Wild swimming is Wales is having a renaissance of sorts. The pastime is sweeping the nation along as the new go to method for health and wellbeing.. Rekindled by the likes of Wim Hoff, it’s a wonderful way to connect with nature and get uncomfortable in a refreshing style. Wild swimming is more than just a pastime, its a way of life, a way to disconnect for all the haste and reconnect with what is real, one breath at a time.
We have picked a local expert for this blog on wild swimming, Ceri Norton, Ceri runs one of the top north Wales Instagram accounts on the subject of the outdoors wild swimming, so we though we would leave the blog in her capable hands this week , Enjoy!
People often ask how I got into wild swimming and how do I do it! In 2018, after I had entered my first triathlon in the Lake District, I quickly realised I needed to start swimming in lakes to acclimatise to the conditions. After a childhood filled with weekly swimming lessons, swimming clubs and swimming galas I became an avid swimmer and competent in the water.
The adventurous idea of wild swimming in lakes had always excited me however I always thought it too cold for someone like me. The freedom I felt in my initial training swims, once entering the water and immersing myself under, sinking into the solitude world of wild swimming in mountainous lakes was amazing. Feeling the overwhelming sensation of being closer to nature than ever before, the unmitigated sense of freedom and the calming sense filled my mind and body and from then I was driven to find lakes, rivers, tarns and seas where I could potentially swim.
The challenge presented itself in the months running up to Christmas where I felt a strong desire to start a wild swim adventure in different bodies of water in Snowdonia and to entice and beguile others to benefit from the same ecstasy which I had experienced previously. After receiving a wetsuit for Christmas, swimming in wild lakes was possible, and absolutely fantastic! The water would slap my face, and the initial seeping of cold water into the neck of the wetsuit would be a shock until the body had heated it up. I will admit, it wasn’t easy and some swims took me time to accept and let go of the fear. Snow and ice would previously have been a deterrent to swimming in mountainous lakes in the depths of the winter months, however this provoked the thrill seeker within me, and the sensations were overwhelming.
After deciding to attempt cold water swimming without the safe layer of neoprene to protect me, I wanted to ‘feel’ the water and allow total immersion. This required a heightened amount of dedication and control, a deep understanding of the body and the mind in accepting the cold, putting the body under stressful situations and allowing that release once the mind quietens. Since, I have not felt the need to reach for my wetsuit and enjoy every sensation the cold sting of water brings to my hands and feet, and the numbing which travels through my limbs as well as the mind being sharp and focussed.
The sensation of entering cold water is all immersing, which allows you to release any noise and stresses in the mind. The focus is sharp and intensified by the tingle and the sting of the cold on the skin. As the mind quietens and the stress is accepted and released, the world entered into is peaceful and calm, magical and extraordinary. It feels absolutely amazing and the elation when leaving the wild waters fills you with an addictive surge of endorphins and a grin which doesn’t leave your face for days. Triumphant in the quest of cold-water swimming leaves you feeling like you could conquer any feat in the world, and previous stresses which may have affected your day, become manageable and tolerable. A world of zen, the very epitome of conscious and happy living.
Wild swimming locations in Snowdonia :
- Wild swimming in Llyn Idwal, Snowdonia
This lake has a short walk from the nearby carpark in the Ogwen valley which takes you into the picturesque landscape of Snowdonia in a heartbeat. Mountains encasing you in the lake, circling and towering at the very foot of the Glyderau mountain range, a truly mesmerising location. Lying back in the centre of the lake and absorbing the beauty around you is something else!
- Wild swimming in Llyn Geirionydd, Snowdonia
This lake which has a precarious drive up to it through narrow winding country roads lies in a valley in North Wales where the northern edge of the Gwydyr Forest meets the lower slopes of the Carneddau mountains. The lake offers views of sloping woodland and views towards Moel Siabod. With toilets and a car park, allowing your car nearby, your hot tea is never too far after completing your swim!
- Wild swimming in Fairy Glen Gorge, Betws Y Coed
Fairy Glen is a secluded gorge on the River Conwy, located only a short distance from the Beaver Bridge on the outskirts of the touristic village of Betws Y Coed. The picturesque gorge is a favourite amongst photographers and artists, and is an atmospheric location for a dreamy, otherworldly wild swim. Protected in thick vegetation which offers an idyllic home to wildlife, the sounds offer a mesmerising experience in nature which leaves you feeling euphoric.
Wild swimming lakes around north Wales
Wales has multiple places which I have yet to venture to and while all offer tantalizing views and charming landscapes, one is held particularly high for me, and I plan to go on a special day when the sun rises before 5am in the hazy summer months. The Blue Lagoon, located in Fairborne, offers a caved tunnel which you must find, venture through, to cast your eyes upon a private pool of the bluest most tropical waters and entirely secluded from any onlookers. My 52 wild swim challenge which in based in Snowdonia, includes incredible lakes which I have yet to submerge myself into: Llyn Cwn which sits above Devil’s Kitchen, a small, murky lake which offers impressive views of Snowdon as well as the turquoise pools on the Watkin Path, a popular spot amongst tourists in the hot summer months after descending Snowdon.
As fortunate as I am to live in such a wonderful, pictoresque corner of the world, I do find my mind dreaming of challenges in other cold waters which offer Apline blue waters. Dreaming of locations closer to home, but a challenge not to be taken, is the Coryvrecken Whirlpool in Scotland, where you can swim across the whirlpool, when the tide and the winds are at its weakest, you can swim across this incredible whirlpool.
The Neptune Steps race which takes place in Glasgow each year offer a challenging swim under timed conditions against other competitors in a canal. During the race, you must climb ropes and ladders over the several canal lock gates, ducking freezing waterfalls as you go along. The race is short and quick and challenges the body and mind in a demanding and onerous way.
From crystal clear rivers to opal lakes, Switzerland offers some of the best wild swimming. The Alpstein mountain range in canton Appenzell boasts some of Switzerland’s most spectacular views. With rolling green hills, triangular peaks jutting out diagonally, it invites many to explore and swim! The region’s highest peak, Mt. Säntis, stands proud at 2502 meters above sea and is home to three gorgeous lakes for wild swimming. I can only fantasise on the idea of swimming in these high-altitude lakes where I can revel in the beauty which it has to offer until I am there.
Norway offers fjords and lakes, overlooking glacial mountains and offering clear green waters which tempt and fascinate me, leaving me desperate for the adventures ahead of me. Eidforden offers a magical dip which can be rewarded after a steep climb up to the Kjeasen farm. A world like Games of Thrones, where you can sink deep into the beauty and the heart of Norway.
Best beaches for wild swimming in north Wales
Newborough Beach is a wonderful place on the Island of Anglesey which holds ancient welsh myths about love and the Saint Dwynewn. A truly romantic beach, with a deep woodland behind the sanddunes and a curving beach provides a magical swimming location in the wild welsh seas surrounding Wales. Crashing waves on a windy day or calm beautiful waters, what better beach to visit in Wales?
Willing to travel further on the island of Anglesey, Porth Wen in Amlwch offers a private beach which demands a 20 minute challenging walk over grassland before dropping into a private bay which presents historical structures of the brickworks which closed when World War 1 broke out. There are interesting ruins of chimneys, factory buildings and kilns which remain, creating an eerie backdrop to a sensational sea swim! As this is off the beaten track, you may only be joined by a fisherman or two, and can enjoy the interesting bay mostly to yourself!
Abersoch is the seaside resort for many visitors, especially during the summer months where the beaches are filled with those enjoying the sea breeze and the beautiful beaches. Abersoch’s main beach which is sheltered and sandy is a great and safe place to swim and view the colourful buildings along the pictoresque dunes of the beach. A challenge seeker and adventure enthusiast, I love to spend every moment in the outdoors, from trail running, wild swimming, hiking or sleeping out under the stars. With Snowdonia National Park on my doorstep, I’m grateful for the natural beauty where I can escape some of the chaotic aspects of life and throw myself into the great, wild and wonderful outdoors!
A favourite in Abersoch, pebbled and stretching for 4 miles, a beach with craggy headlands, Porth Neigwl is a special place for sublime swimming. This beach attracts surfers and kayakers as the waves can be epic and can encapsulate you in a wave of power which can challenge strong swimmers in a marvellous way!
Some questions you may have regarding wild swimming in north Wales :
Where can I wild swim in north Wales :
Beaches, lakes, reservoirs, streams, rivers, waterfalls most of these locations are fair game. Obviously check the local guidelines, check the also Natural resources Wales for links to the lakes and water bodies of Wales. Obviously try and go with people, find a group and don’t go into cold water (like mountain lakes) if your not fit – start in the sea and build your tolerances up a little!
The best guide for wild swimming in north Wales ;
Ok my favourite books right now (Nick) on this topic are as follows
Wild Guide Wales
Wild Wales is an overall wild guide to north Wales-which encompasses wild swims too-great book, plenty of ideas.
This is an all-round wild swim guide to the UK (which has sections on north Wales too, the author has ventured here a lot, see the book above)
Wild Swimming hidden beaches
Not read this yet, but colleagues and friends say to me that its a goodie with a load of coastal spots in north Wales too.
Wild Swimming Coast
This was their original flagship book which was found on the coffee tables of cool eateries, loved it- I must buy it again. Quite general to the UK but a lovely over all guide if you a van camper like me!
Wild swimming in the Watkins path waterfall :
This place is super gorgeous and I got a good few questions regarding it from fiends who are visiting the area. It’s and amazing wild swimming spot, I almost need to do an entire blog on this place alone. Its a lovely walk up a well known snowdon route, and is rather easy to find. It has multiple pools and on a warm day in the sun is a blessing ! It’s a thirty five minute walk up, to the pools, where you can bask until you get chilly! Drive towards Llyn Gwynant and there is parking further down the road on the left. Head up the Watkin path up Snowdon.
Wild swimming in Llanberis :
Another hot spot for wild swimming is Llanberis, it has two large glacial lakes in it’s valley formation. A left over from it’s not so distant chilly past. Llyn Padarn and Llyn peris are its lakes, situated in the base of the valley the base of the pass. Llyn Pardarn has become a mecca of wild swimming and water sports of late. Swimmers meet at the lagoon in the bottom of Llyn, for wild swims regularly in summer months and winter months alike. There is a lagoon area for paddle boarders, kayakers and swimmers, lovely place to go in the water I may add.
Previous blogs on wild swimming in north Wales :
Wild swimming groups / clubs in north Wales :
At the time of writing I’m struggling to find any groups on the ground, I found some one on Facebook such as Snowdonia Wild Swimming, but Im going to have to dig deep to find them it seems.. I will update this blog as soon as I can. I know in the summer months Llanberis community meet at the lagoon for swims also, juts what day of the week I’m unsure.
Open water Swimming events in north Wales (2021 Subject to CORVID 19 Plandemic) ; All 2020 events are cancelled unless other wise stated, so please check with providers of their event schedule and running.
Wild swimming maps for north Wales :
See below, we have put together some maps that you can go and see were all the main beaches, lakes and reservoirs are. Click on the maps and it will take you through to the interactive version on our google account.
Wild swimming lakes and reserviors of north Wales :
The map below is of the wild swimming lakes and reservoirs of north Wales, where people go wild swimming in lakes and reservoirs of north Wales. If you click the image (or here) it will take you through to the interactive map where you can explore the beaches- (This version of WordPress doesn’t support them!)
Wild swimming lakes and reservoirs of snowdonia :
Here is a map of the wild swimming lakes and reservoirs of snowdonia, where people go wild swimming in lakes of Snowdonia. Two of my favourite are Llyn Gwynant and Llyn Geirionydd go check them out. If you click the image (or here) it will take you through to the interactive map where you can explore the beaches- (This version of WordPress doesn’t support them!)
Wild swimming on beaches of Anglesey :
We’ve put together a map of the beaches on Anglesey that are best for wild swimming. Of course there are more, but these are our favourites and the most picturesque. If you click the image (or here) it will take you through to the interactive map where you can explore the beaches- (This version of WordPress doesn’t support them!)
A word on safety and pollution ;
If your a newbie to the world of wild swimming, don’t juts go nuts and start trying to do laps of glacial lakes you see in our glossy images. Ceri and the likes of others a seasoned triathlon swimmers and are fit as fit as fiddles. they have spent years training to get to the level of this swimming style, so take it slowly and accustomed to it gently.
Get a wetsuit that fits well and get used to the water temperature in the sea first before venturing into cold lakes. Have a pull buoy with you and swim in groups for a safety. Please take a spare bag with you and clear up any litter (the usual idiots leave around) and take it home with you it always helps us keep north Wales tidy. Do you research on where you can and can’t swim, check the weather, tides, know the local rips if your heading out into the sea far out. I’m sure you get the drill.
Editors note :
Ceri has an amazing Instagram page, where we found her wild swimming adventures, head over to her Instagram page and check her amazing images out, where she heads all over north wales exploring the wilds.
Writers Bio: Ceri Norton.
A challenge seeker and adventure enthusiast, I love to spend every moment in the outdoors, from trail running, wild swimming, hiking or sleeping out under the stars. With Snowdonia National Park on my doorstep, I’m grateful for the natural beauty where I can escape some of the chaotic aspects of life and throw myself into the great, wild and wonderful outdoors!
Blog photos by Ceri Norton @Cexx12
Books and guides
We have pulled some of the top reads together on the topic of wild swimming for you all..
Wild swimming kit recommendations for north Wales
Tan Y Tro Nesaf / Until the next time,
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