rest. A new location, and zero chores are the perfect antidote to a busy year. Boxing Day swims, whether watching or wading in, are great opportunities to socialise with the locals and enjoy the sense of community evident in our coastal towns. A chilly, and slightly mad, adventure it may be, but the inclination to dip come Boxing Day has turned into a much-loved tradition. So go on, start planning your costume now - we double dare you!