From plunge pools and remote lakes to secluded coves and bending rivers, Wales certainly isn’t short of stunning swimming spots. If you’re heading to the hills or the coast, don’t take the plunge without checking the weather and tides. Here are 10 of the best options for a wild Welsh swim.
Word of caution: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, SH₂OUT (a partnership between British Triathlon, Swim England and RLSS UK), advise those who are new to open water swimming not to go open water swimming outside of an operated and supervised venue which has a safety crew (many of these are not open currently). Before swimming in any of the below spots, you should read the guidance here for open water swimmers in Wales, and ensure appropriate safety precautions are taken.
Rhaeadr Mawddach, Snowdonia
Best for: Golden waters
Set amid the ruins of Gwynfynydd Goldmine in Coed y Brenin Forest, this deep plunge pool is fed by the cascading waters of Afon Mawddach (River Mawddach). The forest’s former mine once provided gold for the Royal Family’s wedding rings, so if you pan the waters carefully, you might just find the odd nugget. Be wary of turbulent water when river levels are high. After your dip, head to the visitor centre for a restorative hot chocolate on the terrace.
Llyn Idwal, Snowdonia
Best for: Sociable swimming
Deservedly popular, this large lake is easy to reach from Ogwen Cottage on the A5, just follow the footpath from the National Trust car park. A walking trail runs around the lake but the pebble beach at the northern end is the best place to swim from. Wade through the shallows until you feel the lakebed drop away and the temperature turns a few notches colder. Once you’re in open water, it’s easy to lose the crowds.
Porth Oer, Llyn Peninsula
Best for: A swim safari
Known locally as ‘Whistling Sands,’ this beach squeaks and whistles as you make your way to the water’s edge. As it's part of a National Trust estate, there’s a car park and café on the hill above the beach. Swim out towards the Irish Sea and keep your eyes peeled for seals, puffins and porpoises. One of several swimming coves, the Llyn Peninsula is a great place for a multi-stop swim safari.
Porth Padrig, Anglesey
Best for: A historic swim to shore
When Saint Patrick was shipwrecked off Anglesey’s north coast, he swam to the safety of this crescent-shaped bay. From the car park at St Patrick’s church (founded by the Saint himself), a footpath leads down to the beach. Glide out into the bay, then think of Saint Paddy as you swim back to shore. The beach features an imposing quartzite sea stack, while the surrounding cliffs are riddled with caves and tunnels.
Rheidol Vale Falls, near Aberystwyth
Best for: Family fun
A few miles inland from the town of Aberystwyth, the River Rheidol winds through the deep gorges of this wooded vale. Ideal for a family day out, there are pools for paddling, beaches for barbecues and sublime stretches for swimming — just watch out for the plunging waters of Mynach Falls. Footpaths lead down to the water from the villages of Ystumtuen and Devil’s Bridge.
Mwnt Beach, Cardigan Bay
Best for: Dolphin spotting
A rectangle of cliff-backed sand, this National Trust beach was the site of a 12th-century battle that took place after a Flemish invasion. Far more peaceful today, a white church watches over its turquoise waters, and some steep and hefty steps lead down to the beach. Enclosed on three sides by sandstone cliffs, it’s a sheltered place to swim and a great spot for snorkelling — dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks are regular visitors.
Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
Best for: Coastal swimming
Golden sand, crystalline water and a coastline that’s bursting with wildlife — this remote beach is easily one of Britain’s best. Park at Stackpole Quay car park and walk over the cliffs to the dune-backed bay. The sea arches on the headland are fun to swim out to, or you could head half a mile back to Stackpole Quay and reward yourself with lunch at The Boathouse Tea-room or the Stackpole Inn.
Blue Pool Bay, Gower
Best for: Jumping in
A favourite spot for kids and big kids alike, this deep tidal pool is the perfect place for a plunge. Park at Broughton and follow the coast path to the pool, then scramble over the rocks and join the queue to leap in — be careful though, after an easy jump in, the climb back out can be tricky. The blue-grey waters are tinted by minerals and, at low tide, you can walk back along the shore to Broughton.
Llyn y Fan Fach, Brecon Beacons
Best for: Stunning scenery
High in the Brecon Beacons, this 18-metre deep pool is said to be haunted by the Lady of the Lake, who disappeared into the water in the 13th century. She chose a good spot — Fan Fach was selected as one of the world’s ‘1000 Ultimate Sights’ by the Lonely Planet. The Beacons Way footpath leads past the lake, and you’re likely to see red kites soaring overhead as you float through the water.
The Warren, Hay
Best for: A relaxing river swim
Famous for its annual book festival, the town of Hay-on-Wye also boasts some of the prettiest river swimming spots on the Welsh border. Do as the locals do and follow the footpath behind the church to the river. Here, the Wye meanders around a meadow which, for centuries, has been known as ‘The Warren.’ From the shingle beach, you can paddle in the shallows or wade in deeper and swim up and down the river past green fields and shady banks.
Be Safe: wild swimming is fantastic fun, but please read up on the risks before taking the plunge. For essential safety advice, organised event information as well as plenty of ideas for other wild swimming spots go to wildswimming.co.uk.
In association with Visit Wales. For more information go to visitwales.com.