5 places to go wild swimming in Wales

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Wild swimming is a release, the likes of which are unrivalled. Such is the nature of wild swimming, it can be done in many different places, be it sea, lake, river or ocean.

Wild swimming offers you a unique experience, to feel more alive and to give you time and space in a natural environment to relax and be with nature. It’s a calming experience, even for those who seek thrills from waves and rapids. And while South Wales is one of the best places in the whole of the UK to enjoy an extensive range of exciting activities such as cycling, hiking, photography and wildlife watching, this beautiful region also lends itself to one of the most exhilarating natural experiences on offer: wild swimming.

Wild Swimming in Wales

From gorgeous beaches to secluded pools, there are plenty of places to take a refreshing dip in the South of Wales during your stay. Below, we’ve listed just a few of our favourite wild swimming hotspots.

1. Barafundle Bay, South Pembrokeshire

One of Wales’ most exquisite beaches, Barafundle Bay is the perfect place to take a dip in the inviting waters of the stunning Welsh coast. If you’re looking for a picturesque alternative to wild swimming in the countryside, we recommend heading to this beautiful bay in Pembrokeshire where welcoming waves and golden dunes make this a truly postcard-perfect setting to enjoy with swimming with family or friends.

Wild swimming at Barafundle Bay, South Pembrokeshire

2. Little Canyon, Pontneddfechan

Nestled away in the stunning little village of Pontneddfechan (Pontneathvaughan in English) is Little Canyon; a secluded pool that’s perfect for gorge swimming and underwater exploring. A popular wild swimming spot for both locals and visitors, this crystal-clear pool meanders along for 30 metres to create a narrow channel and is accompanied either side by large rocky hillsides that provide the ideal base from which to jump into the shimmering waters below. A visit to Little Canyon is not recommended after heavy rainfall as the area can become flooded and, subsequently, a little dangerous but you will find this accessible spot a great place to explore in good weather.

Pontneddfechan Little Canyon for Wild Swimming in Brecon, Wales

3. The River Usk, Brecon Beacons

Winding between the mountainous terrain of the Brecon Beacons, the River Usk flows for around 75 miles, meaning as a wild swimming spot, you can take your pick of multiple entry points. Take a refreshing dip in the charming pools at Llangynidr or at the island picnic site near Usk while your little ones play in the glistening water nearby. Whichever part of the River Usk you visit, a swim in this enchanting waterway is sure to make for a truly memorable experience during your South Wales glamping holiday!

River Usk for Wild Swimming in Wales

4. Broad Haven Beach, North Pembrokeshire

Known for its golden sandy stretch and breath-taking views of St Brides Bay with Lion Rock looking over proceedings, Broad Haven is an idyllic location in which to enjoy a spot of coastal wild swimming while glamping in West Wales. Not to be mistaken with Broad Haven South, near Barafundle, Broad Haven is found just outside of Haverfordwest on route to Nolton and Solva.  A more accessible beach than it’s Southern namesake, not only do the beach’s shallow waters make this an ideal location for swimmers of all ages to spend some time splashing about in the waves, but with lifeguards on duty between June and September, parents can rest easy knowing that their little ones will be safe while they relax on the sand nearby. Currents pull from left to right, however, so do take care.

Broad Haven North Pembrokeshire for Wild Swimming

5. Horseshoe Falls, Pontneddfechan

Feel the cooling spray of the waterfall tickle your face as you float atop these serene pools, watching the world go by and listening to the sound of birds as you glide along the surface. For those who don’t fancy taking a dip, the riverbanks nearby provide great spots for several other relaxing activities such as photography, reading and wildlife watching. Another of Pontneddfechan’s prime wild swimming spots, Horseshoe Falls comprises of two shimmering pools that lie beneath a majestic waterfall. As such, if you’re looking for a fairy tale setting where you can experience a peaceful swim in the heart of nature, this is the place to go.

Horseshoe Falls, Pontneddfechan_Wild_Swimming

Wild swimming can be great fun; a good release for your body and mind, and has may hidden benefits, but you do need to take care and make sure you properly understand the dangers involved too, so to help you make the best choices when taking to the water. Here are some good tips to stay safe.

Safety & general information on swimming in the Wild

  1. Research your spot. If you’re about to jump in with two feet first, know what you’re jumping into. Do your research before swimming in a new spot – find out if others swim there? Find out if swimming permitted? If the answer is no, don’t risk it.
  2. Do your checks when you get there. Check things like the depth and speed of the water before you get in – especially in the sea or ocean, or before getting into rivers where there are rapid. Currents have drags that take you away from safety. You should check carefully for any hidden rocks as you get in try to enter and exit in the same spot. In rivers, avoid areas with fast-flowing currents that you do not know where they end.
  3. Know when (and where) to quit. Know your exit point. It is just as important as the conditions of getting in. Have backup exit points planned, in case of emergencies. Search out your (easy, if possible) exit points before entering the water.
  4. Gear up. Make sure you wear the appropriate gear for swimming. In colder weather, wear a winter wetsuit, and consider a summer suit for the warmer climbs. You don’t have to if you’re more comfortable without cover, but only do so in the right conditions and in ones you can cope with. Make sure you wear appropriate, water-resistant shoes with a good grip when you’re swimming off rocks.
  5. Don’t go wild swimming alone. Go swimming with a friend or buddy where possible, and have each other’s back. Always keep a check of where they are and what they are doing.
  6. Warm-up upon exit. Start warming up as soon as you get out – keep some warm clothes, towels or blankets, socks and a coat handy and if you can, have warm drink as soon as possible.
  7. Swim clean. An important one. Swim sober and be as alert as you can be when you enter the water. Respect it, and if you’ve indulged in any form of liquid, sit this one out. Only swim where the water is clean and avoid at all costs swimming in city rivers and canals – the water can carry harmful bacteria in built-up areas, and you do not want to be in that. Lakes and ponds can also be home to bugs, so avoid swimming anywhere with stagnant water or surface scum sitting on top of the water.
  8. Join a club. Wild swimming is a growing sport and many seasoned locals can help you gain confidence and knowledge of local reefs or swimming spots. This keeps you safe and informed.

Tim Rees is Founder and CEO at Quality Unearthed. Quality Unearthed is a world-leading glamping and alternative accommodation agency providing ‘forward to nature’ holidays, established in 2010.

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