Waterfall selfies, river swims and dips in the ocean, it seems like wild swimming is all the rage on social media.
People are taking to swimming in lakes, waterfalls or the ocean to enjoy scenic surroundings and the health and wellbeing benefits. Taking a cold water swim is said to offer an immune system boost, better sleep, improved stress response and increased happiness.
Wales has an excellent selection of beautiful wild swimming spots across the country, including lakes, waterfalls and coastlines where swimmers can take an icy dip, as long as they are fully prepared and kitted out.
A word of caution: before jumping straight into cold water, research the location to check for any safety issues, as responsible swimming is vital in wild swimming. Check weather conditions, know your limits and always swim with another person in case you run into trouble.
Ensure you are adequately kitted out for a swim, especially in the autumn and winter season. Essential swim kit includes swimwear or wetsuit, neoprene gloves and boots, weatherproof changing robe and tow float.
Ready to take a dip? Here’s a round-up of some of the best swim spots in Wales.
Watkins Path waterfall
Take a dip in the Watkins Path waterfall in Snowdonia National Park and soak up the incredible scenery. There are crystal clear, aqua blue pools and falls cascading over rocky outcrops where you can take a chilly plunge in storybook settings.
The Watkin Path is considered by mountaineers as the most demanding route to the summit of Snowdon, with a challenging final ascent and impressive mountain views. Having a cheeky swim spot on this challenging route is probably a welcome relief for those aching limbs.
Be thoroughly prepared if hiking and swimming on the same day, especially in the shoulder season: Pack warm clothes, a flask of hot coffee, a micro towel and suitable swim gear.
Henrhyd Falls, Brecon Beacons
This impressive horseshoe waterfall is dubbed the ‘Batman waterfall’ as it is best known for being the filming location of the ‘bat cave’ in the 2012 film, The Dark Knight Rises.
You’ll have to bring all your swim gear on a short hike as the 90ft falls are located in a wooded gorge in the national park.
There are no facilities in this National Trust owned area, so you’ll need to use the bathroom before going for a swim.
Once at the falls, take advantage of the crystal-clear plunge pool fed from the thundering falls above.
Swimming here is not exactly encouraged by the National Trust; it’s mostly tolerated so long as swimmers behave responsibly and leave no trace.
Skenfirth Castle, Monmouthshire
Skenfirth Castle is a pretty special place, especially if you love history. Swimming in the shadow of a 13th-century castle is pretty sweet, and swimming is suitable for adults and young swimmers.
If your kids are new to outdoor swimming, you might want to get them a brightly coloured tow float for added visibility in the water.
The River Monnow forms a wide, calm pool for swimming just outside the castle. Entrance to the castle is free, and there are plenty of grassy areas around the pool perfect for letting the kids run around or having a picnic.
Blue Lagoon, Abereiddy, Pembrokeshire
This outdoor swimming spot has been selected as the best wild swimming spot in Britain and is the home of the Red Bull diving championships.
Blue Lagoon is an enchanting man-made lagoon from an old slate quarry with beautiful, calm, blue-green water from the sea. The water here is very deep, so if you’re not a confident swimmer, you should stay close to the water’s edge.
For experienced swimmers and divers, this is the perfect place to jump right in after you check the temperature of the water, of course.
Keepers Pond, Blaenavon
Keeper’s Pond is a high-level lake originally built to power the Garn Ddyrys iron forge in the South Wales valley. The forge closed down in the 1860s, and now the pond is part of Blaenavon World Heritage Site.
The name “keeper’s pond” because the gamekeeper of the moors had a cabin nearby. The pond is the perfect place to take a cooling dip on a warm summer’s day. If you want to combine swimming and hiking in this area, you can venture up Blorenge Mountain on the heritage-rich Iron Mountain Trail. On this trail, you’ll discover lots of historical remnants of 19th-century Welsh industry, including tramways and tunnels.
The Warren, Hay on Wye, River Wye
Hay-on-the-wye may be most well-known for its many independent book shops, but a short walk away is the Warren. Paddle in the shallows with access from the quiet shingle beach, or if you’re a confident swimmer, slowly wade out deeper waters and some generous lengths of the river with glorious green fields as your setting
The rocky beach is a perfect place to sit for a picnic or skip stones from it. You will likely find families splashing around in the river, kayakers, and fishermen.
Dogs are welcome to join in the fun too! If you are looking for water that is just a bit deeper for a longer swim, keep moving up the river a bit.
Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
If you are looking for an epic coastal swim with picture-perfect settings, Barafundle Bay is your spot. The golden sand beaches have been voted the best in all of Wales multiple times.
The idyllic coastal scenery with golden sands and clear waters looks like something you might see in the Caribbean, and you might even forget that you are still in Wales.
Sea Swim Pembrokeshire advise that sea swimmers try the Barafundle Bay Loop. This route is a simple circular loop of the bay. The Bay is not very long, so one ‘lap’ comes to about 800m-1km.
You cannot drive directly to the beach at Barafundle Bay, and there is a short walk to get there from the paid car park to the beach.
Try a range of water sports at Barafundle Bay, including paddle boarding and sea kayaking, as several adventure companies in the area offer rentals and guided trips.
Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris
Swim in the crater of Cadair Idris set beneath 400m high mountain walls and get those enviable swimming shots for Instagram. You will have to endure a strenuous hike to get to this glacial lake, but it’s well worth your effort. The path takes you up 350 meters, and you will pass by waterfalls and pools along the way.
You should be ready for a refreshing dip by the time you reach the lake. You can walk directly into the lake from the rocky beach, or if you prefer to make a more dramatic entrance dive in from the cliffs.
The scenic views, mountain backdrops, and crystal blue, icy water you will find here make this a rather dramatic swim in a wild and mountainous setting.
Serene Bala Lake [Llyn Tegid] is Wales’ largest natural lake, over four miles long and a mile wide. Full of local legends, it’s located in the ‘Lake District of southern Snowdonia’ and has the most inviting, clear water to swim in.
The lake is famed for its impressive mountain scenery, rare wildlife, fishing and swimming. For confident swimmers, the Big Bala Swim offers you the opportunity to take part in an organised swim event with Love Swim Run, where you can meet fellow wild swimmers.
Llandegfedd Lake, Monmouthshire
If you’re keen to try outdoor swimming but need a little guidance and structure, beautiful Llandegfedd Lake (on the border of Monmouth and Torfaen) offers supervised open water swimming sessions, with lifeguard trained staff in attendance.
It’s an ideal place to begin your open water swim adventure and build your confidence in swimming in a natural body of water with pleasant surroundings.
There are four public sessions per week in a designated area, for controlled open water swimming, following accreditation from the Swim Wales SAFE Cymru Accreditation Scheme.
These sessions take place on a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 5.30-6.30pm and on Sunday from 8.30-10.30am. The sessions are priced at £10 per person and can be booked through their membership scheme.
Penarth Pier, Vale of Glamorgan
What could be a better way to begin your day than a swim in the open ocean as the dark of night fades to dawn? Take a sunrise dip right next to the historic Penarth Pier in the Vale of Glamorgan. The pier extends into the Bristol Channel, which has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world.
There’s a growing movement of sunrise swimmers at Penarth called the ‘Dawn Stalkers’. The group meets at sunrise every day for a dip in the water at Penarth seafront.
Some come for the ocean selfies, and others come to connect with a growing community of open water swimmers, seeking solace as the first rays of light hit the ocean.
However, it can be challenging for an open water swim due to the tidal range, so be aware of your surroundings.
Take along a GoPro to capture the colourful sky, or strike a pose for the group’s talented photographer, James Richardson.
Llynnau Mymbyr, Snowdonia
National Outdoor Centre Plas y Brenin also offers several open water options to help people build their confidence and improve their wild swimming technique.
In the summer season, customers will be able to book coaching lessons delivered by Plas y Brenin staff or supervised swimming sessions in the fresh, clean waters of Llynnau Mymbyr, with the spectacular backdrop of the Snowdon Horseshoe at the Centre’s base in the heart of Snowdonia.
Plas y Brenin’s fully qualified Open Water Swimming coaches will offer coaching sessions for beginner to intermediate level from £35 for two hours of tuition.
Beginners must be able to swim 200m in a pool to take part and will learn safe water entry and acclimatisation, stroke technique, sighting and swimming in a straight line, and drafting.