About the swimming pilot, how to book a session, what to bring and how to get there, swimming facilities and safety.

About the swimming pilot

From Saturday 29 April to Sunday 28 May 2023, in partnership with Uswim and All-Aboard Water Sports, we're running a swimming pilot in Bristol Harbour. This means people can swim from 8am to 10am on Saturdays and Sundays in a cordoned-off area of the harbour during this time.

The swimming area will be in front of The Cottage Inn, Baltic Wharf on the south side of Bristol Harbour.

The water quality in Baltic Wharf will be tested weekly to make sure it meets bathing water standards. See Water quality in Bristol Harbour.

Book a swim session

You must be:

  • 18 or over
  • able to swim a minimum of 400m continuously in deep water

You can swim for up to 2 hours from 8am to 10am on Saturdays and Sundays only, for a fee of £7. This fee covers the running costs of the pilot swim, so that there are no costs to Bristol City Council.

You must book your swim session in advance.

Book a swim session

What you'll need to bring

For safety reasons swimmers must:

  • use a tow float
  • wear a brightly coloured swim cap

You cannot swim without these items.

A swimmer wearing a swim cap and using a tow float in Bristol Harbour:

Swimmer in Bristol Harbour wearing a swim cap and using a tow float

If you don't have a tow float or a swim cap, email sales@uswimopenwater.com to buy them. You must bring these items with you because you cannot buy or rent them when you arrive at the swimming area.

We encourage swimmers to wear earplugs to stop cold water entering your ear canal, which can cause dizziness and nausea.

Wetsuits are optional.

Bring warm clothes for when you get out of the water. You can leave your clothes and belongings in a supervised enclosed area.

How to get there

The swimming area will be in Baltic Wharf on the south side of Bristol Harbour. You access the water from a ramp near All-Aboard Water Sports, in front of The Cottage Inn.

When you arrive

You can arrive at any time from 7.50am until 9.45am, depending on how long you want to swim.

Check in for your session at the desk by the swimming area. You'll be given a swimmer number.

Swimming facilities

Swimmers can use the toilets and shower at Underfall Yard.

The Underfall Café will extend its opening hours on Saturdays and Sundays during the swimming pilot. It will serve hot and cold drinks, breakfast and snacks from 8am.  

Safety for swimmers and other harbour users

We'll put water safety measures in place to make sure swimmers and other harbour users are safe. These will include:

  • buoys to mark the 200m swim out and 200m swim back (400m in total) course, with options to do a shorter swim loop
  • a ramp to access the water
  • lifeguards and safety boats
  • testing the water quality weekly to make sure it meets bathing water standards (see Water quality in Bristol Harbour)

You must not swim outside of the harbour swimming pilot area. Swimming in any other area of the harbour or other waterways in Bristol is:

  • dangerous
  • against the byelaw

Get involved

We need volunteers to help us run the pilot swims.

If you'd like to help, email:

After the swimming pilot

The swimming pilot will help us decide if we can provide a safe and financially sustainable open water swimming area in Bristol Harbour.

During the pilot we'll monitor:

  • costs
  • popularity
  • any impact on our ability to maintain a safe environment

If we decide to run open water swimming sessions regularly in the harbour, we'll think about how to:

  • allow children and inexperienced swimmers to swim
  • provide a more accessible service