It’s taking me a while to sit down and write this blog. To celebrate Easter, I decided to do something similar to my Christmas swim. You can read about that here. So I purchased some fluffy rabbit ears and tail and this Easter bunny went for a swim in a Snowdonian llyn.
It’s getting harder now to find accessible swims in both the Lake District and Snowdonia, but one llyn was situated not far from the car park to the Rhyd Ddu Path for Snowdon. So on the Easter weekend, David and I took an early morning trip. On arrival I was surprised at how busy the car park was. I was not aware (at first) that the car park was for one of the six trails to Snowdon. Luckily, we managed to find a space and after paying a reasonable £3 for three hours, we donned our heavy backpacks and headed across the road towards the path which would lead us to Llyn y Gader.
The path is wheelchair accessible for most of the way and is a distance of seven miles to Beddgelert. However, we were only walking perhaps one mile to the llyn. The day was overcast yet mild. We walked through conifer forest towards the lake shore where common sandpipers were flitting about. Careful not to tread on any ground nests we scanned the water’s edge for good entrance points. There weren’t many, but I found one where I could ease myself in and manage to clamber back out again. The water was murky yet had a silky sheen to it. At 11 degrees it was the warmest swim this year! There were fish in the llyn and one jumped out of the water which freaked me out a little and before I knew it, my mind was irrationally thinking what was in the water beneath me?
I was in the water for about 15 minutes, and it was a nice swim apart from losing my rabbit ears before luckily finding them in the shallows! After I got back on dry land and dressed, while sipping a hot coffee, I watched as the steamtrain from Beddgelert to Caernarfon billowed past.
Not wanting to waste the day we retraced our steps back to the car park and headed towards RSPB Conwy’s reserve where we spent an hour walking the boardwalk and spying on the wildlife.
For mid March, David and I had an opening in the calendar for a few days away. Eager to get my wild swimming season started again, I booked a few nights away to our usual home from home in the Lake District, Hermiston, Braithwaite. We have been visiting this B&B since 2016 when the current proprietors took over, and Phil and Helen are always so welcoming and helpful. We will always recommend them for a stay in the North Lakes.
My first swim of the 2022 season was Ullswater. It was not just any swim, it was a swim with a bevy of swans, who were very patient with me and almost seemed to be welcoming. Swans can be temperamental so I kept my distance, it was the swans who drew close to me. I was very calm and respectful and I think the swans realised that I was no threat. They were curious more than anything. The access point at Ullswater was Glencoyne Bay and was a wonderful gentle slope into the shockingly six degree water.
Our day out to Loweswater was very different from the first time we visited back in 2016. That time it was a sunny autumn day, on this cold March day, the weather was dreary. We wrapped up against the elements of driving rain and scathing wind and walked the path towards Holme Force waterfall. After our walk through woodland, we managed to catch a slight respite in the weather and made for a wide shingle beach, where I took to the murky waters of Loweswater. This seven degree swim was so much better than the dip in October 2016, despite the lack of sunlight, and the entrance to the water was again a gentle slope. In the summer Loweswater can be a breeding ground for blue-green algae but in this cool March day, it was a joy!
I’ve been trying to return to Wastwater for a more satisfying swim since 2016, but on several occasions, I’ve chosen not to swim due to poor weather. On our last day in the Lakes the weather gods were looking favourably upon us. The day dawned bright. We drove an hour from Braithwaite and managed to find parking at Over Beck car park. We crossed the road to a wide stoney beach with fantastic views of the head of Wasdale and the Scafells. The scenery was breathtaking. I could have stayed in this piece of heaven all day. After David managed to get Buzz, our drone up in between gusts, I waded into chilly waters of seven degrees. It was quite a surprise that Ullswater was the coldest swim of the holiday! I really wished I could have stayed in the water for longer and soaked up the wonderful mountainous views but not wanting to chance fate and after-drop, I spent 10 minutes in the beautiful water blue-green water and then sensibly returned to shore.
It was a wonderful few days away to the glorious Lake District and I am sure I will return sometime in the near future. There are so many mountainous tarns I need to visit. Until then…
Fellow readers… I’ve finally managed to push my wild swimming season into December and have completed my first wild swim!
Since discovering the joys of wild swimming, it has been an aspiration of mine to have a Christmas swim and finally, this year, I’ve managed to achieve it, thanks to the help of David.
After all the Christmas shopping had been done, there was one weekend free before Christmas. On a cold, foggy Saturday we drove up the motorway in darkness to Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District. While most of the UK was covered in cloud, we arrived at the shores of Bassenthwaite at 9am to the sun rising golden in the east and low mist hanging seductively over the lake.
We accessed the lake at Blackstock Point where there is free parking just off the A66, though the car park is easier to get to while driving south from Cockermouth.
We walked around the edge of the lake looking for good access points. From where we made camp, the lake was very shallow and didn’t make for the best swim. I later read that Bassenthwaite Lake is only 21 metres deep, but I can attest that the water was cold. I think I need thicker gloves as my hands bore the brunt of the cold and kept clawing, so I kept the swim short. I swam for seven minutes, but maybe it should have been shorter as I am not cold water acclimatised and it took me ages to get dry and dressed! I did feel very cold after the swim and it took about half an hour to warm up (I had a hot coffee and cake afterwards), but I loved feeling the cold of the water, being surrounded by wonderful vistas, and seeing ducks and geese silhouetted in the low winter sunshine. Below is a video of my first Christmas swim, and hopefully not the last.
I wish you all a very merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and hopefully a better new year than 2020 and 2021!
For the past couple of years (excluding 2020), it has been a tradition of mine to have a cold water swim on my birthday! This year was no exception. Having tried to swim in Llynnau Mymbyr a couple of times this year, it was the obvious destination. David and I awoke early and drove two hours towards the village of Capel Curig. We arrived at 9am and unlike the last time we visited, when there was a triathlon on, the area was quiet and subdued. We found roadside parking overlooking the two llyns (llynnau) and donned our new walking boots and heavy rucksacks.
A short path snakes along the south side which we followed looking for lakeside access. The walk was pleasant through a conifer forest, where sheep grazed and coal tits flew among the boughs. We had to course over swollen streams and pools of mud. We walked to the end of the path where a barbed fence blocked our way, so we had to retrace our steps and look for a path through sphagnum moss and fallen trees for lake access.
We finally got to the lakeside. The water levels were high and most of the beach was submersed. We quickly made camp as there was a cool wind blowing and I got dressed into my swimming paraphernalia. David had gifted me a new GoPro to replace Wilson, so I strapped him to my chest and slowly waded in.
The last time I was in water was in September and swimming in October I found the temperature had cooled to single figures. Due to the water levels being so high I plunged into the water, waist high and decided to just go for it and swim! So I did, and boy did I gasp aloud! The cold of the water took my breath away but in my head I just kept saying, ‘keep swimming!’ The water made my skin tingle and it was an effort to move my limbs but I soon got used to the chill and swam for about 10 minutes. The views from the water were spectacular, the Snowdon Massif was lit in golden autumn light and I was mesmerised. I wish I could have stayed in the water longer but that would have been foolish. As I was climbing out of the water I spotted a flash of blue and a kingfisher bobbed past. Glorious!
I got dry on land using my new OS towel map of Snowdonia. It was soft to the touch and made me feel warm and dry. I had a quick hot coffee when I was dressed to warm up my core.
It was a blissful birthday swim and I was so lucky to have been able to experience it with David who stood on the shore and took video for our YouTube channel. I look forward to using my new GoPro on the next swim/walk adventure, especially with the superior video quality.
Have you visited Llynnau Mymbyr? I couldn’t find any Welsh myths regarding this lake but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any.
Friday dawned much like Thursday did, cloudy and drizzly. It didn’t matter as we were heading home. After breakfast we said goodbye to the birds on the bird feeders (even a tiny goldcrest whizzed passed). We packed our remaining belongings and cleaned up and left our cabin around 9am. Our final destination of the week was Loch Katrine.
The drive took around 25 minutes from our cabin at East Lodge, Loch Venachar to Loch Katrine pay and display car park. Since it was drizzly, there weren’t many tourists about. We paid £3 for two hours parking. Though the walk towards the swim point I wanted took more than an hour to get to. I panicked a little and we ended up swimming from a beach a little closer to the car park. I didn’t want David to get fined! It mattered very little as I had a lovely, atmospheric swim, even though it was the first time that week we had attracted midges! Loch Katrine was made famous by a Sir Walter Scott poem, The Lady of the Lake. During Victorian times, tourism boomed as people wanted to see the landscape the poem was set in. Today there are many ferry cruises that tour Loch Katrine.
During our time in the Trossachs, I calculated I swam eight new lochs/lochans during the week away, but in total, I swam 13 times over the five days. No wonder I was tired everyday! However I did feel that I was getting stronger. Who knows when I shall get back into the water again?
Since we are still in the grasp of a third lockdown and I am far from the Lakes, I have been musing on making a top 10 video of my favourite wild swims. It’s taken me a while to finish the video, and it has gone through a few revisions since its inception, but here it is!
I thought I would write a little paragraph about each swim and why it made it into my top 10!
10. Blea Water
Blea Water, the deepest tarn in the Lake District, at 63 metres deep, had to make an appearance in this list due to the quality of the swim. It takes just about an hours walk to the shore from the Mardale Head car park, Haweswater. There is only a small beach area in which to access the water but the peacefulness of the area is astounding. Blea Water is on the route towards High Street and is a perfect stopping place to rest and recharge.
9. Llyn Dinas
Llyn Dinas is another llyn that could very well be further up the list. Though not our first choice for a swim on a very hot August day, it quickly dispelled any disappointment with the quietude of the surroundings and the 20° waters! It was another body of water I’d swam in with lots of tiny minnows in the shallows.
8. Loch Lomond
My first Scottish wild swim! I’d planned a short break to the Scottish Highlands in 2018, with wild swimming at the core of the itinerary. The weather wasn’t kind to us, deciding to unleash a tropical storm our way, but Loch Lomond was the least wild of the swims and was a joy. With easy access from the A82, the beach I entered the loch was lovely and soft with an easy incline into the water. I would definitely recommend a visit if you are in the area.
One of my loves in the Lake District. Derwentater was the first lake I swam, and I have been back several times over the years. The footage in the video is from my second swim at Derwentwater, when at 9am, it was just David and I and a cool sun rising. It’s a beautiful lake to visit for a walk or swim and we will probably revisit again in the future.
6. Loch Etive
One of the best swims during a brief holiday to the Scottish Highlands. Loch Etive is a sea loch and was shrouded in low lying mist on a drizzly morning the day we visited. We hadn’t been favoured with good weather but the mist and rain added to the atmosphere of this beautiful loch.
5. Llyn Idwal
Idwal was the llyn where all this wild swimming malarkey began in 2016. On that cold winters day I stood at the shoreline and wondered what it would be like to swim there. Fast forward three years and I visited Llyn Idwal again in 2019 with a swim buddy in tow to finally swim in its mythical waters. It was a fun swim and the llyn is very popular with day trippers due to its accessibility.
4. Alcock Tarn
I have many happy memories of our visit to Alcock Tarn, that is almost made it into the top three! Two friendly ducks and a beautiful early autumn day made this swim so memorable. Nestled in beautiful, peaceful scenery above Grasmere, Alcock Tarn was one of those perfect swims. I’d definitely recommend a visit for swimmers and walkers alike.
3. Rydal Water
Rydal Water is a lake I want to return to so desperately. It may be one of the smaller lakes of the Lake District but its atmospheric charm and quaintness makes it so unique. This was the only lake where I shared the water with swans, (at a distance of course) and have visited several times with Riley. Not far from a car park and with a wonderful walk into the fells or around Grasmere, it’s a place I would definitely recommend to other swimmers and walkers.
Buttermere has always been a lake close to my heart, and it was a tough decision to put this in second place. My final swim of 2020 was at Buttermere, and it was a spectacular day! The sun was out and for an early October it was pleasantly warm. There was no wind, creating a mirror sheen on the lake that reflected the rugged mountain tops. The water was silky smooth, and the view from the water was breathtaking. It will be a swim I won’t forget in a hurry!
Of my many swims, the beauty of Glaslyn has been unparalleled. On first sight, Glaslyn took my breath away. There was the imposing peak of Snowdon mirrored in water so turquoise I’d never seen anything like it! To have this beautiful llyn all to myself while I swam in its soft waters was pure joy. All other walkers seemed to prefer the Pyg Track to the Miners that day and David and I enjoyed the peaceful tranquility.
Do you agree with my selection? What is your favourite swim of mine, or indeed your own? Let me know in the comments below.