Daniel Start, author of the new Wild Guide to Wales, shares his favourite wild swims in this beautiful, wild and well-watered land.
See the ten swims in a collection on the wildswim map.
A remote pastoral plain giving easy access to the River Wye via a beach with long swims possible. St Cuthbert’s church stands alone by the river to the south in a bucolic graveyard. Downstream, you can access the river from the old railway bridge at Ballingham.
A path leads past pretty St Cadoc church (look out for the ancient yew growing in the graveyard wall) down across lovely meadows to the river. There are beaches and a pool downstream. Upstream, beyond the railway bridge, are more pools and an island with deeper sections.
Many know about Lady Falls (Sgwd Gwladus), the graceful column of water that plunges 10m into a wooded amphitheatre with a large plunge pool. But climb to the top of the falls and continue upstream (no real path) to find the imposing Einion Gam, over 21m high and rarely visited, with a vast, deep pool and sheer cliffs. It feels lost world. Best in the morning sun.
Enter this enchanting ancient beech wood to find a mossy gorge, waterfalls and an old stone bridge over the Anghof river. There is a vast lake, from the slate-quarrying era, connecting to a fascinating man-made stream ravine (fun on an inner tube).
A sculpted slot canyon widens into a wooded gorge with a waterfall and deep pool on the Afon Ystwyth, a wild and secret river that rises above Aberystwyth and gives it its name. It’s a tricky scramble down, but explore up the canyon for a real adventure.
High in the barren uplands of the Cambrians lies this twisting reservoir with long shale shores, many inlets and an empty road hugging its southern shores, perfect for the campervan swimmer. Rising above is the hulk of Plynlimon, the highest point in the Cambrians (752m) and source of both the Severn and the Wye. The road here feels like an epic journey in itself, even in a car, and passes several ruined mines and smaller lakes.
Deep in the heart of lost Wales, near Welshpool, the Vyrnwy snakes forever through the landscape, a wild swimmer’s dream. Open, sunny and deep with fine views, this is perhaps the easiest place to access the river with long swims and walks available from the riverside footpath. Gallt yr Ancr behind Meifod makes a lovely little hill to climb.
A vast, wild site with many fascinating overgrown ruins, like a Welsh Angkor Wat. Circumnavigate the lake to discover old railways and a beam pump house. Over 100m deep in places, the lake is the flooded amalgamation of many individually operated quarry pits of varying depths. Swimmers are welcome at the diving pontoon, at the end of a rough vehicle track. Currently open to the public, but development plans afoot.
A stunning lake surrounded by mountains, with beaches and easy access along much of the eastern side. Make your way round to Elephant Rock cliff for epic jumps from all heights. Nantgwynant campsite, on the lakeside, makes for a perfect base.
Fun gorge with steeply sloping bridge and pools. The best pool and waterfall is 100m upstream with some good jumps. Some easy riverside scrambling is required.
Daniel Start is co-author of Wild Guide Wales and the Marches: Hidden Places, Great Adventures and the Good Life (publishing 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
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