A Perfect Day

It’s a sad day today.

I live in a region of England that has been put under stricter Covid-19 restrictions, meaning that only travel from the region is for work and not recreation.

Thankfully, on Tuesday David had a day off work and we managed to escape to The Lake District for a day out. We brought our gentle giant of a border collie, Riley along with us.

The day started before the sunrise. We drove for 2.5 hours up the M6, taking a stop at Lancaster services for a comfort break. The destination of the day was Buttermere. As we drove past the neighbouring lake Crummock Water, David stopped at a lay-by. The surface of the water was so still it was like a mirror. We got out of the car and headed towards the peaceful, quiet shores of Crummock Water. David got Buzz, his drone out and I ran around with Riley.

The village of Buttermere is much busier. The National Trust car park fills up quickly but luckily there were still a few parking spaces left on our arrival. We paid £6 for four hours, you could pay with coins or by card. We donned our walking boots and rucksacks before taking the short walk towards the lake.

Like Crummock, the water of Buttermere was perfectly still. In all my visits to the lake I’ve never seen it so calm. The sun had burned off the remaining mist and a warm day was ahead of us. It was a very surprising day weather wise. I’d planned on it being a cool autumnal day but in reality there was no wind, the sun was warm and it felt like another last gasp from summer. It was a perfect day!

Following many other people, we took the northern path which passes the lone tree and has wonderful views of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. We made camp (Camp Riley) at a wide pebbly beach. Before we had lunch, I was going to have a swim, with the hope that Riley would come into the water with me. However the shore sloped steeply into the water and Riley was a little tentative. Not wanting to frighten him, I left him on the shore with David, who had taken Buzz into the air once again, to the amusement of passers-by.

The water was glorious! It wasn’t as cold as I’d expected. Indeed I’d swam in Buttermere previously when the water was much colder! You can read that post, here. I swam for about 15 minutes, but I could have stayed in for longer. It was so lovely. However Riley was getting stressed that he couldn’t reach one of his humans, so I waded out so he could run me around the shoreline in my swimsuit. The sun was so warm I didn’t even get cold nor have difficulty getting dressed, which is a novelty.

Once we had picnicked, we packed up and headed slowly back to the car. It had been a beautiful day. Riley seemed to have enjoyed himself and I’d got a swim in one of my favourite lakes. It’s a day I shall remember and smile at for a very long time.

Have you ever had a perfect day out?

Thanks for your support,

Christine x

Mud, Sweat and Tears

We’ve just come back from a short weekend break to the Lake District for David’s birthday. It was a mixed bag of experiences over the course of three days, here’s what we got up to.

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Blencathra

Day One:
Realisation dawned on me that the Lakes at present are swollen with people who would normally vacate abroad but due to Covid restrictions are staying closer to home. I’d planned on a few wild swims during our stay-cation and chose areas of Lakeland which were a bit less popular. Our destination for the day was Tewet Tarn which boasted wondrous views of Blencathra and Skiddaw.

All through the wet journey north I had worried about parking as Tewet Tarn is situated between Castlerigg and St John’s in the Vale, with limited off road parking. Our wonderful hosts Phil and Helen from Hermiston Guest House in Braithwaite, sent us a detailed map of accessible parking which we found with relative ease.

The walk to Tewet Tarn took 10 minutes from roadside parking. On arrival we discovered there was little in the way of good access points into the water. We tried to walk around the tarn but the land soon became marshy. We back tracked and made camp on a small section of shore. The swim in Tewet Tarn set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The tarn was shallow and murky. It wasn’t a pleasant swim but at least I can add the tarn to my swim map.

We were not at Tewet Tarn long, about an hour I’d say. With still two hours before check-in we looked for somewhere else to spend the time. At first we were going to head into a busy Keswick and look for new walking boots as mine are split, but in a change of heart, we headed towards a Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserve Eycott Hill near Berrier. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path past wildflower meadows and mossy wetlands towards Eycott Hill viewpoint. Bird life was quiet but we did see some butterflies.

A note on our guest house and Covid-19 safety guidelines: our hosts were very informative as to what changes had been made. On arrival guests could wear face masks and were informed of the hygiene procedures. On entrance guests were asked to use gel to clean their hands. There was also gel to be used before entering the breakfast room of a morning where staggered breakfast times had been implemented. There was also a one way system for guests leaving during breakfast times to adhere to social distancing rules. We felt safe during our stay and guests respected each other.

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Rosthwaite Round Walk

Day Two:
The day started with promise, we drove the 20 minutes to Rosthwaite and paid £7.50 for all day parking in the National Trust car park there. Our destination was Dock Tarn via Watendlath. I had hoped to have found a walk similar to Alcock Tarn in Grasmere, however the walk from Rosthwaite to Watendlath took us one and a half hours with another hours walk to Dock Tarn. Sunshine and showers dogged us all through our walk. The path towards Dock Tarn was treacherous under foot, with slippery, mud chocked stones. During the hours walk I slipped about four times, once landing painfully on my hip. I sat and cried, through shock more than anything. It wasn’t a great day!

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Dock Tarn

By the time we got to the tarn we were soaked in mud, sweat and tears!

Much like Tewet Tarn there wasn’t good access to the water. There was only one small beach not big enough to put my picnic blanket down, so I got changed standing up, which was a balancing act! Dock Tarn looked picturesque covered in water lilies but there wasn’t much water that wasn’t covered in lilies or reeds. Sadly, once again the swim was disappointing. The tarn was shallow and swimming through lilies and reeds made me feel queasy. Their stems wrapped around Wilson (underwater camera), that I have attached to my torso, which stopped me swimming. It was pretty scary actually. Luckily I was just floating over the silty bed so I could stand and get out of the water pretty easily. It wasn’t a pleasant swim so I cut it short after 10 minutes. The whole swim/walk seemed a wasted day and I hardly took any photos of my swim.

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Dock Tarn Swim

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then decided to complete the whole walk and continued en route down through an ancient oak forest called Lingy End, gingerly slipping over a steep pitched path which took another two hours to traverse. When we did eventually get back to the car the showers stopped and the sun came out. Dock Tarn isn’t a swim I would suggest to other wild swimmers.

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Blea Water Walk

Day Three:
I wasn’t sure we would get parking at Mardale Head car park, Haweswater as we left the guest house after 9am. The journey from Braithwaite is about an hour, along narrow, hair-raising roads. We got to the car park at 10am and luckily there were a few parking spaces left. We hiked our heavy rucksacks up a path for a further hour towards our destination for the day, Blea Water.

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Blea Water

Blea Water is the Lake District’s deepest tarn at 63 metres. It is a glacial corrie, and was also known as Bley Water from Old Norse meaning dark blue. The path to Blea Water at first wasn’t too bad but as the path disappeared into marshy sphagnum our already wet boots were soaked in mud again. The walk wasn’t as bad as the previous days struggle to Dock Tarn and we got to the steep sides of Blea Water with no drama. There is little in the way of shore-line at Blea Water but by the dammed east end, we found a little shingle beach where we could set up camp and I could access the water from.

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Blea Water Swim

Blea Water was the best swim of the weekend! I actually got in a decent 20+ minute swim, in water that wasn’t too cold. I enjoyed floating on my back while looking up at the ridge line. Even David managed to give Buzz, our new drone a little stretch of his blades. Though our camp wasn’t far from the path we were not bothered by walkers. Overall it was a positive swim and I am glad we took the walk there.

So there you have our exploits over the past weekend. Video of swims to follow.

Have you been to any of the tarns mentioned above? What is your favourite body of water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-six.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_26Day 26: For today’s 30 Days Wild, I’ll partake in a new activity for me, I’ll listen to a nature podcast. After a quick search on Google, I discovered that there were many podcasts relating to nature. Below are links to some of the podcasts I found related to me, literature, metal health and wild swimming, but there will be podcasts more suitable for your interests too. Happy listening!

Ramblings: Literary Walks: In 2011 Clare Balding took a walk around Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge, a landscape which inspired the writing of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

The Outdoor Fix: Wild Swimming with Suzanna Cruickshank.

Wild Swimming podcast: Lake District swimmer Sara Barnes shares why swimming means so much to her.

Ramblings: Health and Happiness: Clare Balding shares her favourite walks over the past 20 years.

What is your favourite podcast to listen to?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Wild Swimming in 2020!

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Glaslyn

After a tremendous swim in Glaslyn, I had hoped to extend my wild swimming season by a month or so. Unfortunately I never made it into the water before Christmas, however much I had wanted too. Then I’d planned on a New Year swim at Coniston but with no planned walk for the day my hopes fizzled away like a firework. Though 2020 has been really slow to start (even slower than 2019!) my mind is already dreaming of the year ahead and I am looking forward to many wild swim/walks this year.

I’ve already booked a four nights break for my birthday, at a loch-side cabin in Scotland’s Trossachs National Park. With 22 loch’s I am spoiled for choice! Just looking at the variety of lochs, such as Katrine, Venachar and Lubnaig, I’m already getting super excited!

For my first swim this season I am hoping to tick off the Eskdale Blea Tarn! I’ve already swam the other two! Langdale, and Watendlath. I’ve read blogs and seen pictures of the Eskdale Blea Tarn and I am eager to get back into the water. It’s just a matter of logistics with car parking.

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Blea Tarn Eskdale (Google Image)

Though I’ve always wanted to swim in Grisedale Tarn, perhaps it’s height position may deter me?

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Grisedale Tarn (Google Image)

The resting place of the crown of Cumbria may have to wait. However this year I do intend to swim in Helvellyn’s Red Tarn and Blea Water of Haweswater fame. I think both these tarns are achievable.

Again Coniston is the only ‘large’ lake I’ve not swam in and the Old Man of Coniston has many swimmable waters, e.g. levers and goat’s. I’ll aim for these this year.

Hopefully we’ll be able to bring Riley with us again on our Lake District adventures and introduce him to swimming in Ullswater!

In Snowdonia, I hope to tick off Llyn Padarn and Gwynant.

They seem the two easiest of the llyns I have my eye on! Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas and Llyn Du’r Arddu of Snowdon fame may be a bit of a hike.

However, Llyn Nantlle and Llyn Cwm Silyn Uchaf, again will have issues with logistics. If you know of places to park and walking routes, do let me know.

So there you have a brief glimpse into my mind for the wild swim year ahead. If you have any swim suggestions, do let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild Swimming – The Miners’ Track

For my birthday, at the end of October, I’d planned a few days away to Snowdonia. The main aim was to trek The Miners’ Track and swim in the tarns along the way. We attempted this route in 2018 but on arrival at 8am on a blazing summer’s morning, the car park at Pen y Pass was already full. This was a fear of mine come the morning of my second attempt.

We woke-up groggy at 6am, from our base, Plas y Coed, the car park at Pen y Pass was only 30 minutes away. The tremulous call of a tawny owl echoed from the surrounding woodland as we loaded the car for a pre-dawn drive.

The roads towards Snowdon were quiet as you would expect on a chilly October morning. We arrived at Pen y Pass car park which was half full at 7am and paid the £10 charge. I was silently celebrating that we had secured parking in a very tourist heavy area. Donning our swollen rucksacks and I, carrying my bulky Dryrobe® we embarked on an hour+ walk towards Glaslyn.

On our walk we passed llyns Teyrn and Llydaw, and my excitement grew with each step. The morning sky glowed, the mountains looked desolate and the path, though easy to begin with, grew steep after passing Llydaw. I was amazed that we didn’t see a living soul as we made our way towards Glaslyn.

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Glaslyn

I’d put up quite a sweat by the time we arrived at the shores of Glaslyn. Seeing the mirror sheen of the llyn and a moody, cloud shrouded Snowdon made me so enthusiastic to get into the water.

In planning the swims, in my mind I had made the cold of the water more than it actually was, though I did lose feeling in my fingers and toes. I had come prepared. I had my swimsuit jacket as an extra layer against the cold but I did manage a 10 minute swim.

Glaslyn

Glaslyn

Glaslyn was a wonderful swim! I’d have to say probably my favourite to date. I’d imagined I would have swam with an amazed audience of walkers but on the day, around 9am (which is always the best time for a swim), there was no one about. Just David, Glaslyn and me! Other walkers seemed to favour the Pyg track than the Miners.

Glaslyn, means blue lake in Welsh and I have to say it was very blue even on a cloudy day. Nesting 600m above sea level, it’s supposed to be the resting place of Excalibur. Glaslyn is also where the afanc (we met this mythological beast at Llyn Cau) was finally defeated.

We jumped across an outflow stream and found a secluded shingle beach. From here I quickly stripped to a new tankini (one of three I’d bought that week) and wriggled into my swimsuit jacket. Wearing my neoprene gloves, hat and boots I eagerly waded into the silky, cold waters of this glacial corrie. I would have loved to have swam for longer but 10 minutes in below 10° waters was enough for me. Whilst swimming, the clouds lifted and I saw Snowdon tower impressively above.

Buzzing with adrenaline I waded back onto shore and struggled to get dressed. Even David had to tie my boot laces! I was hoping to have a bite to eat at the shore but the weather turned and rain began to fall. Dressed in the warm folds of my Dryrobe® we ventured back down the path towards Llyn Llydaw. The walk thankfully warmed me up.

By the time we got to the wide shingle beach of Llyn Llydaw the path was swollen with walkers from every walk of life. Despite this and the heavy rain I ventured on a second swim. Llyn Llydaw is another resting place for Excalibur. However all I saw was rain drops splashing from the waters surface and swathes of grey clouds drift in. I spent another 10 minutes in the chilly water, though the temperature didn’t seem as cold as Glaslyn. Perhaps I was still cold from my first swim? The main factor in my enjoyment of this swim was the rain and worrying about David on shore.

As I waded back on land a police helicopter flew overhead as it practiced manoeuvers. Trying to get dry and warm whilst the rain falls is a little more difficult. However I was entertained by two young men who had been inspired by my swimming escapades and had pulled off their shoes and socks and paddled in the shallows. Gasps and ohhs and ahhs followed. I couldn’t help but smile at their attempt.

Thankfully Llyn Llydaw is a 30 minute walk from the car park so after getting relatively dry we headed back to the car park for a well earned lunch. Though a little disheartened, I decided that Llyn Teyrn could wait for another day as there was no defined path and the way was steep and boggy. I’d been wet and cold enough times that day!

Have you walked The Miner’s Track? Which llyn would you have liked to swim in?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Birthday Swim 2019 – Llyn Geirionydd

It’s taken me a while to write this blog. Feeling under the weather and a bit blue with all this rain and dreary weather we have been having this November has really knocked my inspiration.

This year, for my birthday I booked two nights away to a gorgeous renovated mansion house, Plas Y Coed, part of the Penrhyn estate.

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My plans were for a few days of wild swimming in gorgeous Snowdonia. I had plumbed for Llyn Geirionydd to be my birthday swim of 2019. On the day we drove the two hours from Liverpool towards the llyn, on narrow tracks through the Gwydir Forest. We arrived at free parking and toilets. The car park wasn’t easy to find!

Between 1850 and 1919 Llyn Geirionydd was part of a lead and zinc mining area. Reputedly the home of 6th century poet Taliesin, the llyn now has been restored for modern day visitors to enjoy.

After having lunch, we donned our heavy rucksacks, (you can’t believe the amount of equipment I have to bring for a swim!) and headed towards the llyn-side. Llyn Geirionydd wasn’t as picturesque as I had hoped but I experienced a wonderful walk around the llyn, met many curious onlookers and enjoyed a chilling swim.

The swim itself was much colder than I had expected. The temperature of the water really made me gasp! I’d prepared myself for future (high altitude swims) but not this one. Over the few days away in Snowdonia, Llyn Geirionydd was the swim that made me complain the most! :p


Plas Y Coed, after falling into disrepair has been given a new lease of life following extensive renovations. This grade II listed building was built between 1863 and 1878. Originally built for the home of the Penrhyn estate manager, Captain Pennant Lloyd. It has now been developed into 12 apartments. We booked a cosy and warm one bedroom apartment through airbnb.

Have you holidayed in Snowdonia? Where did you stay?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scales Tarn – Blencathra

The room we were given for our stay at Hermiston Guest House, was the compact and cosy Blencathra.

I felt this was a good omen as the next day I had planned on hiking up Blencathra to its beautiful and remote tarn, Scales.

David and I started out early and managed to get (free) roadside parking not far from the village of Scales. The weather forecast was perfect, the sun was out with a gentle breeze which grew in strength the higher we walked. As par the course we took a wrong route and had to back track to find the path towards Mousthwaite Comb.

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I knew the walk up Blencathra would be long and arduous. It took us three hours to finally get to the shores of the glacial corrie, Scales Tarn. The tarn sits some 598m high and is ringed by Sharp Edge, Tarn Crags and Hallsfell Top. From the shore we marveled as people clambered across Sharp Edge just the thought of it makes me shudder!

Tired and hungry I decided to embark on my swim and quickly stripped to my swimsuit. The entrance was rocky and shallow, and with a chilling wind that scudded across the tarn it made for a very cold swim. The water was around 8° but the wind made it feel much colder. I swam for around 15 minutes but it wasn’t the most enjoyable swim I’ve had. Once back on land and upon getting changed into dry clothes I struggled to hold my hot cup of coffee as the afterdrop struck me quite violently. It took me a while to warm up but with hot drinks, lunch and layers of clothing I managed to recover.

We were both physically tired after our five hours traipsing around my favourite mountain Blencathra, though I was thoroughly satisfied I had swam in Scales Tarn. Perhaps this success means I could attempt Red Tarn in future?

Have you walked Blencathra? Tackled Sharp Edge?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Alcock Tarn and Grey Crag

‘A dreary sheet of water named Alcock Tarn.’

Apparently Alfred Wainwright was rather disparaging of Alcock Tarn, nestled below Butter Crag east of Grasmere. Personally I enjoyed my swim in this peaceful small tarn. The views from Grey Crag were a bonus!

We managed to find a lay-by with free parking alongside the A591, and took the path behind the Swan Hotel, following signs for Alcock Tarn. The walk, though steep in parts was very picturesque. We followed a babbling Greenhead Ghyll and had luscious views of Helm Crag and Grasmere as we quickly gained height. The whole walk was beautiful, possibly attributed to the blissful weather we were lucky to have. The whole walk was a positive experience for me.

It took about an hour to get to the shores of Alcock Tarn, previously called Butter Crag Tarn. In the 1800’s Mr Alcock of Grasmere had enlarged the tarn to stock with trout! There were lots of minnows in the shallows when we set up camp.

Our arrival was welcomed by two female mallards who quickly made a beeline for us. Both came onto land and one, searching for food pecked at my toes as I got undressed. The ducks were so cute, one even sat next to David whilst I took to the waters.

The swim itself was divine. I entered the water when there was no other walkers about and had the tarn to myself, David and the two ducks. I thoroughly enjoyed the 8° waters and wish I could have stayed in longer. The wind was not as cutting as it was at Scales Tarn, Blencathra. Even though I swam through reeds they were manageable. Pipits called from the hills and peacefulness pervaded. I was in the water for about 15 minutes before I started to feel cold.

We picnicked on shore, sharing our lunch with the ducks while I warmed up. I could have stayed there all day.

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David wanted to explore the area and so we ended up walking towards Grey Crag overlooking a resplendent Grasmere with Windermere glistening in the distance. I was drunk on the colour green! The whole countryside looked vibrant in the noontime sunshine.

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Sadly it was time we retraced our steps back towards the car. The whole day was wonderful. It was the best swim/walk of the weekend. Perhaps this was due to having no expectations?

Have you visited Alcock Tarn? What are your favourite walks around Grasmere?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Back to Where it all Began!

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Llyn Idwal

You probably remember that in 2016 I visited Llyn Idwal with David. You can read that post here. We visited on a cold, frosty February day. It was Darwin’s Day to be exact, the 12th February. I remember standing on the shingle beach looking out at the icy waters wondering what it would be like of a summer? To perhaps paddle in the waters with the imposing Glyderau mountains all around.

Since then I have discovered the joys of wild swimming, but I have never had the opportunity to return to where it all began. That was until a friend from America visited for the weekend and decided on Wales as the destination for a day trip. David and I more than obliged and after much deliberation we opted to return to Cwm Idwal and the surrounding area. The plan was to walk to Llyn Bochlwyd and then have a swim before returning to the shores of Llyn Idwal for a second swim.

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Cwm Idwal

The weather dawned overcast and muggy on the day we ventured westwards. We arrived at our destination at 9.30am but the car park was already full!(As is always the case with popular spots in Wales during the weekend.) We managed to find on road parking and by doing this dodged car parking charges!

The walk to Llyn Bochlwyd was arduous. David and I haven’t hiked this year so the steep gradient and persistent stepped path was tiring. We only carried on as my friend, Jennifer was like a mountain goat and sprightly made her way up the path, while David and I trailed behind. When the waters of Llyn Bochlwyd came into view it was a welcome sight indeed.

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Llyn Bochlwyd and Tryfan

Llyn Bochlwyd is known as the Australia lake, as from Tryfan it is shaped similar to the coast of Australia. However in Welsh the name means Grey Cheek Lake. This stems from the legend of an old grey stag who was being hunted but managed to escape by swimming to safety in the lake, while holding his head and grey cheeks above the surface.

We set up camp along the lakeside which was quite boggy. Jennifer and I decided to embark on a swim before a bite to eat. We stripped to our swimsuits and waded into the cool 15° waters. Being only my second swim this season I was eager to get swimming. Jennifer, from California felt the cold much more. I enjoyed the swim very much, the silky smooth waters were a balm and the rugged views of Tryfan, food for the soul.

After lunch, we descended the rocky path back to the shores of Llyn Idwal. The descent was easier than the climb!

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Selfie

Llyn Idwal is a much more popular destination than Llyn Bochlwyd. When we arrived at the beach there were many people enjoying the cool waters. It didn’t take Jennifer and I long to join them in sampling the joys of swimming in Llyn Idwal. The water was around 17° but it wasn’t as tranquil as our first swim. However we spent a good 15 minutes swimming around enjoying the views of the Devil’s Kitchen and Clogwyn Y Tarw.

We finished the day by having a cream tea at the Alpine Coffee Shop in Betws Y Coed. We returned home feeling tired but content in the knowledge that we had had a fun filled day of adventure!

Have you visited the Cwm Idwal area? Swam in any of the lakes mentioned?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-nine.

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Day 29: Sorry this post is a day late! (Day 30 will be too!)

This weekend we had a friend staying with us from America and Saturday was a planned fun filled day in North Snowdonia. Our destination for the day was Llyn Idwal and Llyn Bochlwyd. We actually did two #ramdomactsofwildness during our day. 1. climb for a better view and 2. making a splash!

We took an hour long slog up a rough, steep hill towards Llyn Bochlwyd, and had wonderful vistas of Llyn Ogwen and Cwm Idwal below.

We swam in Llyn Bochlwyd and Llyn Idwal, (where I caught the wild swim bug three years ago!) and had spectacular views of the Glyderau mountains. It was a fulfilling day out!

Have you visited this region of Snowdonia?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x