The Best Bike Rides in Wales and the Borders for Wild Swimming

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Jack Thurston, the author of our new book, Lost Lanes Wales: 36 Glorious Bike Rides in Wales and the Borders, shares his favourite Welsh cycle routes for a quick dip while cycling, taken from the book.

Wales, with its long coastline, dozens of rivers and countless mountain streams, has more than its fair share of wild swimming spots. Make sure you’re not trespassing on private land, be alert to the strength of the tide or the flow of the river and check the depth before jumping in.

When you swim in Wales, take a moment to ponder the late Roger Deakin, ecologist, nature writer, campaigner and inveterate wild swimmer who compiled a whole new watery vocabulary to describe the simple, timeless activity of immersing yourself in a natural body of water, be it a river, a lake, a stream or the sea. He not only uncovered obscure, rarely used words associated with wild water – dook, loom, winterburna, bumbel – but also described the feeling of water itself, from a languid, meandering river to a furiously frothing mountain stream. Deakin was attuned to the differences in colour, taste, temperature and even texture of the water he swam in and the variety of aquatic life he encountered. He even coined a new word – endolphins – for the thrillingly pleasurable, all encompassing rush of a wild swim.

An Alpine Adventure (Ride No. 6 in the book – see image above)
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Lakes, mountains, pine forests and upland pastures make for a challenging ride in the big hills around Bala. There’s a series of waterfall plunge pools in the clear, peaty waters of the Eunant Fawr stream and at the end of the ride there’s a chance to take a relaxing dip in the cool, calm waters of Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake), Wales’s biggest natural lake.



Celtic Coast (Ride No. 21 in the book)
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A Pembrokeshire odyssey from Wales’s ancient cathedral city to the rocky shore of Strumble Head. Pembrokeshire’s beaches are the best in Britain. Choose between the white sand strands of Aber Mawr and Abereiddy, which also boasts the Blue Pool, a turquoise quarry pool. Continue beyond St Davids for a sunset dip at White Sands Bay.



Cliff and Castle (Ride No. 22 in the book)
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From Norman might to hermit’s hideaway via the sandy beaches and towering sea stacks of the Pembrokeshire coast. First up on this coastal route is West Angle Bay, a sheltered sandy cove between rocky headlands. Further on, South Broad Haven gets breakers perfect for body boarding.



Watery Wales (Ride No. 12 in the book)
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A mostly easygoing exploration of the southern tip of the Cambrian mountains, with some inviting wild swim spots along the way. River swimming spots abound on the River Irfon. A couple of miles off the route on the mountain road west of Abergwesyn is Wolf’s Leap, a series of pools among smooth, flat boulders. Further downstream the Wash Pool is a wide sun-dappled pool once used by drovers to wash their sheep.


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The Welsh Riviera (Ride No. 4 in the book)
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A circuit of the Creddyn peninsula taking in the queen of Wales’s seaside resorts and the dolomite cliffs of the Great Orme. Llandudno isn’t the wildest swimming spot in the world, but the huge sand and shingle North Shore beach rarely feels overcrowded. Wilder, and even more scenic, is the West Shore beach with its dramatic mountain views.


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Lost Lanes Wales: 36 Glorious Bike Rides in Wales and the English Borders by Jack Thurston (£14.99, Wild Things Publishing) is available from all good bookshops. 


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