Best Wild Swims in Wales

Llyn Gwynant by Daniel Start IMG_9388

Daniel Start, author of the new Wild Guide to Wales, shares his all-time favourite wild swims of Wales..

p.s. are you looking for somewhere by the Welsh coast to stay? Wild Swimming now has two beautiful places to rent out on the north Pembrokeshire coast near Newport with views over the Preseli mountains. Perfect for beaches, coves and swimming in the Witches Cauldron at Ceibwr Bay. Henllys Cottage sleeps 5 and Henllys House sleeps 14.

With so many lakes, tarns, waterfalls and rivers, Wales is a paradise for wild swimming. Take your pick from countless rivers, waterfalls, natural lakes and manmade quarries. Water quality is generally excellent, and a hot spell will quickly warm up shallower waters.

South & West Wales

Keeper’s Pond, Blaenavon

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There are superb ‘infinity pool’ views from this high-level lake. It’s perfect for a summer swim and enjoys very easy access – you could even park your campervan here overnight – and Wales’ highest pub, the Lamb and Fox, is just a mile further along the road. The lake was built in 1817 and it once powered the Garn Ddyrys iron forge. Below you can still see the remains of old furnaces and huge, weirdly shaped rocks formed from molten slag. Hill’s Tramroad passes below if you fancy a longer walk – it once linked the ironworks at Blaenavon to the Pwll Du limestone quarry, and is now known as the Iron Mountain Trail.
On B4246 a mile north from Blaenavon, find pond and car park opp turn off for NP4 9SS. Also called Pen-fford-goch. 51.7910, -3.0817


Bredwardine & Winforton, River Wye

Wild Swimming from, Daniel Start, 07761 375717,

Bredwardine Bridge is a popular and easy spot for a swim on the iconic River Wye. At low flow there are beaches and shallows, but there’s also plenty of space for a longer swim and under the bridge there are deep pools where you can climb out then can dive back in. For a really wild swim, though, explore the Wye near Winforton where the remains of an old landing quay can be found in deep countryside.
Turn off B4352 at Bredwardine, signed Hereford, and pass HR3 6BT. Footpath is on right before bridge, 52.0962, -2.9706. For Winforton (pictured above) turn off A438 down Baker’s Lane by HR3 6EF. Keep going down rough byway then bear right along field at end, 52.1101, -3.0353.

Lower Teifi Gorge, Cilgerran, Cardigan

lower teifi cilgerran by daniel start DSCF6388 (2)

Ferns and creepers hang from the cliffs over the dark, deep waters of the lower Teifi, home to otters and buzzards. Swim from the beach near the Teifi Marshes Reserve, or take a longer swim journey right through the gorge from Cilgerran Castle where an impressive twin-towered Norman keep overlooks the forested river.
Cilgerran is signed off the A478 south of Cardigan. The riverside car park is down the dead-end lane. 52.0571, -4.6341 172. The downstream beach can be reached from SA43 2TB, 52.0698, -4.6381.

Abereiddi Blue Lagoon

abereiddi lagon and beach by daniel start IMG_2727

This spectacular and popular lagoon was created when the old slate quarry was breached connecting it narrowly to the sea. The winching tower ruins provide three levels for jumping. Further along the coast path is the beautiful beach of Traeth Llyfn and the rock arch of Penclegyr which you can swim through.
Abereiddy (SA62 6DT) is signed from the A487. Park at beach and follow coast path 300m north to lagoon. Do not jump from top tower at low tide. Bottom platform safe at all tides. 51.9379, -5.2087. There is also a freshwater quarry at Rosebush, SA66 7QX, 51.9359, -4.7959.

Mid & North Wales

Llyn Egnant, Teifi Pools

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They call this part of the Cambrians the ‘Green Desert’ for its endless empty hills and mountains but it is also rich in wild reservoirs and pools. This remote family of high lakes are some of our favourites and together they form the headwaters of the River Teifi, at the start of its journey to Cardigan Bay. With easy vehicular access and stunning southerly views, they make for a sublime adventure on a sunny day. Tracks lead off to most of the lakes, and if nobody is fishing, a swim and wild camp shouldn’t be an issue. Egnant is the last lake and has a track right along its shore. Llyn Bach is hidden beyond, only a little way on foot.
7 miles north of Tregaron leave B4343 at Ffair-Rhos, turning by Teifi Inn for SY25 6BW. Continue 3¾ miles, climbing high into the hills. 52.2912, -3.7738

Llangower, Llyn Tegid / Bala

llangower bala by daniel start _0013474

Translated as the ‘fair lake’, Llyn Tegid (Bala to the English) is the largest natural lake in Wales with pleasant gravel and silt shores. Swimming is freely allowed, and there’s a very easy cove by Llangower station car park, leading to a shoreline lined with ancient oaks. This leads on to a beautiful lakeside campsite at Pant Yr Onnen; with sunset views over the lake this couldn’t be a more perfect camp for the wild swimmer.
Take B4403 2½ miles along lake Bala from town, and before LL23 7DA find station. 52.8757, -3.6331

Blue Lake, Golwern Quarry

blue lake golwern by daniel start bue lake golwern by daniel start _MG_3242

This slate quarry has stunning views out over the estuary and Cardigan Bay and has become one of the most famous swims in the country. There are several relics, including tramways and an old iron winding-wheel, but the main attraction is a very deep, green-blue rectangular pool. It is entered by a short railway tunnel that opens out into a great quarry amphitheatre. Don’t be tempted to follow the local lads, who like to jump from the cliffs above – terrifying!
Heading south on A493, turn L at Fford Panteinion (opp LL38 2NJ and telephone box), 300m after turning for Fairbourne and park. Continue ⅓mile on narrow dead-end lane to find gate, stream and steep track up on right. 52.6891, -4.0413

Miner’s Bridge, River Llugwy

miners bridge IMG_8520

Many people have heard of the Swallow Falls near Betws-y-Coed but this fun gorge is the best place to actually swim. There’s a stepped bridge and some pools beneath but upstream about 100m to arrive at a huge, hidden pool with some good jumps possible. Daredevils could also seek out Cyfyng Falls, 2 miles further upstream on the River Llugwy, a huge pool beneath a towering waterfall with steep rock walls.
Heading west out of Betws on A5, take left to park in Rhes Dolydd street (LL24 0BU). Cross A5 and continue on 50m to find steps down to river and bridge. 53.0962, -3.8238. Cyfyng is well used by local lads in summer, but sometimes fenced (53.0958, -3.8904 – accessible off A5 but with no path).

Llyn Gwynant & Elephant Rock

Llyn Gwynant by Daniel Start IMG_7951

Llyn Gwynant by Daniel Start IMG_8362

This graceful lake shimmers under the great peak of Snowdon but is shallow enough to warm up nicely in the summer. Rising up on the western shore are the Elephant Rock cliffs, for easy jumps from a range of heights. There are several beaches along the eastern side, along the main road. Or Nantgwynant campsite on the lakeside makes for a perfect base (see rope swing image for this blog post).
Limited parking spaces on A498 starting just north of YHA Bryn Gwynant (LL55 4NP), but it is probably easier to park in the campsite. Follow the footpath through the campsite to the main beach or to the stream footbridge, then double back, for Elephant Rock, or just swim out to it. 53.0492, -4.0244

Author / Book details

Daniel Start is author of Wild Guide Wales and the Marches: Hidden Places, Great Adventures and the Good Life (1st May 2018, Wild Things Publishing, £16.99) which includes over 600 wild adventures and 500 rustic places to eat and sleep in Wales, Shropshire and Herefordshire.

Wild Guide Wales book


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